Monday, 10 October 2011

Solidarity with the Elbow Patch Kids

Yes, our colleagues at the 'redbrick' universities are starting their Work To Rule action today, in defence of their pensions. (We're on a different scheme, also under attack from the millionaires in government).

It might come as a surprise to some - especially politicians - that we all work hard. It's not just that there aren't enough of us: unlike some jobs, we don't tend to turn people away. If I have a 7-9 class in the evening (our teaching day is 9-9), students will want to talk to us afterwards. If an essay is particularly good (or bad), we will want to spend longer on it, despite having several hundred to mark within a 3 week period, during which we're teaching. We mark during the holidays, we keep up with our fields, we turn up voluntarily for weekend Open Days, we find the time to help those who are struggling and those who are shining. We happily chat about classes when we bump into students in a pub (or in one memorable case, when we're accosted in a nightclub by someone shouting 'you failed my essay'). We do all the admin that in past times would have been done by administrators (the clue's in the title).

People in other jobs put in extra effort, we know that. But our job is full of invisible extras which aren't recognised because we don't turn out a 'product', and yet our salaries, our pensions and our working conditions are under constant attack from people who think that we're idle layabouts living in a dream world. Our average working week is 55 hours rather than the contracted 40. Universities have grown used to depending on our goodwill to heap more upon us while degrading our working conditions and it's time to stop. We are full of goodwill - you shouldn't be an educator without it - but the intellectual and pastoral wellbeing of your children, partners and parents shouldn't depend on the relative exhaustion of their teachers.

The work-to-rule doesn't mean that your children will be treated badly - but they might start to realise that there's more to what we do than reading off a Powerpoint and giving marks. Support your university teachers.


The Red Witch said...

Is it only 55 hours? I got the impression most professors work longer than that even the ones with tenure.

The Plashing Vole said...

You may be right. I certainly do more than that. There's probably a tendency to under-report such things.