For a period of about three years I had very little to do with teaching, compared to earlier years. While I did continue supervision higher degree by research project, give a number of few guest lectures and talks, etc, it was not the same as having to run a class or a unit. Beginning 2018, though, I had the opportunity to take up teaching again and this time, at Murdoch University. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t at least momentarily daunted by the thought of all the work coming my way as, no matter how you frame it, teaching at any level, from pre-primary to doctoral, is very much about hard work and long hours of preparation way before you ever see a student.
On paper we are allocated 2 hours of preparation time for each hour of a lecture delivered at most universities in Australia. If this is a unit/paper you have delivered before 2 hours is just about adequate if no substantial updating is required. However, if you teach digital media as I do, no updates would almost certainly mean outdated information that students are very quick to point out to you (sometimes with glee) as superseded, old news. So keeping on your toes in terms of being updated on the many byzantine twists and turns that tech firms, technologies and how institutions such as nations, universities, governments etc interact with digital technologies and media is no simple feat. All this is to say that writing lectures is hard work. However, it is also for me, among the most intellectually pleasing tasks because I see every lecture as a story I tell about and surrounding the topic. The broader the topic, the greater and more adventurous the story arc. It is also immensely satisfying to present sometimes obscure issues and concepts in a way that students do enjoy learning about them.
Perhaps the hardest and most wearing of teaching tasks is marking, which I, along with thousands of colleagues, are in the throes of right now. It’s difficult because you are asked to make judgement calls on every assignment handed in. All while holding inside your head some overall picture of where each student’s work stands against that of their peers. It gets easier with experience but it is a slow, exacting and, for me, psychologically, taxing work.
Still, it has been good dipping my toe back into teaching again. I forgot for a while what fun it is interacting with other folks (not all students are young!) who are not neurotic researchers and academics. I also forgot the great buzz of energy a good class or discussion can add to one’s day. It has always been somewhat of a dream to be able to both teach and research but found it hard to sustain both at red-hot levels at the same time. Perhaps I will soon have the chance to maintain a reasonable teaching and research role soon? The path beckons…