Why it’s not been a bad few weeks

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I sometimes have this tendency to whinge about question my working practices/hours, my lack of research and writing time, and the increasing expectations placed on academics – largely the result of neoliberalism, government policy, yadeyadeyadah. The results of my statistically insignificant (not enough responses!) Twitter and Facebook poll show this is common among my peers across all institutions. However, in spite of this, the last few weeks have been pretty good. So, in order to counter my cynical perception of the state of higher education, I’m going to remind myself of some of the good things that have happened this term:

  1. I re-wrote my entire module.

‘Teaching?!’ I hear you cry. Well yes. Everyone in my peer group told me not to do this, told me I was mad, or insane, because I would lose research/writing time and it was probably ok anyway. But whilst the course worked well before I never really felt that students quite got it. My teaching reviewer told me that to re-write it by geographical phenomena would be harder for me but probably better for students. My PDR reviewer told me it was ‘a good thing’ that could be positive. And here is why it was: I am now really up-to-date with all the research in my field. I’ve literally read everything and re-read everything else. This will help with writing that EPA paper in January. I also think it works much better as a course although I’m yet to find out how the students responded as the teaching evaluation opens today. However, it feels more intuitive now, rather than ‘why do geographers study art and performance?’ It will need an edit next year though. It’s a work-in-progress.

  1. Swansea University got awarded a Leverhulme Artist-in-Residence.

Well, I wrote the successful application with the theatre-maker Bridget Keehan for her to work in our Department starting next June. But when I wrote to accept the award (yes, I wrote an actual letter) you accept the Leverhulme terms and conditions that state that the AIR is awarded to the University. I am not 100% sure why, but I am abiding by the rules and regulations in phrasing it thus.

I am very excited about this. The residency is called Our Place…. as Bridget makes site-specific work with her company Papertrail, and has worked for lots of great places and people, including National Theatre Wales. So she will be learning about different geographical ideas, techniques and methods to think about how these might inform her practice. But she is also going to be creating a series of performances based upon more direct participation with staff and students about their memories and experiences of place. In the process, we hope to build new forms of connection and community. As I’ve not done any theatre work for about 5 years, I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it again and even though I am only managing the award, I can’t wait to participate and learn more about different ways of working. This is part of my new agenda whereby every grant application I write has some form of creative in/output attached to it.

  1. My post-maternity leave publication record has not died a death.

I got a Progress in Human Geography paper accepted on the Geographies of the Performing Arts. More on that in due course…. and minor revisions on another which is a small one but fun…. and my mate Ashley Thorpe got a contract with Palgrave on a collection about contemporary British Chinese cultures with Diana Yeh, in which I have a chapter…. The relief is palpable.

And on that happy note, I am going to attend to my enormous pile of marking. I’m telling you it’s enormous and I will be marking for days, and I am about to start whinging again…….

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