I am stuck on a rather delayed train from London to Leeds and while I’ve been sitting here, I’ve been reflecting on the academic induction I did yesterday. In common with other institutions Leeds Beckett University offers an induction for all staff (which I haven’t done yet but you’ll see from the title of this post that I am keeping my option open for blogging on that one too!) as well as a full day induction for new academic staff. That full day was yesterday.
So, organisational issues aside (you know me, poor organisation drives me just a little crazy and there were one or two issues) here are my thoughts.
- Academic inductions are impossible, just impossible to get right
- I would have liked to be given a pack or folder with the information in and just left alone to read. There was nothing there that I couldn’t have just read and in fact I have forgotten a lot of the stuff we were told already and will have to find it again on the website or in the various bits of literature we were given
- I am not sure what I would put into an academic induction
- I am not sure I would have two slots for the Quality people. I say this in spite of the two short talks by the Quality team actually being amongst the better ones of the day. Somehow it sent the wrong message
- Graduate attributes are a funny concept – they are supposed to distinguish graduates of the same subjects from different universities but this presumes that institutions have different graduate attributes. It struck me how similar those of my previous and current institutions are – they just use different terms to describe them
- The research people got it – they brought leaflets, said a very quick hello and then left. I now have names which I can link to faces and leaflets to remind me as and when I need information
- It’s good to have a slot about equality and diversity – if we have to have slots at all. I still maintain that a new academic staff folder that you’re given when you start would be better! Maybe with a networking lunch or something where new academics can meet key people.
- While it was probably useful to be given an overview of services etc by central university teams there was a fair amount of stuff that referred us back to School based teams/people. It would be more useful for me to meet them but not right now, when I need them because otherwise I will just forget
- I have not been that bored in a very very long time. I feel awful saying that but I really was bored stupid. It was all so pointless. Yes, I am back to the folders idea.
- Ok, I’m trying not to be negative. Was there anything good – well I met a few people I’ll probably not see again; I touched based with the Centre for Learning and Teaching; I… nope, that’s it I think
I do wonder if everyone feels like this about the induction or whether this is me being particularly cynical again. Am I just being the proverbial cat that doesn’t want to be herded in any way at all? Do I underestimate the level of experience I have in HE and does that impact in how useful I think the induction was? I also realise that I may have tuned out a whole load of really useful information and that this might all come back to bite me when I really need to know something and can’t find the answer!
Many of you will know that this week I started my new job as Senior Lecturer in Law at Leeds Beckett University. Monday seems like such a very very long time ago. It’s been a good week. I am shattered today but I wanted to offer some reflections on my first week – a week which has gone some way to confirming that academia may be where I belong after all.
I have had lovely messages of support by email, on twitter and Facebook but there are three people who have stood out. First there is Bex who looked after us so well the weekend before I started and just let me be, do nothing, relax and have fun. Going to see her the weekend before starting the new job was such a good decision and set the tone for this week. Second and third are two people who I actually don’t know that well but who have been amazing and who seemed to just ‘get’ what starting this new adventure meant to me. The first is the lovely Linda who also works at Leeds Beckett and who delivered a card to the Law School on Monday. It made me cry (of course it did – these things do). The card was full of great advice – like where to find things on the website and where to get good coffee. (Linda if you read this – I’ll be in touch to say thanks over coffee in person!)
Then there was Elaine who is as brilliant as she is lovely and she sent me this card, which I love because it makes me laugh and these utterly awesome coloured pencils:
I’m not quite sure when they arrived because I didn’t quite register that I had a little pigeon hole! Anyway, they are amazing and even though I didn’t know I needed them, I clearly do need them and have no idea how I functioned before I had them. They have brightened up my notes and make me smile every time I look at them.
So the week has been a bit of a blur really. I have met new people, learned about new systems and software packages, learned how to use the phone system and then had the phone taken away and Skype for business installed. I’ve booked myself on inductions, got lost in buildings, found the library, got lost a bit more, set up calendars, email and folder structures, met more people, talked about teaching, timetables and Foucault… It’s all good.
I am in a big open plan office which will take some getting used to – for a start I may have to dial down the swearing at technology a little. I quite like the noise around me – it helps me focus (Am I weird?) but I don’t know how that will work out in the long run – will people interrupt my by coming over? We’ll see. I am glad I am at the back of the office rather than in the middle where people walk past all the time. I will also have to do much of my writing work at home because there’s not enough space for me to spread out all my crap around me.
The week finished with an Away Day today. A number of things struck me about that. First, it was actually sort of away… Well, it felt like it was away to me – it was at Headingly stadium in the Carnegie Pavilion overlooking the cricket ground. It is a Leeds Beckett building so it wasn’t really away but it felt like it, particularly because there was a match on.
