Chaotic place to work on something that is like love

May 11, 2007

Name: Rogelio Vallejo

Age: This used to be considered an indiscreet question and today it is politically incorrect.

Job: Senior language tutor and co-ordinator of Spanish teaching programmes, Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American studies, Bristol University.

Salary: For the dedication, enthusiasm and energy given to the job, never enough.

Practical training/education: BA in Hispanic studies, hundreds of teaching courses and loads of experience gained living in many places. Last year, I was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship by the Higher Education Academy.

Working hours and conditions: The greatest problem for a creative person is the impossibility of switching off.

Number of students you teach/staff you manage/work with: We have approximately 400 undergraduates in our department and I have a team of three totally committed full-time teachers. They, together with our two dynamic assistants and a couple of dedicated part-timers, manage to deliver one of the best language-teaching programmes in this country.

Biggest challenge: Putting in motion an innovative European languages teaching project based on my Spanish optional course "language through theatre". In 2005, this won a CILT (National Centre for Languages) European Award for innovation in languages teaching and also a special award from the Spanish Embassy. I hope that it will help in the reappraisal of languages teaching for professionals in our School of Modern Languages and other universities, schools and collegestoo.

How you go about it: Trying to control my impatience, taking every day as it comes but always with an eye to tomorrow's challenges and trying to remember the mistakes I made in the past.

Worst moment in university life: No single moment but perennially needing to explain that a language is not a "subject" and that to learn it requires mental flexibility and re-learning what you already know from a different perspective, or from a different experience of the most basic things. It is a very complex process. It is like love, not something you "conquer" but something to which you must constantly attend.

What is your office like? A pawn shop - lots of objects and rather chaotic. I like people who come in to think that they are somewhere else, somewhere not minimally "functional".

What university facilities do you use: I like our refectory for working or social lunches, and the café-bar for chatting after a day's work. Unfortu-ately, most days I finish work too late to do the latter.

Do you socialise with people at the university? From time to time I enjoy having some of my colleagues over for dinner or lunch at home and viceversa.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with professionally? Those who do not want to work or who are arrogant and want to take advantage of situations to the detriment of others. Fortunately, they are always a small minority.

Best excuses you have heard: Argh! "Sorry, but nobody told me."

Do you interact much with other parts of the university? Yes. Our school has a Languages Teaching Forum where we discuss work-related issues and plan. I have worked with a drama department colleague developing courses for teachers of languages and I am a dignity-at-work and study adviser, which is very rewarding. I go on the occasional training course, which is invaluable for my teaching and course-development activities too.

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