Painting the Sydney Harbour bridge

Experience was obtained by this coordinator during six years at two different universities. He asked lots of questions to survive the early years and has learnt to compartmentalise the various responsibilities since. This has reduced anxiety although a sense of relentlessness and treading water prevail because he lacks the time to reflect, improve and excel. More...

My experience as unit coordinator was obtained during three years at another university and during the past three years here. During this time I shifted from ‘not knowing what I don’t know’, to ‘knowing what I know’ and ‘knowing what I don’t know’. Most of the discussion about my role occurs during my annual performance review when we focus on student evaluations and my responses to them. I am not sure students recognise unit coordination as it is often invisible when it works well. It seems we only receive feedback about unit coordination when something goes wrong. With hindsight I think everyone should complete a unit coordinator’s preparation course but such training was not available when I first arrived. Instead I received an orientation tour around the site and I was introduced to others in the school. When I first attended meetings it seemed that everyone talked in acronyms so I decided to play dumb and ask a lot of questions. I think people are interested and they do care about newcomers, the problem is that there is no realistic orientation and people are so overworked there is no time to cater for new folk.

Since arriving here my role changed to include course coordination in addition to unit coordination, though I sometimes think the unit coordinator role is more rewarding professionally. My epiphany while course coordinator was to realise that it is impossible to merge the course coordinator, unit coordinator and creative researcher roles. Once I realised that I was set up to fail my anxiety levels dropped quickly.  There are intellectual rewards to unit coordination as it is possible to experiment with delivery and content, you can focus on your own interests and you experience the enthusiasm from students first hand. However, other times I liken unit coordination to painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge because you start at one end (the beginning of the year), work through the unit to the other end (the end of the year) then repeat continuously the entire exercise.

My level of satisfaction as unit coordinator is low because I feel a sense of relentlessness to the role, that I am treading water, and that I can never aspire to excel. There is no time for serious reflection or major restructuring within a unit. At the moment I am looking at other options because I want to continue teaching and to develop as a creative researcher. I love teaching and interacting with students. I thrive on working creatively with students. Most of the time I feel exhausted with unit administration taking up most of my time and that is not my academic strength, nor my passion.

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