End of (another) academic year

Somehow or another, another academic year is drawing to a close. I said goodbye to another group of students today (lovely group, they were!) and all that remains is some writing exam standardisation, a pile of exam marking, and some coursework misconduct meetings next week. (Also next week, I will be getting my second dose of vaccine, woohoo!) It seems the appropriate point to reflect on the goals I set at the start of the academic year and look forward to next academic year.

I finished last year in a pretty sorry state in some ways – poor health, feeling burnt out and uncertain about continuing in my role as ADoS. A good long break helped and I came back to work with the following goals:

  1. Be curious! By being curious about everything that I encounter, all the newness that is ahead, I can open up lots of opportunities for learning and growth. 
  2. Be patient! With myself, with my colleagues, with my students. It won’t be an easy year and that is ok, it can still be a positive one.
  3. Be grateful! Look for the positives and appreciate them. Smile lots. 
  4. Be open to challenge! It’s ok, good even, for things to be difficult, challenge leads to discovery and growth. 
  5. Be kind to myself! Look after myself appropriately, maintain a good work-life balance (easier with the 4-day week!), keep meditating, eat well, exercise regularly, spend quality time with my girlfriend regularly. 

In the end, I decided to continue in the ADoS role and so now have another year of that under my belt. It has been a year fully spent working online/remotely. It has also now been a year and a half since I last worked in our building, which seems extraordinary to say the least! So, how I have done with the goals?

  1. I have learned a LOT this academic year. Amongst other things, I have put myself in online class student shoes by participating in Italian language classes once a week. I have done courses with two different providers and continue studying with the second provider. Each provider gave a very different learning experience, both of which I have blogged extensively about. What I have learned by being a student, of course, I have also been able to apply to being a teacher. I think I have become a reasonably competent online teacher, comfortable with this way of teaching. However, there is plenty of room for improvement. Use and monitoring of breakout rooms comes to mind. With a class of 20 students, I struggled with this. Feedback from my students, obtained through group discussions of a list of questions which they summarised their answers to in a Google doc will be useful going forward, as will the feedback from my line manager’s observation. I was lucky, they were a great group and I enjoyed teaching them. Other learning opportunities have included attending online TD workshops, from which I came away with ideas and food for thought, and reading – journal articles, blog posts, books. Finally, due to the high standard of my own application, I have been a fellowship assessor for two application cycles, so when people have submitted applications for becoming Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Authority (AFHEA), FHEA, and Senior FHEA (what I achieved in May last year), I have been one of a large group of people who have assessed those applications. I sat out the most recent round (as a voluntary role, you can elect to sit out for a cycle when you need to and I decided for this one I needed to!) but in the two that I did do this academic year, I learnt more about what my colleagues across the university are doing, which was fascinating. I would say yes, I did open up some good opportunities for learning and growth. May this continue.
  2. I think I have been more patient this year and allowed it to be the year that it was. I have tried to meditate more regularly but it has been sporadic. That said, I am nevertheless getting better at pausing rather than reacting, which also helps on the patience front. One of my goals for this holiday is to really get into a proper regular meditating habit as I very much believe it will help me next academic year when things are all change again!
  3. My gf and I keep a gratitude calendar together. Every evening before bed, we add in all the things we are grateful for from that day. It’s just a google doc with a table. Some days it is harder than others but on all days we can find stuff. And that in itself is something to be grateful for! (I recommend keeping a gratitude calendar – I kept one alone before my gf and I got together; we only started doing it together during the first lockdown when we were apart, as a way to continue to bond – it is a great way to cultivate a mind that finds the positives and very simple and quick to do. You could use a notebook, a word doc, whatever works for you.)
  4. Well, this was rather a vague goal wasn’t it. But here we all are. Could almost argue that by doing my job for this academic year I was by definition open to challenge! I think getting fully to grips with online teaching (last academic year was just one term and we were doing a very limited amount of live stuff) has been a big challenge, in particular how to look after my students, how to make the lessons accessible to them, how to support their learning and assessment effectively. I feel I have come a long way since September 2020 when we kicked off. In terms of ADoSing, it was my partner teacher’s second year of doing it so it has been solid. Good teamwork, pretty smooth. The odd hiccup but dealt with effectively. Next year, I will have a new partner ADoS as the current one is going on maternity leave. I think I have been in the position that much longer than last time I was in this position and hope therefore to be a better mentor – it is certainly something I will be focusing on. I will also hopefully be making SMARTer goals… 😉
  5. Ah yes. The first year of 4 day weeks. 🙂 I can say without doubt that it was definitely the right decision for me. I am in a MUCH better state than I was this time last year. While it has been a markedly less stressful academic year than the previous one, in which we were throwing down the train track as we hurtled along it, I am in no doubt that my quality of life has improved significantly with the change from 5 days to 4. The balance is just much, much better. Working from home has continued to be positive, also since I moved in with my gf. Being able to cook and eat lunch together has made eating less monotonous and we manage to do it healthily. Exercise is MUCH easier with a 4 day week because I can do my long runs or bike rides on my not at work day, while she is working, and therefore not be choosing between spending quality time with her and doing substantial exercise. At the weekends we do things like swimming and paddling together and I fit in shorter runs/bike rides sometimes too.

While I was writing this, I just received, in my email inbox, a recognition award:

Not just me, all the ADoSes. Honestly, I reckon the entire centre deserves one. Everyone has put such a lot in since this pandemic started. These awards were put on hold for a while due to financial constraints but it seems they are back again. It is always super nice to be appreciated! Very motivating.

Looking forward to next year, it is going to be a year of great change. After a year of being fully at home and online, it is back to the college for us! Something that is both scary and exciting. However, I am going to treat myself to having my holiday before I think about my goals for next academic year. That will be a job for nearer the time of The Great Return. For now, I will wrap this up and with it academic year 2020-21 (minus the final marking week, of course). Overall, I would say, a definite positive one. Hurrah!

Creative commons licensed https://www.flickr.com/photos/54724696@N07/24160789397 feels fitting for the culmination of this year, made it to the top of another academic year mountain of learning, challenges and life.


2 thoughts on “End of (another) academic year

  1. Thank you for sharing the details of your journey in recent times which is very useful for professional development.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s