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Posts tagged ‘Academia’


I’m packed, sorted and ready

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:

  1. 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. IMG_1268I 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!
  2. 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! IMG_1269
  3. 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.IMG_1271
  4. 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!IMG_1270

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!


To New Beginnings

1st September always seems to signal the start of a new academic year. Attention turns to teaching which starts in just a few short weeks, the research done and not done over the summer, the sort of inevitableness of the academic cycle and the fact that once teaching hits it won’t be long until Christmas – but it will feel long because there’s no half term or break to let you draw breath. I remember the last couple of early Septembers as being times to grit my teeth and tackle everything with a ‘right, here we go again then’ attitude. However, I also remember early Septembers which were full of the ‘back to school’ excitement – the same excitement I used to feel as a child shopping for new notebooks and pens and folders. You know what I’m talking about, right? That promise that a new academic year holds, things to learn, to discover, to talk about, to read, to find out…

Today I realised that I am recapturing some of that magic of the childhood back to school wonder. I start new job on Monday and the closer it gets the more excited I am. I am no longer anxious or worried about it, I am just excited. Excited to get back into the classroom, excited to see what a new academic year in a new institution holds, excited to push my research forward, excited about the conversations I’ll have and also quite excited to head upstairs to my study at some point today and choose a new notebook from the collection of notebooks I seem to have amassed over the last couple of years. I’ve stuck to boring, ruled, institution supplied ones for the last year at least. Now I feel it is time to choose something else. A new notebook for a new chapter of my academic career.

So on Monday I start as a Senior Lecturer in Law at Leeds Beckett University. Once I decided I was leaving Bradford, I knew that if I was going to go for another job in academia it would have to be something that allowed me to get back to teaching and to my research and to make a real contribution. I have been told again and again that I did a good job in management, and maybe I did, but I don’t get excited about it. In just 2 years it managed to extinguish the September magic. Now that September magic is back and I intend to hang onto it with both hands – sod that, I’ll sit on it if I have to.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not suddenly cured of the crap of the previous job. I can’t read my previous blog post without crying or without feeling slightly sick. I am cautious, very cautious, all institutions are mad and the sector is in a right mess. I know all this and I am not going into my new role with rose tinted glasses. I still wonder if I am good enough sometimes; I will, I’m sure, get frustrated at the idiocy of things but that’s not what this is about. It’s about new beginnings, it’s about the promise of those new beginnings, about the excitement and wonder and about hanging onto that promise and the excitement for as long as possible into the academic year – and then finding ways to renew them.

Thank you for all the lovely, kind and inspiring messages of support. Please join me as I step onto the next rollercoaster in my journey through this academic theme park.


Thanks from the picket line and the sofa

It’s day two of the UCU strike for fair pay in HE. I’m at home sitting on my sofa feeling a little lost. Truth be told, I’m worrying about work. I’m worrying about the pieces of assessment I haven’t yet marked, the meetings I haven’t organised, those I haven’t prepared for and whether I really have the time to go to an training course that is useful for me rather than the institution more widely tomorrow afternoon. I worry about my to do list, or rather I worry about looking at it because I know it will be overwhelming and already scarily out of date. I am resisting the urge to open my email and start dealing with stuff because this is what I am talking about, feeling like this, under constant pressure is part of the problem. So for today I will keep feeling a little lost, I will keep fighting the urge to deal with stuff and firefight and keep the balls in the air.

Yesterday I spent the morning on the picket line. It was slightly disappointing to see some academic colleagues heading into work and some of the driving  by staff was a bit aggressive as people did their best to avoid eye contact as they drove up to the barriers and hastily waved their staff cards at the sensors. If you’re an academic and the picket line makes you uncomfortable, maybe you need to think about why. If you’re not an academic and therefore not part of this strike action, stop and show us a bit of support; Smile, say hi or wave or something. Thanks to those who did! Thank you thank you thank you to the guys driving a university van who turned around and didn’t cross the picket line – you’re awesome.

I spent a lot of time yesterday and this morning keeping an eye on twitter – thanks for the support shown there. Thanks to the students in particular for tweeting your support and for understanding that we are doing this for you as much as for ourselves. But what happens tomorrow when we all got back to work? The temptation is to try and cram the last two days worth of work plus tomorrow’s work into tomorrow. The temptation is to still try and meet those deadline, get those exams marked, those meetings sorted, that paperwork done. My instinct is to do that because it needs doing. Let’s be honest, it needed doing last week, last month… But that can’t be how this plays out. The strike cannot result in us all being more stressed out. If I give into that temptation then basically I’ve just not been paid for two days but I still do the work and the university just gets even more of me for free.

Tomorrow I will make a huge effort to work at a sensible pace, starting at a sensible time and finishing at a sensible time. I will not work all weekend to catch up. The strike is supposed to have an impact, that’s the point of a strike! I do wonder whether sometimes we let ourselves down by going back to work and trying to catch up – if we do that we negate the effect of the strike.

I’m struggling- partly self-preservation is kicking in and I want to work to make sure I can keep afloat. I don’t want the ‘well if you hadn’t been on strike you’d not be so behind…’ conversations. I don’t want to be behind… So I’m getting off the sofa and I will find something to do to distract myself from the possibility of work. Maybe I’ll make jam.