I’ve known for weeks, but only today, 28th July 2011, do the Higher Education Academy National Teaching Fellowships get formally announced. I am very proud to have got one. In one sense I sound a bit of a cliché saying that — it’s what everyone says — but it means a good deal to me that I have been given this award. The process of applying was one I quite enjoyed, even though it undoubtedly put me under some time pressures during the spring term in order to do so. You effectively have to create a convincing and coherent narrative about yourself as a university teacher/lecturer. For once — thankfully — there is no real template or proforma. You create your own account.
By far the most meaningful part of the whole process for me was what happened when I had to solicit ‘evidence’ from colleagues and students to support my application. The cynics amongst my readers could say that this basically means getting people to say nice things about you. It does, but there is, of course, no guarantee they will. I approached a number of students — mostly ex-students. The relationship can feel a bit more complicated if you are still marking someone’s work – of course they are going to say nice things! But the genuine enthusiasm and warmth of my students’ responses, and their absolute willingness to write supporting statements for me, was one of the highlights of my year, if not actually my entire academic career. I recognised myself in what they said, but also saw myself through their eyes. I printed out all their comments and will always keep them.
In addition some of my own colleagues at Wolverhampton and from English departments elsewhere also gave me supporting statements, and I am very grateful to them and also to Jane Gawthrope, Jonathan Gibson and Brett Lucas from the English Subject Centre for doing so.
I am not, as yet, entirely sure what being a National Teaching Fellow means or involves. This is probably not an existential question I am going to lose sleep over, and we get ‘briefed’ come October. It means I can use the title, but much more significantly it says something about teaching mattering to me, and about something of my identity as an academic — in part — being a teacher. Of that I’m proud.