Thursday, 29 August 2013

Looking towards a new academic year

It’s that time of year again. We’ve recruited well but there are still a few gaps. So, I’m on standby all day today for clearing. That means I’ll receive queries from students looking for places and hopefully I’ll be able to make a few offers. I have two students to chase up which I’ll do once the morning is mature enough.  
As I’m a programme leader, I’m also having students contact me with queries about the beginning of the year. I actually enjoy answering those sorts of questions. It’s one of the most satisfying parts of this particular job.
I’m not expecting a great rush at this time. However, the cases that do present themselves are likely to be a little unusual and it most likely won’t just be a matter of seeing whether they meet the criteria or not. Some may have complex qualifications and whilst we must accept them if they do pass muster, we’ll try to give as much information about the courses as we can so that the candidates can be sure they’ve made exactly the right decision.
These unusual qualifications, anyway, are often more of an advantage than a disadvantage. For instance, we’ll often find that mature students, perhaps coming in via an access course, have a substantial portfolio of creative writing.   
It’s as always a time of many unknowns. We don’t actually know how many students we’ve got until two or three weeks into the new semester. Applications are open until then. Even if they are what we call a “confirmed accept” they’re not actually here until they have registered. Even some that register don’t actually turn up. This is particularly true of first years. However, even some second or third years, even those who have passed the year first time, don’t come back. Life happens.
In my particular department we have good retention and good progression but there are still a few gaps.
Yes, it’s exciting looking towards a new year, particularly so this time: we’re moving into a new school and we have several new colleagues joining us. It’s a little bit scary too. Roll on 16 September – when Induction Week starts.                

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The impact of email on the staff / student relationship

I used to be a high school teacher but I left doing that full time before the use of email became widespread. A lifelong friend who was still in mainline teaching by the time we’d all started using email told me it had become a bit of a nightmare. Yet I emphasize to my students that they should check their university email and Virtual Learning Environment regularly so I’m adding to the culture of us using it a lot.  

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Does one ever stop?

I’m currently away on holiday. I’ve just checked my work email. Fortunately there wasn’t anything urgent. The computer informed me I had automatic responses on – did I want to turn them off. Well, no I didn’t actually. Maybe I do draw a line after all.
I am specifically a writing teacher and that means I have to write. I tend to manage a couple of hours a day even at weekends and whilst on holiday. Holidays also tend to be times when I get more ideas. Getting a more sleep and relaxation and being to a large extent out of my normal framework helps me to open my mind a little.
I’ve also checked my personal email.  That’s meant picking up news about my properties – why do all the tricky things happen while I’m on holiday? – and responding generally to news of writerly matters there – other writers’ launches, requests for opinions and advice and news of opportunities. I’m a little less proactive with this whilst away but I’m certainly still doing it all.
I’m not really complaining, though. This is just what I do. I wouldn’t be without it. I’m constantly looking for new ideas, both as a teacher and as a writer. Even when I’m on holiday.