In this first of a series of nosey interviews we ask an NTF to reflect on what their teaching fellowship means to them; and a host of other teaching-related questions….
First up is in-coming ANTF Chair, Becky Huxley-Binns
- Did you enjoy your time as a student?
At primary and secondary school, very much indeed. I was a sponge and just wanted to learn. At University, less so. My expectations were not really met – but I think that is because I had not had the foresight to understand what University would be like and how much I would have to do independently. No regrets, but I should have worked harder in my first and second year.
- Were there any particularly memorable tutors you remember; and why?
My final year company law tutor. She knew what we were studying was tough, had a lot of complex detail, but would make sense when we finished and could reflect on the big picture. She kept telling me this, and understanding my weekly struggles; she was ace, such empathy, such patience and understanding. And she was right, I did get it in the end, and before the assessment!
- How would students describe your teaching?
- What motivates you – about HE – to get out of bed each morning?
Knowing I can and do make a difference to students’ learning experiences and their lives.
- Can you tell us about a successful teaching experience of yours?
Not an individual one, but that moment when you are teaching something nuanced and complex, where the qualitative factors which have to be balanced mean there is no one ‘right’ answer, and when a student ‘gets it’ and they cross the threshold and have a mini epiphany – their faces are the most rewarding, the happiest, the funniest, the best thing in teaching.
- And, a difficult teaching experience, or a ‘failure’ even; and what you learned from this?
Oh, I had set some really easy and helpful reading to one class to help them understand the following week’s class and it was so easy and would have taken them 15 minutes and they would have cracked the issue and not one, NOT ONE, had done it.
And I walked out of the room in anger. And I lost that group, never to get them back. They lost trust, engagement and, almost certainly, respect for me. There are lots of ways I could have handled it, and I didn’t.
I never did it again. I did carry on setting the reading and I carried on explaining why it was important – and told later classes how badly I had acted and what impact it had had – and I think they felt sorry for me and read the article. And they cracked it. One class’s loss was later classes’ gain, but I felt dreadful.
- The researchers get to play all “the good tunes” – do you agree?
Not at all. I am a researcher, but I work in a provider proud to be a teaching institution where we genuinely value teaching and teaching excellence. And teaching is a great gig. That said, I do love research – it broadens my mind and captures my imagination, but I am not in the REF and so my research is for the love of it, never for the impact.
- If you could give 1 bit of advice about teaching to your younger self, what would it be?
Listen. To colleagues, to students, to peers, to managers. Don’t believe everything you hear, but always listen.
- Beyond the university, what ‘floats your boat’?
My daughter, who is 12 and utterly awesome (in the proper meaning of the word). She is funny and resilient and creative and the most interesting person I have ever met.
- What has it meant for you to become a National Teaching Fellow?
See my blog in September!