Making Work For Yourself

Well, first a famine and then a feast, that is, if self-indulgent nonsense is at all a signifier of a festival atmosphere. 3 posts in 36 hours!

Sometimes I think of expertise in teaching as the intuition that being time served gives to you. It’s not the sleepwalking through a class but that you can do everything through habit and stay alert to the novelties of the day. Other times I think of it as the way that you can get through a lesson without needing to plan a rationale with a 3000-word literature review and a methodology section. You already have the skills to pay the bills, as it were.


However, comfort zones are made to be broken out of. This year I am teaching a listening module (yay!) with endless amounts of faff for the resources (no way!) but which I chose to do myself (ey?) in the name of pedagogical thoroughness (hmmm!). Where do we draw the line between martyring oneself to The Absolutely Correct Way Based on Proper Scientists of Learning and being a heretic to the cult of Maybe This Is Good Enough and The Students Will Never Bloody Notice?

“It’s why they pay us the big bucks,” said a person (this very week) that would be unlikely to read this blog. Except, I feel that part of me in the standardised parts of my job feels very frustrated that some of what I do is not The Absolute Correct Way but is definitely only Maybe Good Enough. The bits of my job where I have designed the syllabus and where I have lots of independence make me really happy, although for a few of those there were some marathon reading sessions on good practice for reading and writing pedagogy.

“That book basically teaches itself,” said someone in a staff room this week. I didn’t even have a small aneurysm. I sat on my hands and did nothing; no arguing, not even a grumble. I just disagreed, felt that I understood the time pressures but wondered why they even had a Master’s degree if they enjoyed being deskilled so much.

Anyway, there’s assessment as well. Not being much of one for exams, them being a single event that might not be representative of learning development, I sort of eschewed them as much as possible until this year going with portfolios and ongoing assessment. Unfortunately, I don’t think portfolio assessment is the way to go unless you are teaching a light load and have plenty of time for painstaking assessment necessary. My portfolio assessments make up a much smaller proportion of grades this year, but I do have exams to give but they are smaller, less stressful affairs. I would much rather be able to conduct task-based tests more often, but 30 in some classes and I teach 30 hours a week at different places and with different systems. The Absolute Correct Way is toast again.

Am I a bit sorry? Well, I have the flail out, yes. Is there any way around it? Well, probably not until I start a Patreon or something (joke).

So, what can be done? Well, at best, I can probably plan my time a bit better, which should be easier now I cancelled Netflix. I could do a bit more assessment in down time and use time at home as down time instead. I also have a lot of repeating classes next semester, so that is a small mercy and I won’t need to mess about with video editing software on a crappy Linux computer with insufficient RAM at midnight next autumn or winter.


5 thoughts on “Making Work For Yourself

  1. “Some of what I do is not The Absolute Correct Way but is definitely only Maybe Good Enough.” Yep. Such a fine line to balance on when you also have to look after your mental health too. Good luck!


    1. Thanks Sandy. As a DoS, I bet you have your fair share of “bugger it, I’ll do it properly next time”. It’s the one thing I hated as an ADoS. As Lord and Master of my own syllabi, I feel like I can be the arbiter of “Well, it’s OK in bad light and if you squint a bit” or “decent enough”.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As a new teacher I really enjoyed reading this post. I’m really striving to be the best teacher I can be but as someone who’s new to the field, sometimes it’s hard to, like you said, do things the absolute correct way all the time especially when you’re still trying to figure things out. Teaching is also really overwhelming sometimes and I can’t always find the time or the energy to make every lesson super engaging and exciting. There are times when I just need a break from all the preparation. So in a way it’ s comforting to know that I’m not in this alone and that sometimes even experienced teachers struggle with this.


      1. Hi Am and Sandy,

        I think that the best new teachers are the ones who realise their limitations rather than the overconfident blaggers in the staff room. The latter really can alienate the more experienced teachers. Knowing what needs to be done and what you have problems with is helpful, and sometimes (Sorry Sandy!) the best development comes from a quick aside from an old hand, than a really meaningful comment from your (A)DoS or supervisor, although this is not an either/or situation.

        Keep on trying! As negative as I sometimes get, teaching is a really rewarding job.

        Also, Sandy, jump in any time!


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