Thought I’d restart this blog by looking back, not far though, just to the past week: the first week of my last employed year. Strange feelings in a way, not that I’m bothered that I have to retire, nor that I’m pleased to look forward to giving up my job. Rather it’s a kind of laid-back acceptance. Time for others – I move on. No words of wisdom here, just how the “lived-experience” of the week panned out.
This week was ‘interesting’, ‘motivating’, and something else too. I missed the ceremonial opening of the academic year at the university: why? I forgot while I was engrossed in briefing colleagues about courses. There’s a weird excitement about telling others how I do things, how I think ‘it’ works – of course somebody else could do these things quite differently and maybe more successfully (whatever you think success means). So I missed the ceremonial – these days I quite like the ceremonial in organizations: it tells you about the past, present and future of the organization, it encourages belonging. I got to the reception afterwards though, can’t miss the camaraderie with colleagues and friends over a glass of wine or whatever. The nibbles seemed a bit scarce this year, though – economic crisis? – or I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Some groups of ‘new’ students this week, new to me that is. Bright, enthusiastic, so interesting, especially the arts and heritage group. They came from all over. That’s what makes the job valuable. Students can be challenging, motivating, enthusing, and these days more realistic. This week I felt again that desire to have their age and begin my studies all over again. When I was their age, I and my fellow activists thought we could change the world; some of us even tried, but we didn’t really achieve much, maybe change attitudes. And maybe that’s really all we should have expected. The students this week don’t seem to think they can change the world, but they might change individuals, bit by bit. Their realism is motivating. My youthful lack of realism then, though, stimulated me to take risks – ok, sometimes stupid, sometimes dangerous – but I don’t regret it. Times have changed.
And then the ‘office politics’ surfaced – as they always will. There was anger, irritation, frustration on show this week. Already in the first week of the academic year. And there’s me thinking: “That’s something I can do without.” I won’t miss that. I find myself wondering: “Why can’t simple things be kept simple?” But then some things never change. It was like this in my first teaching job, though maybe a bit better organized. Or perhaps I didn’t see everything.
So a week has ended. Did I learn much? Maybe. If I remember. I could speculate that the weeks to come will be similar, bits of ups and downs. But I could be wrong. I’ll end with a little quote from Nobel Prize winner Ronald Coase – this week he died aged 102, in case you missed it: “But a theory is not like an airline or bus timetable. We are not interested simply in the accuracy of its predictions. A theory also serves as a base for thinking. It helps us to understand what is going on by enabling us to organize our thoughts.”