Search results for "teaching "

Life balance

Author: joe

Tuesday, 31 January, 2012 - 22:24

Bat, Bean, Beam recently wrote about the various parking, dismantling and deaths of blogs ‑ and I thought, hmmm, have I got a dead blog? Well I have several actually, but menticulture has always been where I've gone to Write Something In Blog Format, and where, recently, months have intervened without a whisper. Anyway, in true speech act style, this very clacking of keys on the bodywork and thin‑film transistors dancing on the light canvas exactly are the decision not to let the old menticulture blog sip away just yet.

In the autumn of 2010 I set myself the task of writing something every working day, in the hope (correct as it turned out) that a little writing leads to a lot of writing. I should try to be so disciplined again, though perhaps not with such stringent constraints. Lately the not‑writing has not been a symptom of gazing at the wall vacantly wondering what to do with myself ‑ quite the opposite: a family, a baby girl, a new county and other homely busy‑keeping has kept the small hours full, while I'm increasingly finding it impossible to squeeze as much out of working life as I used to. No longer willing to work moonlight hours for an increasingly demanding university, I have little time beyond what has become a grind of teaching to pursue the different strands of personal work ‑ research projects, PhD progress, digital practice ‑ not to mention the necessity of the freelance work which complements my part‑time position at the university.

All this has lately led me to wonder whether it isn't time to rethink the academic part of my life. A few years ago I had a brief conversation with a mentor who had taken a career‑path not very dissimilar to my own, bridging a primary role as a practitioner with subsequent work as a researcher and teacher. My mind blew out slightly when he suggested I should perhaps put the teaching on hold for a while and concentrate on the other things ‑ complete your research, focus on your professional work. I had gone to him hoping to find strategies for maintaining the different components in some vertically aligned way, and failed to see how jettisoning my main source of (admittedly small) income could possibly help.

Now however, I am starting to see the attraction of this option. Part of me is utterly aghast that it has come to this. For so long I've seen teaching as the most important aspect of my work ‑ teaching as the primary function of a university system which can then harness the intelligence of its community to conduct research. To be sure, I felt it would be a sort of charlatanism to 'just' teach a practical discipline which you do not also practice: if you daren't live by the wits of your practice, why should any student expect to learn anything from you? But what at the end of the day is the value of work that you don't want to share with others, to uncover the apparent mysteries of craft and invite people to experience the pleasure that attends learning how to make things?

The pressures in the institution have long been such that to achieve this balance of personal integrity and educational efficacy you have to sacrifice many other parts of your life. When I was a kidult single bachelor hedonist I could choose to subsidise the HE institution by working 70 hours a week in term time and recuperating other parts of my life in the breaks. That option is no longer open to me, and more than a decade of working in HE has shown me how people who dedicate their lives to a project like teaching, treating it as a vocation that invites devotion and commitment, often end up feeling betrayed by their institution's tendency to undergo changes of management, policy, funding imperatives and the blunt churn of turnover. When the line‑managers in your department are replaced by new suits with new executive orders and with the new odours of the political wind in their noses, those years of effort don't seem to count for as much as you hoped.

Categories: teaching, work-life balance, decisions,
Comments: 2


Author: joe

Thursday, 04 December, 2008 - 08:53

I have been given the Bournemouth University Award for Oustanding Contribution to Student Learning, alongside another 31 members of staff. It comes with the benefit of a cheque, but also the cost of receiving undeserved reward for my work.

I see it as undeserved since I have colleagues who are pushing further and doing better with the kinds of thing I was recognised for. On the other hand, the cheque does at least scrape the surface of the huge amount of unpaid overtime I put in. It's unfortunate that everyone else who puts in the extra effort can't also be recognised and remunerated. Even then, the cheque equates to about two weeks' pay. I do more overtime than that every single term.

And there is also the string, that in the new year I'll be expected to deliver learning and teaching seminars about why I got the award. The sad truth is that all I can really say is that the university's policies and efficiency drives all impact negatively on the potential for student learning, and that being engaged and trying to innovate costs a lot of time and effort, often for little reward and sometimes even attracts student resentment. Is that what they want to hear in a seminar on learning and teaching from an 'outstanding contributor to student learning' I wonder?

Categories: learning, teaching, award,
Comments: 2

Reflective pedagogic practice

Author: joe

Tuesday, 10 October, 2006 - 21:53 a big way of saying that it pays to stand back and think about what you're doing when you're teaching - or more properly - creating environments in which people learn.

I recently started as tutor on a brand new MA course at BMS, which is delivered entirely online. The course is work-based, so the students are all professionals in their field, using their professional practice as a vehicle for reflection, learning and development.

Since everything happens online, I've been thinking quite hard about how to approach it. Normally when I'm in a forum, I can be quite argumentative and provocative, and I particularly like trolling people for reactions. Yes, I know, I'm a child. When I read /. I go for the funny comments, by and large.

However, as a tutor in an online environment, I'm trying very hard to hold back, so I don't end up dominating conversation, or closing off conversations with statements that mark closure rather than aperture. Poor me, having to engage in rational-critical discourse, eh? Which of course makes me wonder whether I oughtn't to do that in the other online environments I visit...

In f2f teaching, I found it fairly easy to develop a practice of balancing tutor-led activity with creating spaces in which learners can argue, conjecture, discuss and explore - but of course a lot of that is mediated by body-language, tone of voice, and physical presences.

More significantly, though, it has made me think hard about how and why I write at all. For me writing is transformative, because it is often how I actualise my understanding of something. Putting something into words changes it from a nebulous idea to a concrete perspective, even if the perspective is subject to constant shift thereafter. Hence I realise my writing style has become very positive, statement-based and argument-driven.

So, all in all, I guess standing back and forcing myself to be more reflective is probably, um, a good thing. No, hang on, that's not right: is it not a good thing that I am standing back and forcing myself to be more reflective? Mmmm, maybe need more work on that :)

Categories: e-learning, reflection, teaching,
Comments: 1