Avoiding cold water with drip, drip

February 24, 2006

Name : Deirdre Burke

Age : 51

Background : I started as a lecturer in religious studies in West Midlands College, a small teacher training college that merged with Wolverhampton Polytechnic, where I have been for 20 years. I now split my time between teaching religious studies, being a student support co-ordinator and on secondment to the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching.

Working hours : I am in work early and leave early thanks to dogs and cats who wake me when it gets light.

Number of students you teach : I teach small groups of students, but as the school student support and development co-ordinator, I have indirect contact with more than 2,000 students.

Biggest challenge this year : How to make the most of all my research opportunities.

Biggest bugbear : It has always been people misspelling or mispronouncing my name. Deirdre is an Irish name - pronounced as if ending "reh" and not the Coronation Street "ree". I solved the spelling problem by using Deirdre.burke@ as my e-mail so that people have to spell it correctly if they want to communicate with me.

Worst moment in university life : Some time ago a decision was made that the university chaplains should become part of the religious studies team. In teaching about religion I had always sought to keep confessional issues out of the classroom, and this decision placed me in a dilemma. I received support from Natfhe and the Association of University Departments of Theology and Religious Studies, went through several rounds of internal grievance procedures and got close to taking voluntary redundancy.

Do you socialise with people at the university? Many of my close friends are colleagues and we socialise outside work. Now I work at a campus nine miles from home I tend not to socialise after work - by the time I have cycled home and walked the dogs for an hour I don't have the energy to go out.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with professionally and how do you cope with them? Colleagues who pour cold water on my enthusiasm for new schemes. I use a constant drip, drip, drip approach.

Best excuses for bad behaviour you have heard : The most recent best excuse I heard was from a colleague who was late for a meeting due to fog - in Gdansk.

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