‘I See You!’
Is this month’s provocation. For more hop over to our colleagues in RMIT Australia and read Dr Natasha Taylor’s full article Join the March SoTL Walk – Elemental (rmit.edu.au)
Last week was a big week for L&T in Australia with the big reveal of this year’s recipients of the Australian Awards for University Teaching. There has been much celebration of the successful individuals and teams, recognising teaching excellence, innovation and leadership! But are awards schemes the most effective way of recognising great teaching and scholarship? What is the approach in your country/sector? Here are some prompts to help you reflect on your own experience:
- Should awards be self, peer or student nominated?
- What makes a meaningful ‘prize’?
- a mnemonic object to remember by, book vouchers of a seriously sizeable nature, and there is nothing wrong with money either
- How can we celebrate the ‘unsuccessful’ nominees who end up feeling unrecognised?
- In what other meaningful ways can/do your colleagues, managers and students recognise your contributions?
See me, see me not
My very first association to this month’s provocation, was exactly that: A play on the old French game ‘love me–love me not’. Just see me, see me not. See me as in love me, approve of me, recognise me, show me my worth? The perpetual quest for external validation.
It feels good, the recognition. Satisfying. Happy.
The Official recognition: What does it do? Validate our professionalism? Confirm our place amongst our peers?
In our role as lecturers in academic development we are never selected for teaching awards. I think because our students are colleagues and peers, and I am not sure if we even could get teaching awards. It always makes me a little sad that we are standing outside of the award structure, all the while constantly innovating, reinventing, coaching, mentoring, sharing. But then again, when I read feedback that literally (no kidding!) says: ‘the course made me brave’, or ‘the course gave me confidence’ … Then I might just turn around and say: ‘Shove your award where the sun don’t shine.’ (I believe this is the correct English idiom?). Still I am sad somehow that there never even is the potential to win a teaching award. And maybe that’s part of the allure. It’s not so much the award but the potential. Something to strive for. Something not easy to obtain. So it is a constant challenge, a driver to excel. However, what is perceived and rewarded as good teaching and scholarship in an award? Is this based on a strong foundation? Does it hide a toxic work environment? Does it include collegiality? Kindness? Leadership? To be honest I am not sure what the actual criteria are, probably depends on the award.
Celebrate in other meaningful ways!
How can we celebrate in other meaningful ways? Was the next question, although my answer also includes: What do we do with the ones who weren’t recognised? in my response. These are my experiences, would be interesting to learn what else we can do:
- Let your colleagues know when you appreciate work they are doing. Tell them how this has impacted your own practice, one it is always good to hear how ones work impacts, two this type of feedback counts as evidence in both promotion and fellowship applications.
- I love sending and receiving cards. There are so many interesting, quirky, nice designs and they can be mnemonic objects. I do not recall a colleague who doesn’t have a card or two they received from students or colleagues in their office. In the e-card above I would replace friends with the words educators. Because the L&T and SoTL communities are very supportive and live off exchanging ideas.
- The annual learning and teaching conference in our institution is a great way to celebrate all the amazing teaching work happening, so are networks within an institution but also beyond.
- I was lucky enough to find a network of like-minded colleagues on Twitter and the positive feedback and support there is invaluable.
I think I have a love-hate relationship with awards. I think they are great to boost morale if (if!) you win one. But we need to make it part of our practice to speak out (loud!) about the impact, collaboration, and support off our colleagues. This just reminded me one of my friends from Malaysia sometimes sends me Happy Teacher Day ecards. Why are we not celebrating teacher day in HE? Do we need an International HE Educators’ Day on which we can flock unashamedly one another’s’ achievements, creations, or simply celebrate one another?