Tag Archives: teaching

365 days later

Me at the LSBU Induction Boat Trip in September 2017. I was very pleased with my ‘Staff’ Lanyard!

Today is one full year since I took up my new post as Lecturer in History at London South Bank University

This year has gone by very quickly!

It has been a year of hard work. Mentors had advised me that the first year of a lectureship was tough and I can now wholeheartedly agree with them!

I have had the added task of launching a new BA (Hons) History degree in my first year.

This means I have some achievements that I can feel quite positive about in my first year. I designed and delivered three brand new modules. I learned quickly about being a Course Director and the workings of a new institution by taking on such a big admin role from day one. I supervised dissertations and got involved in postgraduate provision. I am proud to see the progress many of the students have made this year and I can feel good about my role in that. I brought in money. I still managed to present a paper at a big conference in my field.

However, what has really made this a transformative year in my life is that it has also coincided with me becoming a carer. After nearly two years of unexplained symptoms, dozens of appointments at hospitals and doctors, and a raft of diagnostic tests, my partner has been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) (the terminology is contested, choose your term). This precipitated a complicated and stressful house move while marking finals and dissertations. I think that being a carer and academic deserves a blog post of its own but I think it is fair to say that my life looks very different to the one I had just over a year ago ago!

I am here 365 days later at the dining table in my new house surrounded by boxes still to be unpacked, writing next year’s key dates into my new academic diary. I am looking ahead to a much-needed holiday and beyond that to the new semester and academic year. This post serves to say ‘I did it!’ And to mark the transition into what will hopefully be a year in which I can grow further into both of my new roles.

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A new role

It is no coincidence that my blog has been rather neglected since I completed my PhD. I have been experiencing the early career precarity which, though it is becoming more visible, still affects many of us after we submit our theses. This post is not the time for an extended account of my years in the insecure early-career wilderness. Instead this is the time to celebrate the beginning of a new phase in my career. your profile photo, Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sunglasses, outdoor and close-up

I have just started as a Lecturer in History at London South Bank University where I will be teaching on a new history degree (and three associated joint degrees). In some ways it feels like a long, slow exhale after holding my breath for a long time. It also feels like the start of something exciting. While I have a lot of work to do preparing new modules and settling in to life at a new university, I also have lots of opportunities to shape a new programme. Whether this results in more regular blogging remains to be seen!

Workshop: Teaching the History of Voluntary Action

Last week I attended a workshop on teaching the history of voluntary action at the University of Liverpool, financed by the Economic History Society. Following the recent resurgence of voluntary action history in research, this event provided an opportunity to consider how this research can be brought into our teaching and what this might look like. You can find out a lot about the content of the day by reading one of the organisers’ blog on it.Workshop funders

Being fairly new to both the research and teaching of voluntary action history, I was pleased to see fellow PhD and early career researchers not only included in the conversation, but asked to act as discussants, like myself. I talked about my experience teaching a module on social justice in my department that included voluntary placements, alongside Keith Laybourn talking about the use of new media and classroom techniques. This fed into a wider discussion of how we teach voluntary action, once we get past the what to teach and where. It provided a rare reflective space for a new teacher in an area of personal and professional development which can receive comparatively little attention.

That said, we were very fortunate to be able to draw on the experience of many more established academics as well. I was particularly struck by Bernard Harris’ opening remarks in response to the question ‘why should we teach voluntary action history?’ It was a point we returned to frequently and his answers could equally have applied to ‘why research’ as well as ‘why teach’ the topic. When we examined our own teaching it was possible to see multiple drivers; our own interest in the subject, its intrinsic importance, links to other disciplines and fields of history and importantly, for me at least, voluntary action as a social mirror. However the ‘why’ question proved crucial in our consideration of where the balance might lie in teaching voluntary action embedded within other topics, or as a stand-alone module.

What did I take I take away from the workshop? Firstly I was surprised to realise how much of the teaching of voluntary action history takes place outside of history departments; in social policy, social work, public policy, geography, politics and criminology. In terms of embedding voluntary action into teaching, it is clear that other disciplines have made important contributions to this to date. Perhaps history departments are playing catch-up a little here, as it takes time for newer welfare historiography to filter into teaching.

The event also highlighted for me a need for more discussion of why, how and what we teach, especially among those of us earlier in our careers, who can be thrown in the teaching deep-end somewhat, or who need to be teaching already to be offered support. It was a huge boost to me to be able to discuss my experience and do so in an environment where nobody had any answers, but everybody was more than willing to start thinking about the questions.

We amassed a wide range of teaching resources and practice, which many of us benefitted from looking at. We were also able to make connections to others teaching in similar areas. At the end of the workshop we discussed how to make the best use of resources and interpersonal networks to continue many of the conversations which the day had started. We are used to presenting our research and thinking about how we disseminate it, but perhaps it is time we did a bit more of this with our teaching too. Hopefully a follow-up event will help me, and other new teachers of voluntary action history to do more of this. Until then, however, I have plenty to think about.