I commenced here as a sessional lecturer in music and after three years was offered unit coordination of the foundation units. Supportive senior people, including an ‘unofficial’ mentor helped with my transition but, although I had a clear understanding of my responsibility to satisfy my students’ expectations of a quality learning experience, the exact nature of what my role entailed was obscured. If I were starting again, I would ask more questions about what is expected of me, and investigate the systems already in place rather than trying to reinvent things. I would also delegate more and explicitly communicate my expectations to staff and students.
Each semester, around 1,400 students enrol in the foundation units and most of my time is taken with managing 25 to 30 sessional tutors and running 50 to 60 classes. I get support from a head tutor and two people in the learning and teaching office but the logistics quickly get overwhelming so I try not to think about them. I see the tutors as my students and I work with them to develop learning plans, resolve their issues and keep them happy. I designed a program that they like and, each semester, organise an orientation meeting to outline what I want them to achieve. Having set up Facebook and Twitter accounts I encourage tutors to link with them as a more efficient communication medium. Students receive newsfeeds automatically, whereas, with Blackboard they must log in first.
In all of my jobs I have encountered stressful periods. I have learnt to manage my time and accept the pressures. However, I have had trouble knowing what and how to delegate. My instinct is to try and do and oversee everything. However, now that I have a large team who see me as their boss I feel more comfortable asking them to do things for me. I have let go and believe that delegating responsibilities to others helps develop and lift them to the next level. Nevertheless, I feel I am responsible for my students; my decisions and I cannot delegate that. The buck stops with me.
Much of what I know has been learnt on the job. With the numbers of people I work with I soon learnt it was either sink or swim. I engaged with the literature and colleagues about best practice in teaching and learning and in handling large units. Working in the creative industries area, I want to engage students in activities that will give them a foundation for their future studies and challenge accepted ways of understanding and passing on information. In class I involve students in some way by doing something unpredictable, or funny or unusual. For example, I hand out sheets of paper, asked a question and tell them to throw the paper at me with their answers. I use Mexican waves, miming, and cartoons. A defining moment for me was a video that portrayed these examples and showed me it is fine to hand over some of the control to students.
Some of the university policies are confusing and misleading and a major challenge is trying to align the formal institutional requirements, the needs of students, and the important learning objectives to ensure they stay relevant to the industry. I have recently taken on a faculty management role, further reducing the time available to do research. I want to apply for promotion but I do not have a PhD. I know the university values research and I see brilliant, highly published academics awarded a management role that they manage badly. Greater value needs to be placed on people like me who have management experience, and a track record of making things work and providing students and staff with quality experiences. For now, though, I prefer to be in a job I enjoy and gain fulfilment from rather than saying I am a Level C.
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