The letter below is the first in a series of four letters we have written to our imaginary friends – fictional but inspired by our letter writing research project.
Thanks for your letter – it was worth the wait…wasn’t that hard was it? You are such a man! 😉
Anyway, like you I have had a bumpy few months at work. As you know, I’m pretty miserable so I’ve been back on the job hunt. It’s been a while, wow things have changed!
Turns out it’s not enough to be a really good academic developer now. No, you need to be a people manager, a curriculum designer (hyflex obvs), process expert, IT support, policy writer, coach…the list goes on. No one wants an old-school academic – good teaching experience mixed with an inquiring mind and bunch of research skills. As a result, I’ve spent hours repackaging the qualities and capabilities I have to address a growing list of weirdly macho criteria. No longer am I a warm, compassionate, articulate, caring, reflective, creative, thoughtful, critical, evaluative educationalist…no, I am a professional services ninja – an Agile, conflict resolving, KPI driven, rebellious, strategic, media hungry, communications guru who thrives under pressure. Bah! Where did the interpretive dance go?
All I really want is to work on a nice team and have an impact at the coal face – not that hard is it? I want to make good resources, teach staff new ideas and approaches, drive inquiry and innovation, model good practice, push boundaries occasionally – all this can change how education is for this and future generations of students.
Is the problem that the qualities we have (always valued) are soft and fluffy and somehow losing currency? What was that article which described Ac Dev as a feminine/caring profession, do you remember? Yet the reality is that these are f%$*ing hard to pull off well. And by well, I mean with authenticity and integrity. I’m getting sick of people who pretend. They’ve cleverly picked up the keywords – compassion, collaboration, community and plaster it all over their LinkedIn profiles. But I don’t see it in the cold light of day…increasingly I see meanness, incompetence and selfishness. Is this the game we have to play? Where is the honesty in that?
I am lashing out of course – on the whole our tribe are a good bunch! How then is the job market shifting in this direction? Is it the Millenials taking over…or is it just another painful example of bad management meddling? Or am I just very out of date – is this the new (postpandemic) university? It is an Aussie thing or are you seeing it too?
How do you feel about all this, I wonder, as a man in what some might argue is a woman’s world? LOL! Do you find that offensive or objectionable – or maybe you see it as a man’s world (we are still surrounded mostly by white, middle aged male execs after all!)? Maybe you have always understood and translated your qualities in this way, shaped your identity around the harder, more tangible things? I dunno – I have never interviewed you for a job 😉 I value you for your kindness, gentleness, emotional intelligence – yet soft you are not!
Sigh, it is exhausting. What toll, I wonder, does all this take on our own health, identity, careers? Constantly feeling like we have to justify our profession, fight for recognition, survive another restructure…I found out just recently how this can take your feet from right under you. Does that make me weak?
Anyway, I am sure my perfect job is out there somewhere. In the meantime I can and should be grateful for the one I have. It ain’t all bad – there is so much about this year that has changed our world for the better…flexible working, more inclusive practices etc. In many ways, it is a better place for being heard. What do you think?
I hope your days are looking a bit brighter now Spring has sprung. I’d love to hear more about your new boss and your new projects! Let’s hope she’s not a big disappointment like you-know-who! Write soon and tell me your stories.
Love and pastries (how I miss our morning coffee chats!),
Co-responding for change
If you would like to respond to any of the letters as a way of reflecting on your practice, simply pen a reply to one or more of the letters – keep it private to use for your own reflections . . . or send it to us (firstname.lastname@example.org ) and we will post it on the blog (anonymously if you would prefer)!
This link will take you back to the main blog post where you can access the three other letters.