You get your schedule for the new teaching year. You have a new course to teach. Oh no! How much work?! Yes, it is a lot. Hopefully I can help streamline out the panic. Learn from my mistakes instead of your own.
What kind of course is it? Is it discrete skills, a mish-mash of skills, content, or merely an idea crafted by nymphs from a gossamer of buzzwords? This is going to dictate a lot about how you approach it.
If it’s all four skills, what can’t the learners do yet that you want them to do? If you aren’t sure, ask or have a good think. What kinds of people are your learners? Pope-Ruark (2018) advocates creating stakeholder profiles for your course. Put yourself in these different people’s shoes. Make them as realistic as possible. ‘Talk’ to them in your head. Ask questions to them and let them answer your questions and it makes this process easier. Yes, I know this sounds like the ravings of a man possessed but trust me here, or give it a try and if you don’t like it, try it your way.
Continue reading “How Do I Plan a New Course? A Guide”
Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have noticed that I am following and retweeting more and more UK and Australia based accounts that tweet about (anti)precarity and (anti)casualisation in academia. Why? Well, I work in multiple universities on renewable one year contracts with the number of hours I can work for each university usually capped. I am relatively comfortable in the knowledge that I can renew for a generally unlimited number of times but one frequently hears of colleagues whose contracts do not get renewed and then need to take any work that comes up last minute. Continue reading “Development Interrupted? Precarity, stress and effects on my CPD”
(Photo of me in front of a poster with elephants in Osaka. ©2018)
Who doesn’t like a holiday? I am supposed to be on mine but I can’t help be sort of not on holiday. I still have a bit of grading to do (deadline far enough away to not feel guilty), some other bits of projects to do, and job searching.
I am still looking for a full-time job, and am constantly looking and the jobs keep coming up, albeit some of the most interesting ones outside Kanto.
I remember there was quite a to do on Twitter among UK academics defending the summer teaching break in universities because this is when they actually get research done. Well, among serial part-timers, basically people working more teaching hours than most full-time university teaching staff, this is when we finally have time to cut and paste our CVs into bespoke bloody forms for every university job we apply to (either part or full time, tenured or contract), with ill-judged formatting choices that mean the file renders stupidly on a Windows computer but fine on a Mac or vice versa. One university that I am still thinking about applying for, and it’s just a thought because of what follows, wants publications (Check! Although maybe not high-flying enough.) and also evidence of excellence in teaching based on the dubious evidence provided in student questionnaires. I predict some humming and aahing (and aarghing) about this, if only about being bothered to find logins for the different university questionnaire websites. It makes the 500 words in L2 about my aims for a general-ESP-EAP hybrid course for a more prestigious university seem doable.
Anyway, less blog moaning. I’ll only be moaning on social media between now and the last week of August. Probably.
So, yes, my summer holiday for the next week or so will be spent with early mornings grumbling about Excel, my crappy English-to-Japanese translation skills, my dreadful keigo, and general work related faff before housework and parenting. At least it’s just a week, then it’s countdown to an actual trip!
Some of you who know me a bit or have delved in the archives may know that I just finished my MA Applied Linguistics and TESOL (Distance Learning) through University of Portsmouth. Nothing is finalised yet but my work has been marked and in the next couple of months I believe I get a lovely new piece of paper.
Would I do it again? Yes. I loved reading up on stuff I am interested in and then chatting about it. Would my wife let me do it again? Perhaps begrudgingly. There are reasons for her antipathy, none of which are to do with the University of Portsmouth but to do with work-life balance.
My workload (as in paid work) right now is 15 hours university teaching (and does not include planning, preparation or assessment), 16 hours of school teaching, planning, preparation and assessment, and 3 hours thirty minutes of ESP/Business English teaching (not including preparation, planning or assessment). While I was doing my MA, I was teaching 3 to 6 hours less at university but instead teaching 3 hours more Business English, teaching YLs for 7 hours and coordinating YL courses with 2 assigned hours. A colleague told me a couple of weeks ago, “Marc, you should be really proud if you do pass because you have the workload of two full-time lecturers while completing the MA reading and writing.”
I am proud, but I wish I had controlled my work-life balance better, what with having a young son. I also started the MA when I was finishing up the teaching practicum of my Trinity DipTESOL, as well, which was stressful in and of itself. This was not simply unwise but totally stupid and irresponsible. I did all of it by sacrificing family life, mainly by burning the candle at both ends.
Why did I do it, then? I am not a pretty paper collector. I am stuck in a situation where I need money and it needs to go up quite often seeing as I have basically no pension, not really enough savings, and there are social norms in Japan about extra-curricular stuff that costs the kind of kind of money I will probably start to balk at come April. I can talk about the inherent edification of completing work above my comfort zone, and it is a huge factor in what got me through. Learning stuff is fun, kind of. However, I have to at least be a bit utilitarian. MA is basically the new BA. Perhaps I even understate it.
I also work for four different employers, plus myself. I am tired of this. I would love a full-time job that pays a similar amount to my current earnings, after taking into account the social insurance differences and such. Unfortunately, there’s a bit less job security there unless I were to chance upon a tenured position immediately. This is as likely as discovering a magic lamp at the bottom of my bag. However, an MA makes the probability of this at least a sporting chance. It also means that I can move countries if I absolutely have to. It also means that I can advertise my services as that of an expert rather than as a journeyman, and get more money for them. Alternatively, it means I can find better paying part-time work.
Anyhow, studies are finished, kind of. I just have to wait. My dissertation supervisor said in an email, “you should follow up on this research.”
“Hey, let’s move to New Zealand! I’ll do a PhD!” I said, in the mania of knowing I passed everything as opposed to the gnawing fear that I had failed. Also, I am a workaholic, which is definitely not a good thing but a side effect of impulsive decision making.
“Do they have good trains?” my son asked.
“Eh?” asked my wife, with the stoniest stare since Medusa. “No.”
So, not quite that. Instead, I am doing stuff, sort of a long-term research project come side business thing that I hope to use as a PhD by publication in the next few years, to increase the chance of finding a permanent, well-paid, full-time job (don’t laugh, PhD holders; I did say ‘chance’) . Luckily I have good library access with my jobs.
In the meantime, I am trying to find time to transform my dissertation into a research article and figure out how to get my jobs to let me use students as research subjects or else find time to get volunteers for research. Or get the time to try finding a magic lamp.