Surrendering myself to teaching

This Unit Coordinator is overwhelmed by her workload on her return to her university after an overseas academic contract. She describes her smooth organisation of large classes and working with other academics. More...

I am settling back into my role after one year’s absence to teach overseas. Academic life overseas was in stark contrast with Australia and resembled academia as I believe it existed in the 1950’s. For example, I found little accountability, little evaluation of teaching and scant alignment between content and assessment. Academics simply taught material they enjoyed and concentrated on enjoying life. On my return I faced negotiating with other academics, enormous class sizes and once more surrendering myself to teaching.

The unit I currently coordinate is core to all program areas in the faculty. This means several academics have an interest in the unit content although most are unwilling to conduct a guest lecture or contribute to the teaching. Sometimes they hear something from their students then chase me to say ‘I heard this is going on…..’ and where they demonstrated little or no interest in the unit beforehand they suddenly have comments about how things should be done. Other times they insist on meetings to discuss the unit content with firm views on what must be included, so the process is truly iterative, and then they refuse to contribute in any other way. Initially I found the whole experience bruising. With 800 students in the unit, two repeat lectures are required in addition to extra tutors, so I am kept busy.

Next semester I coordinate another smaller unit with approximately 120 students and I work with two tutors. I deliver all the lectures and prepare everything for the tutors. This arrangement works well as we have worked together previously so we all know what we are doing and can sometimes recruit guest speakers to assist us. I like my units to run smoothly so I make sure I am clear about what will be done and that others are reassured all is well. My lectures are well prepared, readings are available to students from the library and I regularly update the unit online site. Student emails are answered promptly and I ensure the tutors are clear about content and all assessments by consulting with them to develop innovative tasks. I am usually happy with student feedback as I generally receive a score of at least 4 out of 6 for my teaching.

During semester I do not have research days. I need constancy and time so begin research during my teaching breaks in the middle of the year and during the summer break.

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