Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day 16 - Loving summer

'So are you on holiday all summer?'
I get asked that when people know that I'm a lecturer.
I explain that although undergraduate teaching stops, there is plenty to be getting on with:
  • You have to organise work for the external examiners to scrutinise, and then go through the exam boards;
    There's a review process of what you've just taught to grapple with; 
  • There's a load of paperwork to catch up with;
  • Do you remember all of those emails that you were going to reply to when you had time? Now is the time;
  • Events for next academic year need to be planned;
  • You have to plan your teaching for next academic year.
There is an idea that academics have no time for research during the teaching term, and then concentrate on it over the summer. To be honest, although I do have more time over the summer, I don't have enough to comprehensively devote myself to research. If I don't try to continually carry out research during teaching term, keeping up momentum during the summer is not a given.

In my experience, no-one really tells you this, and my first summer as an academic was quite a lonely experience as I attempted to work out what I was supposed to be doing. I haven't always made best use of my summers, but I'm getting there.

I suppose I'd offer a few nuggets of advice to new lecturers about the summer:
  • Plan what you want to accomplish, and set yourself targets;
  • Don't leave jobs like module reports or resit marking to the last minute. The fact you have more time means that the management of this time is critical;
  • Take your holiday, and be prepared to really take your holiday - stop emailing, and don't get sucked into 'just popping into the office' because that will turn into hours;
  • Find yourself a mentor who has been teaching for a while and ask them about how they organise their summer.
Actually, I'm a big fan of mentors over all. A good mentor is incredibly valuable.

Lunchtime marked the beginning of my actual holiday for this year, although I am not going to take my own advice. There are a few things that I want to sort out before I can properly shut things down, and there are things I want to accomplish over the holiday that are, strictly speaking, work.
I'll write more about that tomorrow, because it touches on areas that Lauren Redhead asked about the other day, to do with the clash between the 'research imperatives' of the individual, and the research strategy of the subject area/institution.

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