I have been coordinating my unit in education for a number of years: in this university and in another university. That university underwent a re-structure and employed young people like me to reinvigorate the education program. My goal was to acquire an academic position so I felt lucky when I was offered the role. I implemented innovations but they were not well received by the long-standing academics. I realise now they did not understand what I was trying to achieve because I provided little explanation and told these experienced, competent academics to trust me. I have heard since that they have now adopted the changes and I can see now that the issue was with how I approached the situation.
I am well supported at this university and, now that I am more experienced, feel that my colleagues see me differently. Maybe I see myself differently. I think most academics are flexible and work well with others. Although I have built some wonderful relationships with them, at times I feel isolated. We often work in our own worlds and do our own thing. I would advise new academics to seek out help before it is needed; otherwise situations may escalate, and to discuss issues with colleagues, most of whom have been through similar situations.
Managing students is a challenge, but I feel less overwhelmed by the role now because, while I have to make many decisions, there are some I can defer up the line. There are times when you need to go through official channels so knowing when and who are the right people to approach is important. I am getting better at discerning this.
Having an education degree has taught me how to teach but I can always learn something new. I set aside one day a week to pursue my research during my non-teaching semester. During my teaching semester I coordinate four units and the responsibility is so huge I feel that research is a luxury. I am a member of a writing group which meets frequently in a café or someone’s home. We set ourselves a goal of writing 15 minutes a day, which adds up over time. I attended a 3-day writing retreat, which was fantastic, and have recently contracted a publisher to publish my PhD in book form. Nevertheless, I sometimes feel that someone might come out from behind a curtain and tell me I am a fraud.
In my school we are re-writing units to meet national curriculum requirements while also retaining the old Essential Learnings. This is hard, but our practicum students need both. I like to keep my students happy, but also unhappy. If they are unhappy, I believe they are unsettled and thinking about things.
During semester I do not have work life balance because I work night and day 7 days a week. You have to love your job to do be able to do the job that we do. Fortunately, I am able to discipline myself to take time out and spend time with friends. I recently took up a hobby and when I was asked to take a class on my hobby night I declined. Things get easier when you have been doing them for a while. I am less tense and more laid back. The result is a happier me and happier students. My recent student feedback confirmed this and showed me that people respond better to a more relaxed teacher.