Today (5th October) is Teachers’ Appreciation Day… woop! After years of being employed on fixed term research contracts, struggling to be able to get a mortgage because of my precarious employment and desperately chasing after grant funding to keep myself employed, I began my lectureship in 2019.
I was thrilled to begin my new job. I realised that my new role would include a fair amount of teaching and I was excited about it. Teaching is something that I have always enjoyed and it wasn’t that long ago that I was a student myself. Some of my most memorable lectures and lecturers have stayed with me to this day. When I teach, I love being able to explain and communicate topics to people so that they can leave understanding them better. But more than that, in my new job, I wanted to bring innovation and creativity to my teaching approaches so that students would enjoy learning (little did I know that my mini-discos and interactive ice breakers would be much appreciated by students as everything went online during the COVID-19 pandemic).
Teaching is a really difficult and valuable skill, which I have been working on throughout my career and I continue to work on it to this day (after all, there is always room for improvement!). Ultimately, teaching is hard but enjoyable work. When the pandemic hit, I think many of us reflected on how skilled teachers in all of their different capacities are. Yet, sometimes teaching can be viewed less favourably to research in Higher Education.
The reality is that some academics have exceptional research skills and they are employed because they are fantastic researchers, but sometimes they receive very little training in teaching. Workload is also a factor, we are all overworked, and lecturers on research contracts are pulled in many different directions. Balancing research alongside teaching and admin (and this is just the beginning of the various responsibilities) is tough especially when there is pressure to bring in more and more grants and alongside publications.
But, I made the best decision that I have ever made in starting this job and I absolutely love teaching the next generations of scientists. I have been welcomed into the wonderful world of teaching, scholarship and pedagogy with open arms. I get to develop teaching materials to help students learn, I get to support young people in their journey’s and potentially even inspire them in whatever they decide to do next. That is a real privilege.
So, as we begin the new academic term, I have a plea on Teachers’ Day, it is to please respect, appreciate and value teaching, in all of its forms, but especially in Higher Education.