Things I wish someone had told me about.
I know this might sound like an excuse, but really it is not. Well ok, it is. I haven’t posted to this site for some time but that doesn’t mean I have not been blogging. On my ‘personal’ site which sounds grander than it is, where I have been posting almost every week. I did the classic a while back of saying I was coming back to this blog and then posting one piece of waffle and then leaving again. It is not because I don’t want to post. It is because I feel that in order to engage with this blog I should be at work and recently things have been rather…well…busy. But my ninety-eight assignments have been dutifully marked so I am getting on with everything else now. And first on the list was to write a blog!
Things I wish someone had told me about
When I moved from Primary Education to Higher Education some things would have been worth knowing about.
Moving to Higher Education
Many of you might know this already, but I was a primary school teacher. I worked in the sector for twenty-two years before I made the decision to move into higher education. The move was completely unpredicted and I remember sitting in my office one wet evening thinking, “Have I made the right decision?”. There was plenty of rumours going around when I did move, so much so that I actually wrote a blog post to confirm the reasons why I moved – I can’t believe that people actually thought I would move for that! One of my many mantras would be, ‘have no regrets’ and I don’t to this day regret the move to HE. But there were some things that I wish someone had told me about before I moved. It might not have made a difference, but you never know.
Holidays and Flexibility
Yes, I feel into this trap. When I was considering the move to HE, one of things I though about were the increased holidays. I think every teacher has, at some point during their career, been asked about the amount of holidays have in a year. I really did think that when I moved to HE I would be getting the same amount of holidays as the students! How wrong I was! Just so you know, I get a set amount of days annual leave per year and I can only take these when I am not teaching or have any other commitments. For example, I couldn’t say I am going off on holiday for two weeks when I have a load of marking to complete. Well I could but I would have to take the marking with me.
Although I actually get fewer holidays than I did as a primary school teacher, I increased the flexibility of the job is well worth it. I really like the fact that I can organise my time and work around aspects of my teaching and marking. This allows me to gain some control back something which with my levels of anxiety certainly helps me. So what I lost on holidays, I definitely made up in flexibility.
Marking and Mingling
I think the only reason I have put these two together is because of the alliteration. I do remember, in the first couple of weeks in the job, thinking ‘What am I meant to be doing?’ There appeared to be these gaps between my teaching which I had nothing to fill them with. How things change! Now I actually have enough to complete every day with more to spare! But one aspect of the job I was not expecting at all, was the marking.
While I was working in school, marking was a common feature of the job. Every day, after work, I would sit down and add those ‘next steps for learning’ and comments in order to promote learning. Working in HE, I still get the marking and I do, as I did in primary school, still enjoy it. However, no-one told me about the amount and/or the turnaround. I have certainly had to work on focusing on a certain number a day while still providing supportive feedback. I just hope that the students appreciate it.
And the mingling? Well, this is something I really do miss. When I first arrived at the university I was named the ‘social butterfly’! Yes, I used to flit from office to office craving that social interaction and contact that I was so used to at primary school. In school, you are part of a community, a group of people who are working together, supporting each other, and always ready to pop in and start a conversation. In higher education, some of these are still true, especially the support, but the community is more fragmented. I can actually go some days without seeing a colleague at all, and offices and not always conducive for social interaction. If a door is closed, the message it gives is quite clear. There are no staff rooms and with everyone’s teaching being slightly different the opportunity to ‘get together’ is not always possible. I’m no longer a butterfly, I’m more of a caterpillar. Work in my office, get the work done and only venture out if I need to. I do miss that social aspect of working as a community of practice.
Research and Blogging
One of the reasons I moved into higher education was the aspect of research. I really wanted to make my mark in the world of education, publish a book, be a speaker at conferences, be known for something. When I first arrived I was so keen. I said yes to everything, spoke up and engaged with a range of groups. I had this feeling that since I had been ‘known’ in primary school teaching, that this would be transferable to higher education. This wasn’t the case. I was definitely down at the bottom of the pile of academics. I remember applying for the role of e-pedagogy teaching fellow early on in my career, only to be told that I was too new to higher education and need to get more ‘experience’.
Even when I started to blog, it was obvious from people’s response that I was out of my league. I had believe, quite foolishly looking back, that my skills would be transferable. They were not. I needed to completely re-establish myself as an academic in order to be ‘known’. Being a technologist as well, was probably not the easiest area to forge a name in either. I remember speaking up in a very prominent research conference about technology to be told – and I quote – ‘when you are a professor you will be able to comment on these things’. That was the time when this tortoise definitely retracted his head back into his shell.
I have published and I am coming back to blogging and I am trying to make things more academic. I often wonder why I am not as academic as other people, but I think it is because ultimately my passions lie somewhere else. Where? I’m not really sure yet and, with only a couple of years before retiring, i’m not sure I want to think about it. But, I do wish that someone had told me that not all my skills would be transferable and that I would definitely need to work my way back up a long, slippery ladder.
I’ve really enjoyed writing this blog. I know I have to proofread it all and then check the search engine optimisation just to be told that my sentences are too long (there is always something!) but it’s good to be sat here chatting to you all. Hopefully, you enjoy reading these blogs and, if you have just scanned to the end and reading the Outro, then don’t worry – you haven’t missed much.
I used preamble and Outro in my personal blog but they might not be academic enough for this blog, but hey, it’s my blog and I make the rules – that was quite forceful of me!
So there was probably a lot of things I would have liked to know before I moved to higher education. If you are considering the move then please do ask me any questions below, I’m happy to respond to you. But, whatever you do, remember have no regrets.