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For some years now students taking the third year Critiquing Criminalistics module on our criminology course at the university have had an assessment relating to a reflective diary. Most educators and those in other professions will be aware of and understand the advantage of reflection and reflective diaries so it is probably not necessary to revisit the well-rehearsed arguments about benefits to learning and personal development. Each year, I have found that over the course of the module, the students have come to recognise this and have intimated how they have enjoyed reflecting on what they have learnt in the class or how reflecting on personal experiences has been beneficial. And they comment on how they have sought out further information to gain additional knowledge or to put what they have learnt in some form of perspective. It is of course what we as educators would want and expect from a reflective diary assessment that after all counts towards their marks for the module.
What has surprised me though is how much reviewing these modules has benefited me. I have learnt from and continue to learn my students. We all recognise or at least should the old saying ‘the more I know, the more I realise I don’t know’ or similar. My students prove that is the case often with each round of diary entries I review. The diaries can provide an insight into students lives and thoughts. For some of them it may be a cathartic release to capture their feelings on paper, for me it is enlightening and provides a greater understanding of some of the challenges they face not only as students but also as predominately young adults in a challenging and at times hostile social and economic environment. Perhaps what is equally as enlightening is the additional knowledge that students provide about the subject area being discussed and taught. It is almost like sending out my own little army of literature reviewers with a challenge to advance their knowledge and ipso facto, mine. I am clear that part of the reflection process is about taking what you have learnt further and as this an assessment, demonstrating this additional knowledge with some academic rigor. And so, I find that in some cases what I have stated in the class (currently online) is challenged and that challenge is supported by academic reading. When I read some of these little gems, I smile but alongside this is the additional work created as I review the journal article they have referenced and then decide whether to revisit my lectures to add in the additional information. Even if I don’t, it all adds to my knowledge and, on reflection as my students are proving, there is plenty of scope to find out more.
Last year when the new year arrived, like lots of people, I joined a gym. I wanted to get fit (as in I can run a marathon, not fit as in good looking) and I wanted to look like some of those Love Island fellows on tv. I had other reasons to join, family were pressurising me to join, it’s what everyone else is doing and the tv and everyone else says you need to be fit and look good to get on in life. I’m not sure I really wanted to join a gym, but I went along with the idea.
There are lots of gyms near where I live, some more expensive than others and I went to lots of ‘see what we can offer meetings’. The most impressive was the gym I’m at now. They have lots of brand new weight stuff, a sauna and steam room as well as a swimming pool and best of all they have a bar where you can get alcoholic, as well as boring drinks, and they do food, pie and chips and all that sort of stuff. They also do lots of quiz evenings and music and stuff and they’ve got Sky Sports so I can get legless on a Saturday afternoon whilst watching the footie.
I was given a personal trainer when I joined, seems alright, but over the time I’ve been there, he keeps trying to get me to do stuff that is hard, I mean really hard. The other day I had to run for five minutes on the treadmill, he said it was more a jog, but I can tell you it was like proper running. And, get this, I have to cut down on my 10 pints of beer a week and cut out the starchy foods. I don’t know what he expects, after that run I needed a pint and something to eat. I did cut down last week because the Guinness was off, I complained about that. Anyway, I am also supposed to try a bit of running in my own time at home, he gave me this schedule and told me to read up on diets and things. I googled quite a lot and got some cool diets and stuff from America. But I’m beginning to think this gym malarkey is boring and not only that, I can tell you now I’m not getting any fitter and my body is more ‘Michelin man’ than ‘Adonis’ (apparently, he’s a really fit person). I don’t think my personal trainer is any good and I’m paying for this ****. To be honest, I haven’t been to the gym the last few weeks, I don’t see the point.
Funnily enough, I was in the pub the other day talking to my mate Billy, he goes to the same gym, and he said my personal trainer was pretty pissed off. It had something to do with the fact that people turn up and then don’t bother trying and anything he asks them to do or think about doing before the session just isn’t being done. But get this, I almost feel sorry for him, laugh, he gets it in the neck from his manager, I mean really in the neck like proper shouting and stuff, when his clients (apparently, we are clients now) don’t reach their fitness goals. He has some sort of review every month and Billy says he might not get paid because they measure how many people are close to or at their goals and how many are failing. Serves him right really, if he can’t get me fit then who is he going to get fit. Billy says the same, he’s going to complain because when he got weighed at the gym last time he had put on weight, not lost it. He says its something to do with the weighing machine or the weight the gym instructor gave him.
Anyway, I’m going to be like Forrest Gump and say, ‘that’s all I’ve got to say about that’.
The gym and characters are purely fictional and any resemblance to an institution near you is purely coincidence.