When I started in this role 20 years ago I received no teaching preparation. It was assumed that because I knew my discipline well I could transfer that knowledge to others. The students at that time were from the top scoring 5% of school leavers. They survived in spite of the quality of the teaching. The student demographic is now from the top 35% in terms of tertiary entry scores. They require more intensive teaching and a greater investment of time.
In conjunction with the teaching demands upon us, Unit Coordinators spend much time on complying with the university’s paperwork requirements. I think that compliance is a consequence of social values. People are looking for others to blame or to protect them, so accountability becomes important. As a teacher you are in a position of trust but the increased accountability demonstrates a lack of trust by someone. Doing the paperwork is a distraction from what Unit Coordinators are supposed to be doing. The Head of School is the chain of command and I think it is up to them to implement a structure that alleviates paperwork.
Most of the silos that exist in our school are the result of office politics and personality clashes. Our Head of School approves of collegiality, encourages it, and tries to arrange it. My personal preference as a unit coordinator is to co-coordinate with another. I find it less emotionally draining to have two people sharing the load, apart from the pragmatic reasons associated with illness or conference leave. The role is less intense, you are able to share the pastoral care of students and you have someone to discuss things with. You can also have a little breathing space. Most of us do not spend as much time with individual students as they need. However, if you have 200 students and you give each of them five minutes that is all that you would be doing. The grim reality is that you spend as little time as you can get away with.
A Head of School finds it difficult to be proactive because he is managing 40 academics and several thousand students. He/she is always running behind. Their performance is assessed on how crises are managed rather than whether or not initiatives are implemented. They deal with the big problems that may arise with the senior academics, while I handle my sessional staff. I understand the pressures on them but I think that one’s load is alleviated if you have a supportive Head of School.