On 23rd September 2014 I tweeted my day. The idea came as a result of an email at work suggesting we could do some video diaries to help each other understand what we all do and the pressures we can be under better so as to ultimately lead to a better understanding of different roles. That in turn should lead to better working relationships. Well, a video diary was just never going to work for me! Twitter however would. So I offered to live tweet a day at work. I tried to do that as honestly and as informatively as possible. There are some details of discussions in meetings which I obviously couldn’t tweet but I hope I have captured what Tuesday this week was like for me, some of what I did, how I felt about it…
I have captured the tweets of the day using storify so you can see the whole thing here: https://storify.com/Jess_Guth/my-day-in-tweets
On reflection, I enjoyed the experience. It did slow me down a little in terms of work. My most efficient time – between 7.30 and 9am – was noticably less efficient but I did go through the day reflecting on what I was doing and why. I was acutely aware of how much coffee I was drinking and that I don’t spend enough time chatting to colleagues about work generally.I also felt connected though and like people were with me – not in a freaky being watched sort of way, more in a supportive kind of way.
I think I might do this again towards the end of term because I think it is really important to stress that there is no such thing as a typical day – had I chosen today or yesterday, the whole thing would have looked very different. That however is why I love my job. I hope it was interesting or entertaining or useful or perhaps a little of each!
For those of you who follow me on twitter – you might have seen me live tweet my day yesterday and the next blog post was supposed to be a summary of that. However, that’s going to have to wait until tomorrow because I did something today which I think is worth blogging about. I think it’s worth blogging about because it is such a simple, yet utterly brilliant idea: I took part in a philosophy reading group. Don’t laugh! I did and it was great.
So often we struggle on our own trying to understand the theories, philosophies and writers that went before. I’ve never really had the opportunity to sit down with people to read specific sections and figure out what they mean and go from there. Usually you get feedback on your application of the philosophies and theories – say through conference papers or similar. This group though is different. The group, as I understand it, isn’t aimed at discussion our own work but steps back from that to help us all get our heads round the philosophers we choose to look at.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. The reading was an extract from Foucault on ‘the Docile Body’ (A chapter from ‘Discipline and Punish’). I have never used Foucault explicitly in my work – probably mainly because I struggle to get my head round it all properly and I’m always scared of making a mistake that will make me look really stupid. I have however, drawn on Judith Butler who seems to draw quite a lot on ideas we also find in Foucault. Anyway, I digress. We only looked at a few pages and yet I feel like I have come away with a far greater understanding of what Foucault’s writing generally is all about. I have more of a handle on how he uses language (bearing in mind of course that we were looking at a translation!) and his key position. It also makes me feel more confident that my thoughts about Foucault were pretty accurate and that I haven’t misunderstood and got it all wrong (which is my default position when it comes to theoretical stuff!)
The really lovely thing about the group was that there was no expectation that anyone knew the answers, we were all just figuring it out together. It was the kind of collaborative, joint, supportive academic work I love. The kind of work that makes you walk away with a bit of a buzz, that makes your brain hurt in a good way and that makes you think about things. I loved it. I’m not entirely sure what I think of Foucault’s work, I’m not entirely sure I understand it all but I am sure that this theoretical stuff is not just something I have to think about – it is now something I want to think about. Thank you to all those who were there. Next time we tackle Nietzsche – just a paragraph of Nietzsche – but then I suspect that a paragraph is really all we can hope to get our heads round in the time we have. It will however be a pragraph more than I understood before and a paragraph more than I could ever hope to understand on my own. So I think I may finally have found a way to overcome my theory issues! I joined a group – who would have thought!
So here we are again. It’s the end of September and in universities across the country staff are welcoming new students. I have just spent three days in London in various meetings and they all in some way required me to think about what we teach, how, why… my head is full of that strategic, high level, sometimes theoretical, sometimes just jumping through hoops stuff that I guess is now my job. It’s been interesting, it’s been intense and it’s been fun and as always after these sorts of meetings I am knackered. And yet, as I head back north there is an underlying excitement about the coming week. It took my a while to figure out what it was but now I have it: I’ll be teaching next week. I am excited about teaching! I can’t wait to get back in the classroom. This excitement started to build on Monday evening, just a little bit. I was giving the induction lecture to the new first years on Tuesday morning and on Monday I was getting exctied, on Tuesday I was buzzing. The hour in the lecture theatre on Tuesday was, it seemed at the time, everything I had been working for over the summer. They were here, the first years were here and I could fire the starting pistol for the journeys that can change their lives – that could change the world. Wow.
On Wednesday I took one of the tutorial groups for our sample/intro tutorial and personal tutor meet. Again I was excited and again the experience didn’t disappoint. It was a small group and we sat and chatted about so many of the things that matter to me – law, justice, morality, legal education, making a difference. I can whinge about students as much as the next academic but let’s not forget that we can learn so much from them, that if we encourage them to engage with us, we will be better for it. So, induction is over. I have my first EU Law lecture on Tuesday – I’ll be telling stories about EU citizenship (just in case anyone cares) and I can’t wait. Am I nervours? Hell yes, I will be walking into a lecture theatre with 100+ students and I’ll be putting my views, my research, my knowledge on the line. I’ll be performing and performances can go horribly wrong but I will have fun; and I will learn something and the more I think about it, the more I cannot imagine an academic career without teaching. That’s not an option for me, I need to be in the classroom, thats where I can see my vision, ambitions, hopes and dreams come true; it’s where I make a difference and it’s where I can re-charge my batteries and my sense of humour to help me deal with all the other rubbish being a manager in the HE sector can throw at you. So, I may be Head of School, but I have no intention of shifting all of my teaching – that’s just not me!