As a lecturer in the School of MACE, my work routine is very much organised around the academic year. From my office in the Pariser building I have observed the ebb and flow of the student population for several years now. Between September and June the campus is a hive of activity; students and staff striding purposefully across North Campus, huge numbers of emails, frequent visitors to the office, teaching and marking deadlines to meet. And then shortly after the end of June everything calms down, time seems to slow, and Sackville Street empties as the majority of the student population (excepting Management of Projects and postgraduate research students, of course) leaves Manchester to enjoy the summer break. You might be forgiven for thinking that lecturers too enjoy an extended summer holiday – at least this is what much of the general population seems to believe.
On the contrary the months of July and August can be some of the most productive of the year for staff in MACE. For me the last three months have involved a conference presentation in Dublin, submission of a journal paper on a recent teaching innovation, concentrated effort on submitting the 1st year report of my own part-time PhD, completing an application for a Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy and supervision of 7 MOP dissertation students.
Fortunately members of academic staff do get time off too and I enjoyed a memorable family trip to Australia which both refreshed and recharged the batteries. Just as well, for now that September is here, the signs of the impending start of new academic year are very much in evidence. The volume of emails is rising exponentially; requests for exam papers and updated unit specifications jostle with deadlines for re-sit exam marking and MOP dissertation assessment. Course units must be updated for the new semester, the Blackboard Virtual Learning Environment populated with teaching material and lectures revised and rehearsed (only joking – there are no lecture rehearsals – it’s mostly seat of the pants stuff). Sackville Street is alive with activity; the numbers of lost looking overseas students trundling large suitcases behind them is on the increase, as is the crowd of students at the railway arches bus stop. Darn it I can’t even get a seat on the train!
Although I should be used to it by now the speed of ramp up in activity in September always comes as somewhat of a shock to the system. Right now I am frantically trying to complete the resubmission of a previously rejected journal article, progress small research collaborations with other academics, prepare for my 1st year PhD examination and finalise my own Management of Projects teaching. I know that come Welcome Week all these “other activities” will play second fiddle to ensuring my students get the best teaching and support that I can give them. And then as soon as I am on stage, in week 1, in front of my first class I remember too why I became a lecturer. It’s simple really – I enjoy teaching. I love the buzz of expectant faces in the lecture theatre (although I am less keen on those sleeping or surfing the web in the back row), I enjoy trying to explain my subject in language that is comprehensible and accessible to students from a diverse range of educational backgrounds and although many of my classes are large I am grateful when I get the opportunity to engage 1:1 with students – and learn something about their experiences and backgrounds, hopes and aspirations.
So, yes Welcome Week is here again – It’ll be hectic and hard work from now until Christmas; at times stressful and overwhelming, but you know what – I wouldn’t want any other job other than this one.