Re-learning how to run and teach

I’m about to start Week 3 of teaching and, if I’m honest, it’s been a painful learning curve. It’s not that I’ve forgotten how to teach, but I have forgotten how heavy the work load was. This semester I’m teaching five different classes and it is a struggle to keep on top of the planning and weekly marking. Two of the classes are English language related, two are undergraduate content modules and the last is a series of weekly workshops. Ok granted I’m not planning from scratch for 4 out of 5 of these modules but I’m finding using other people’s materials takes almost as much planning time.

It’s strange. When I’m teaching I really enjoy the experience (for the most part) but the time in-between it’s this relentless pressure. It’s quite different to doing a PhD but the toll it’s starting to take is a little surprising considering it’s only Week 3, but I suppose it’s all part of starting a new job in a new city.

On a similar note, I’ve started running again. Last weekend was my first long run since July and, well, the next two days were hellish on my lower back. Did stretch properly post-run? Yes! Did I warm up properly? Um, define proper. Did you think about your pace and try slowing down because this was the first run in months? Nope. Now, today when you went out for your 2nd long run in two weeks did you learn anything from last week? Nope.

And so here I am with an aching back and a partial lesson for my 9am class tomorrow. The joys of being back in the learner’s seat.

Awkward! – Transitioning from PhD student to working academic

In April 2015 I joined the Researcher Development Team at the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Manchester as a Researcher Development Officer. It’s been an exciting and busy start to this new role and I’m excited to see where this new opportunity leads me.

I didn’t think that not doing a PhD would be so awkward. Some of you might be thinking “You’re crazy! I can’t wait until this is over” and y’know what, I totally agree with you. Finishing a PhD has this “I-want-to-break-free” kinda feeling. Now that I’m on the other side, so to speak, it feels very strange not to be doing my PhD.

I write from the perspective of someone  going through a transition period because on one hand, I am SO GLAD that I’ve finished my PhD, yet on the other hand, I don’t feel entirely settled in my new role at the university. I’ve been reflecting on why I feel so out of place and I found the following:

  • As  PhD student I was largely in control of how I spent my time and had the freedom to create my own schedule. In my new role, I work to a 9-5 timeframe and need to organise my time accordingly. I do have quite a lot of freedom and flexibility with regards to what / when I work on my projects, but this time I must take into account the times/schedules of others who work within these hours.
  • Most of the work I do must take place during office hours (as in real office, 9-5 kind of deal and not my-office-is-everywhere) because it involves working with other people. Consequently I don’t need to take work home, and it feels a little weird. I haven’t been able to shake that “academic guilt” and am still getting used to the idea that not working weekends is OK.
  • I miss my home office. It was a space that was entirely mine and one in which I carefully cultivated during my PhD. My books are arranged just so (e.g. by subject, genre, alphabetically *sigh*), my plants are at an optimal light angle, and my cat has his napping box that is out of the way of my chair. However, I need to be physically at the office, not because it’s a requirement but rather my day-to-day activities involve other people, and so while I have the option to work from home it isn’t really feasible in my new role.
  • In my new role, I’m responsible for several different projects and am juggling (changing) deadlines. A lot of my work involves consulting with and reporting to other people on a number of details in order for decisions to get made. So there’s a lot of emails to answer and meetings to attend. I’m not used to this way of working and it is taking some time to get used to!

It’s been about eight months since I started in this new role and I’ve come to realise that I had different expectations of what my post-PhD working life would be like. I suppose I thought it would feel more “normal” in that I should be able to just switch between roles. I’ve realised that I’ve gotten used to working as a PhD student that I’d forgotten what it was like to work differently.   It’s a nice change, and one that I think I needed for my own personal development. With any sort of change, it’s not easy, sometimes awkward, but certainly eye-opening.

Anyone else experience something similar? Please add your comment below!