It also struck me that there is a huge amount to celebrate at the Law School and that people are doing a huge amount of really good work which is of real value to students and yet my colleagues seemed to lack a bit of confidence in themselves (I mean collectively, as a School not individually) and the really good work they are doing. We talk about raising the aspirations of our students – maybe we should also raise our own. I also noticed that for a group of academics we were pretty quiet. I think people did engage with all the activities and presentations but I wondered whether people were holding back, whether people were a little cynical about the away day and the issues being raised. Don’t get me wrong, I am cynical about everything and I am the first to roll my eyes at away day type activities, I hate ice breakers and if there is role play to be done I will be an awkward sod BUT this wasn’t like that. It seemed to me to genuinely be about celebrating success and thinking about how to build on that and I was a little puzzled by the lack of ambition and the extent to which we got bogged down in operational detail. However, maybe it isn’t surprising because we are at the time of the academic year when operational detail hits us square in the face. LPC teaching has started and we’re not far off undergraduate inductions etc. Maybe it is obvious that we will all be more concerned with getting ourselves in front of the students rather than with strategic thinking about where we want to be. There may of course also be an institutional history and legacy that I’m not part of which colours people’s perception of away days and shapes behaviour.
Anyway, I feel like I have a better sense of the place, a better idea of how it functions, what people are concerned about and what should be celebrated more. Clearly I have landed in a Law School that has much to be proud of but hasn’t been told that enough. Importantly, none of it feels alien. I don’t feel out of place. Even on day two, walking to my desk felt ‘right’, like I’m supposed to be there, belong.
I am sure there is lots more but I now have ‘Friday Brain’ and can’t really process anything. I think the important thing I wanted to share (because of course you’ve been waiting impatiently for me to update you) is that it has been a good week. It’s been full of support and what has certainly felt like genuine collegiality. I have enjoyed going to work, I have been pretty efficient, I have worked sensible hours and I am looking forward to next week.
I wrote about the excitement of choosing my notebook in the last post. Well I have chosen. In fact I have picked more than just the notebook- I have picked all the things I will take to my first day at work on Monday. I have put them in in bag and put the bag back in the study – all ready to go.
I have also put to one side the things I think I want to wear on Monday – although I may change my mind about that. I know, I know it is only Friday but we’re away this weekend and I do not want to have to think or worry about a thing while we’re away. This way, I don’t have to do anything when we get back. I can get up on Monday morning, open my wardrobe, pull out the clothes I’ve put to one side and put them on, pick up the bag in the study and go. I don’t feel anxious or stressed or anything other than excited and I’d like to keep it that way.
So, what do you take to work on your first day? Beats me! It’s been 9 years since I had to think about that and last time I’d seen my office space before and actually last time I didn’t really have any stuff! So here’s what I’ve gone for. This is my 1st day kit:
- My folder with information of how to find the Law School (that would be a good start), my certificates and other bits and pieces for HR and my contractual docs etc. Then the two notebooks I have chosen. One is my general one – you’re not likely to see me without it much. I’ve tried notepads and folders and bits of paper etc – I can never find anything ever again – so everything goes in the book – from research ideas to people’s contact details, to meeting notes, everything. However, I then worry about missing something so I also have a to-do-list book. That’s the second smaller notebook. I can see you rolling your eyes. Roll away, for a control freak like me it works. I have a little to do book on the go from Bradford. I’ve only used the first 3 pages so I was just going to go with that but as I picked it up to pack it my heart rate shot up. I didn’t want to open it and look – so I didn’t. I put it back in one of the yet untouched boxes from my previous working life and picked up the little green one instead. I also of course need my magic pen. I like the look and feel and weighting of my Disney pen. I’ve hardly used it – it sat on my study desk at home gathering dust – well that’s about the change. As I said in the last post, I am hanging on to the magic and excitement of September and the pen will help!
- Next we have the obligatory sticky note kit with some clips – I know I am not likely to need paperclips on my first day or perhaps ever but they’re cat paperclips! And anyway, you just never know!
- My magic pen might not be enough. I know better than to go anywhere with just one pen. That pretty much guarantees that the pen will disappear or worse, run out. So I have a collection of pens, blue, black and green as well as a highlighter and some more sticky notes which all nicely sit in a gorgeous little mug that my lovely friend, colleague and co-author of my next book Sanna bought me to cheer me up after my first stretch of sick leave. It’s a reminder that academia is about collegiality and therefore it is absolutely coming with me on day 1.
- Finally, my coffee mug which reads ‘Today is the Day Everything Goes According to Plan’ and my Herdy coaster as well as a selection of teabags and coffee. I went for all non-caffeine first and then thought ‘who am I kidding’ and headed back into the kitchen to hunt for sachets of the proper stuff. Finding good coffee is pretty high on my list of priorities for Monday!
I am still debating electronic devices. I am getting a work laptop and I will enjoy setting up folder structures and email folders etc so I think I’ll be going without my Mac and iPad. All I really need now is a book for the commute!