The half holiday

21 08 2011

The tweet from Times Higher the other day about setting your out of office when going away got me thinking about the concept of the half holiday. I have found it really difficult over the last few years to take a “proper” holiday – and many of my colleagues feel the same. I get slightly irate when people assume that academics get the whole of the summer off…..in many ways I find the summer is one of my busiest times, playing catch up with all those jobs I’ve put off whilst teaching is in full swing. In any case, we have final year students who are taught all year round, so they still need teaching!

This year, we had a two week holiday in Spain, and roaming was most definitely banned. This is the first two week holiday I’ve had since becoming an academic, and it was lovely. But I had 500ish emails awaiting my return. Yuk.

We had been invited to a family holiday in Suffolk this week. So I created the concept of the half holiday. The cottage we stayed in had WIFI, so mornings were spent dealing with email and doing a small amount of work. It was at quite a relaxed pace, and Skype calls were definitely off camera. Then afternoons/evenings we were out and about, and I just caught up briefly before bed.

Sad? Maybe. But relatively stress free. The thing is, we’re not talking about markets crashing and clients leaving, like the businessman-lying-by-the-pool-with-his-Blackberry might be dealing with. Things I’ve done this week are: set up resit assessments, deal with students worried about portfolio resits, give feedback on assessments, help out a couple of collegues, discuss a paper, organise a workshop I’m doing next week etc etc. So not money making activities, and (virtually) nothing that wouldn’t wait. But instead of dreading my return next week, I feel like I’m not behind, and I still feel like I’ve definitely had a break.

I think my one issue with this is how it appears to students, and I often think the same when I answer emails at 10pm from home (often the quietest time of the day). We worry and worry about our stressed veterinary students having a positive work life balance, time off etc. But I certainly don’t practice what I preach! I’m not exactly a positive role model in this respect.

I think our students do know how hard we work. I’m not sure about other subjects, but in our school there is a definite work ethic, and this applies to staff and students. But it’s the balance of work and time off that is a little skewy at times.

Maybe the half holiday could help with this. I’d rather have a couple of weeks of this and one week of proper holiday, than the other way round. Hmm now there’s a thought for next year…..

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Aims and objectives

7 08 2011

Well, as any teacher knows, every session should start with some aims and objectives, so my first post is to outline what I intend for this blog…then it will just remain to be seen as to whether I actually achieve these things!

For a while I have kept brief notes, comments, reflections…whatever you want to call them really. I have documents on my computer labelled various things from “useful stuff” through to “papers I should write”. The problem as I see it is finding the time to actually action these things….the day is just not long enough to share with other people useful things I have come across in my day to day work and communications.

A bit more about what I do. As a typically self effacing Brit I hate writing about myself…but here goes! I am a vet first and foremost – and I am lucky to be a member of such a great profession. My “sideways” (or maybe downwards?) step into the murky world of vet education five years ago has made me busier, poorer, stressed yet at the same time energised, enthused and entertained by the students I am lucky enough to teach and the fantastic colleagues I work with every day.

I’m a lecturer at Nottingham Vet School, and I’m also doing a PhD in veterinary education around veterinary professionalism. I don’t have much time to publish. But we’re doing so much great stuff here, and it’s good to share! I am quite heavily involved with OER in different ways, and it has struck me recently that a blog/twitter combo may be one of the best ways to talk about some of the things we are involved in.

Kind of copying the medics inevitably, as I follow the meded stream on Twitter which has shown me all sorts of interesting things….and far less of an effort than publishing, and still kind of peer reviewed (more about that later no doubt)

So to summarise, this blog will:

– contain some interesting stuff for anyone involved in veterinary education

– allow me to formally record things I am doing on a more regular basis

– contain links to our latest outputs in the various OER initiatives I am involved in

– also include, by way of light relief, some of my animals (sorry to anyone who dislikes dogs, horses and chickens!)

This is me by the way (& Thornton of course):

In the clinical skills lab