Thursday, 4 October 2012

Getting the Drift of Things

I'm sorry I haven't written very much for a while.  The NTEU casuals Connect magazine published a brief article of mine last month on their last page.  I don't know who selected the image to go with the article, but I loved it!  I thought it captured exactly what I had been trying to express in this blog in one thoughtfully selected image.. so thanks to whoever chose that image.  This isn't the image exactly, in fact the image in the magazine is much better, but this is the basic gist of it - an overgrown pathway.


I have had a couple of good things happen at one of my workplaces over the past couple of months.  I'm now on roll over pay which means getting paid is easier and faster with less paper work (I received my first pay 6 weeks after commencing, which is much better than previous semesters) we have a few desks - with two computers to use on campus - oddly positioned, but it's a start!  I've had paid training, I've even been on a paid trip to present a paper at a conference interstate.... I mean things are really looking up!  Our Vice Chancellor promised to make things better, and well look, things are starting to get better.

We are heading into that time of year where work ceases, or slows down for many casual academics.  I'm not too concerned as I'm not as invested as my colleagues who are employed as casual lecturers.  For me, as a tutor and RA, I still have time to have my pinkies in one or two pies that allow for some income over the break.  This is not the same for my colleagues who are casual lecturers and have to invest all of their time and energy into teaching throughout the semester, only to see their work evaporate very quickly over the break and then they are left wondering what to do, trying to scrounge at what ever work they can get for 4 months before they disappear into the academosphere again for the year.  It's a vicious cycle for a few who are not also undertaking HDR, that limits their prospects for advancement into permanent positions.  Some of whom are great teachers that have a lot of practical advice and knowledge to offer and are well liked by students, but just can't translate that knowledge into a value that the university is interested in.  The universities really get their pound of flesh out of these guys as well - only employing them for about 60 - 70% of the year compared to their full time counterparts and getting the same amount of work out of them.

This time of year is also the time for applying to study overseas for which students require an academic referee.  This weekend I have six academic references to write for students for their applications.  This is of course outside of my role, I'm not paid to do this, but I don't mind, I'm more than happy to write a few words to help a student experience the world.  Moreso, I wonder if students didn't have tutors who they would ask to write their references?  Who would they talk to about their careers, their studies, their ambitions if it weren't for the humble tutor?  So while I am starting to understand the trend towards blended learning techniques, I see its value and understand that students do learn a lot from their peers.  I just think we are overlooking a very critical human factor here, that relationship between student and teacher, emerging professional and mentor..... I really think our students will miss us and I hope that universities are thinking about this as well.

So thanks to my uni for making things better, but don't keep cutting us out of the classroom.  While I have had other financial benefits from my uni, my hours are still cutback from when I first began tutoring and will probably continue to be into 2013.