My day starts early – as they often do. My role as lecturer is permanent but 50% of a full time position. This was intentional (sort of) because like many migrants, one of the main reasons for moving to New Zealand was to recover some work/life balance. The pace of life here is definitely less frenetic and I have significant autonomy in my role at the University, compared to a UK equivalent. As a result, I mainly work from home unless I have appointments on campus with substantial freedom to prioritise time spent on academic-networking, writing and teaching. The thing about the New Zealand time-zone being so far ahead of many of the rest of the world, means that Skype or Face-time to colleagues, friends and family is often at the very beginning or very end of our day. It’s sometimes an effort, but always worthwhile touching base with contacts the other side of the globe.
So, it’s a 7am start (I admit, I’m still in my pyjamas)! Not for a Skype call today, but Tweet Chats – which are increasingly useful ways of sharing information through my past and current networks – including old friends from BSA PG Forum! This is a #LTHEchat about the UK Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) proposal – something that hasn’t really impacted on NZ universities yet – but inevitably will in the next few years. I find the global trends of this kind of educational policy fascinating and like to keep up-dated on these important issues for my research writing. For instance, being aware of the growing interest in teaching quality, I’ve strengthened my own tertiary teaching qualification by applying for a Higher Education Research & Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA) fellowship – something that will undoubtedly support me with current research projects and future career progression.
An hour later, there’s time to re-charge the lap-top, take a quick shower, dress and eat a bowl of porridge. At 8.30am there’s another Tweet Chat that I want to participate in, it’s about a special issue of a journal; using social media in education – so quite appropriate! The editors are colleagues at my own institution, so I feel it’s important to support them. We discuss the interesting writing projects we are all working on and how they may progress. This includes my own idea about a dialogue-type article between me and one of my students using vignettes. The deadline isn’t until early 2016, so lots of thinking-time yet.
My list of ‘to do’ jobs is quite long today: there’s a book proposal to review for a UK publisher; an article to review for a NZ journal; an article of my own that I need to re-submit after completing some minor revisions (they always take far longer than anticipated), and some assignments to finish marking. My teaching load is quite light, so I have offered to help out a colleague with his marking too. I always try to promote a collegial working environment whenever I can. Sharing teaching often leads to research ideas, so it’s good to maintain working relationships. There’s also a postgraduate student whom I’m supervising who needs a reminder to send some draft writing.
After a few hours of emails and reading, I can’t ignore my dog’s pleading brown eyes and nudges anymore, so it’s out for a run around the park which is only five minutes’ walk away with lovely views over the river Waikato. It doesn’t seem to matter that it’s wintertime here, the sky is often blue and the sun always intense (the gap in the ozone makes it necessary to always wear sun-block). It’s good to get some fresh air and exercise to encourage some clearer thinking; to get things into perspective and plan ahead. The good thing about starting a day early is being able to achieve a lot by the end of the afternoon and luckily I’m very self-motivated. So later, there’s time to make a fresh cup of coffee and settle down to some writing – I always try to write something ‘new’ for an hour or more a day. It’s a good writing habit to have; one left-over from my doctoral learning journey. There’s also some preparation for a couple of meetings tomorrow on campus, and an internal flight to book. Next week I am presenting my research at a conference at Victoria University at Wellington, and whilst I’m there I hope to meet-up with some in educational policy – some of whom I’ve met through Twitter chats like those I participated in this morning.
For many reasons, New Zealand is often perceived to be a ‘paradise’ and no one can deny it has many beautiful landscapes, including those famously portrayed in Lord of the Rings. But no society is perfect and New Zealand has its fair share of social problems that lend themselves to sociological investigations. Child poverty, low levels of literacy, poor housing quality and environmental concerns top my own voluntary commitments to an active education community outside my institution. I underestimated how useful my UK education experience was until I begun to understand my role better and dig deeper into the cultural differences. So far, academic life here hasn’t been without significant challenges, but overall, I’d highly recommend it to anyone thinking of expanding their horizons. Surprisingly, many academics here have not completed a PhD and so those with doctorates and teaching experience are increasingly highly valued. The NZ equivalent of REF – the Kiwi PBRF – is relatively new and therefore underdeveloped by comparison and research outputs are only recently beginning to obtain recognition. I have found my knowledge of ‘Impact’ and other terminologies from the UK marketised model invaluable in gaining insights into this diverse setting.
Am I here for good? Who knows! But one thing’s for sure, the experiences I’m gaining here in New Zealand and Australia are invaluable – both for my writing and my sociological imagination.
Dr Ursula Edgington is a lecturer in education at the University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. She was co-convenor of the BSA postgrad forum from 2010-2013 and moved to NZ in 2013 after completing her PhD scholarship at Canterbury Christchurch University, Kent, UK. She is a qualified post-compulsory-sector teacher with research interests in the emotions of teaching and learning, the work of Pierre Bourdieu and innovative methodologies.