Welcome to And Gladly, Nick. Let’s start with a bit about you…..
I’m originally from Glasgow, Scotland. I went to the University of Edinburgh for my undergraduate and Masters degrees before heading off to New Zealand to do a PhD in Linguistics at Victoria University of Wellington. In between these degrees, I variously worked as a bar manager, a ski instructor, a call centre operative, a mobile phone salesperson, and a chef. Prior to working at Macquarie, I taught at the University of Manchester and Cardiff University.
I initially got into my specific field: Sociolinguistics, because I was interested in the variety of accents and dialects I heard around me, and how languages change over time, but later developed an interest in how people manage their identity and get people to do things through interaction. This has led me to research the way people perform leadership through the language they use, focusing in particular on how this is done in sports teams.
What are your main teaching commitments?
This session I am teaching LING332: Culture and Language. Next session I will be teaching LING324: Bilingualism and convening LING219: Introduction to Sociolinguistics.
What’s the biggest challenge you face as a university teacher?
Change is always a big challenge. This is my third position at a new university in four years, so I have become used to picking up other people’s teaching and developing new units with very little time to prepare. In my last job, at Cardiff University, although I was there for 4 years, I seemed to be teaching a new unit every year. At Macquarie I am finally teaching in what I consider to be my core area, but as I have only started here in February, I am once again starting from scratch, albeit with a lot more experience in what works and what doesn’t.
What has helped you improve your teaching most and why?
Currently it is the use of reflective practice. I constantly tinker with what I am teaching and change what I do depending on what works with a particular group of students. After I have taught a lecture or seminar, I examine how well it worked and how I can improve it next time I teach it (although I never really teach the same session the same way twice!).
Looking back on my first teaching position, what helped me improve was being forced to work outside my comfort zone, convening three units in one session, none of which were topics I was particularly familiar with and each with over 100 students. I had to learn quickly how to create content on the fly, design assessment and carry out unit admin all just a month after finishing my PhD. I also learnt how to read a lot, fast. By the end of the contract I was exhausted, but had learnt a lot about my wider subject area and about my own capabilities. It was a baptism of fire and no mistake.
What’s been your most memorable moment in teaching?
I think it was probably seeing the first cohort of students that I had taught all the way through their degree graduate.
Who is your favourite music band? Why?
That’s not easy to answer. I like a lot of very different bands, and depending on my mood the answer varies. Sometimes I listen to jazz, sometimes rock, sometimes classical. However, I always return to influential bands like The Beatles and Pink Floyd due to their combination of good song-writing and layered use of sound textures.