Today’s the last day of the summer term and for an academic whose role is based on teaching that usually means a complete change of working life for the next couple of months. I am also finishing my A level marking today and posting the last batch off to the exam board, so I shall be treating myself to a g & t later! But what do the summer months hold and as academics how can we make sure that our summer break is used productively?
Having really enjoyed my first year as a full time lecturer, especially working with new groups of students and my new colleagues it’s time to take a deep breath and work out what I should be doing over the summer holidays. Many of my friends and relations who are not academics are surprised to find out that I am not actually ‘on holiday’ for two months! They seem to think that I will be getting paid a full salary for sitting at home getting a suntan and reading trashy novels! Oh no. One of the joys of academic life is that you work independently but the flip-side of that is that you have to be self-driven. It’s up to me how I spend the next couple of months, but if I don’t accomplish certain tasks then my career will be on the slide before I have barely begun.
So, what do we do over the holidays? The obvious answer is research. Many scholars, in the arts at least, go away to research libraries around the globe, funded by themselves, their department or an outside body. There are quite a number of regular academic tourists who go one way or the other across the Atlantic. I’m going to spend time in the Bodleian Library, Oxford and am also attending a couple of conferences in Lincoln and Reading: great networking opportunities, don’t forget…it’s not all about the wining and dining! Many of my colleagues will be spending time writing and publishing too: I have that to look forward to next summer.
But as a lecturer we do have other tasks to cope with, writing and rewriting our courses for next year. Again, the autonomy is both exciting and burdensome. I can teach (within reason) what I like using which methods I please and I now have to sit down and work out exactly how I want to amend and create my courses. I have to liaise with librarians to check that the materials are present to support these courses, and talk to my associate lecturers to make sure they have the knowledge and skills to teach these new themes.
So, don’t you be thinking that us academics are not doing much over the summer holidays. We have to really push ourselves to build our careers and research reputations further and to become even better teachers. So, I’m off to do that right now!