Balancing research and teaching

This is our ‘reading week’, which is what our university calls half term. It means that we have a week off from our teaching commitments, but every other duty such as meeting attendance and research or writing has to be fulfilled. It made me realise how much time teaching and teaching preparation takes up during my week and how difficult it is to balance the different parts of a lecturer’s job.

I have blogged about the difficulties in mixing teaching with research before, but even during my fourth year in my post I am still having trouble getting this right! Partly this is because I have been writing and delivering a new 10 week MA unit this term. Even though this is on a topic I am very familiar with, I obviously have to be very well prepared each week and this has been taking a considerable amount of time. Add to that dissertation supervisions and lecture and seminar preparation for undergraduate courses and marking on top of that, and there’s plenty to be getting on with each week!

Many colleagues say that it is over-ambitious to attempt any writing or research during term time and that they struggle to make any progress in these areas outside holiday time. I am certainly finding that this term. It is a good lesson for me in having flexible deadlines though. There’s no point in beating myself up because I have fallen behind my strict writing schedule. I am simply going to have to adjust my targets.

Having said that, this week with no teaching commitments I should be able to push forward and get most of one chapter of my book written and then the next one might be on hold until the Easter holidays! Although it’s a matter of pride with me not to miss deadlines and to deliver when I say that I will, quality is more important than  promptness. So, give yourself a break this week… and set yourself realistic work deadlines!


About Catherine Armstrong

Dr Catherine Armstrong is a Senior Lecturer in History at Manchester Metropolitan University, specialising in North American History. She is a former teaching fellow in History at the University of Warwick and Oxford Brookes University. Catherine was also Director of Historical Studies in the Open Studies department at the University of Warwick. Her first book ‘Writing North America in the Seventeenth Century’ was published by Ashgate in June 2007. As a long-time jobseeker for an academic role herself, Catherine is in a unique position to understand and offer her knowledge and experience to those developing an academic career.

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