In it to win it?

Totally what cycling in Surrey looks like

Last night, I noticed my small notebook where I keep a note of all my ‘proper’ cycles (i.e. not the commuting stuff): it’s been three months since I last rode out in anger. At the same time, I also note it’s been pretty much the same length of time since I stopped being an Associate Dean.

No, these two things aren’t really connected, except inasmuch as how I conceptualise both of them.

Despite the paucity of actual cycling, I still consider myself a cyclist: I think about cycling every day, find myself picking lines through the trees when I’m out for a walk, wonder whether I should open that bike shop I’ve always talked about (it’d be great BTW).

Likewise, despite having a bare minimum of teaching, and no L&T administrative role (for the first time ever in my professional career), I still thinking of myself as someone involved in pedagogy and pedagogical research. Yesterday – before I took to browsing my bookshelves – I took part in a webinar for the INOTLES project, discussed future funding bids, talked to a colleague about a keynote for an L&T event and checked on some programme management issues in our department.

At the same time, I also appreciate that my scope to do certain things is much more limited than it was. I only have one hour in a classroom with my students, so while I’ve been exploring how to extend that through a semi-flipped model, there’s not much opportunity to do some of the things that others on this blog have been writing up. As I’ve noted before, I’ve probably not done anything very revolutionary with my teaching for several years now.

I’m not sure that there’s much that can be said beyond this, except to underline the importance of personal engagement.

In my mind, the second half of this year will be relatively quiet: my research fellowship will move into a less hectic phase following the British referendum on the EU in June, and I should continue to be on light admin duties until Christmas. That makes me want to get out cycling more, as I think I’ll be less exhausted, but it also makes me want to get down to trying some new things for my teaching, as I think I’ll have less to juggle.

Of course, I know enough to know that this isn’t how things work in practice: cycling would probably help reduce my exhaustion, as part of a more balanced work-leisure arrangement, while I also fully expect someone else will decide I must be at a loose end after the referendum and will push some work my way.

However, I think that however long it’s been since my last cycle, I never, ever, regret going out: to wend my way through the local roads and paths, being close to the world, is always a joy. It always puts a smile on my face (indeed, I’ve got a huge grin on it now) and that will keep on bringing me back.

So it is with teaching. To find those moments where you and your students find a common space to learn and develop is still a thrill and a pleasure, just as it is to crack a particular problem around teaching. That doesn’t change because I can’t spend so much time on it.