Difficult colleagues? Try nursing

December 15, 2006

Name : Indra Jones. Age: 57.

Job title : Assistant director (learning and teaching) at Hertfordshire University.

Practical training/education : Registered general nurse and specialist practitioner with 20 years' experience; BA Hons nursing education degree from Manchester University - I'm writing up my PhD thesis on reflective learning; 13 years teaching in higher education in health sciences and staff educational development. I now work at the Centre for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching as a professional academic staff developer. I am also responsible for work-based learning policy and guidance. I was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship this year.

Working hours and conditions : I have to work flexibly in a team of five and I operate an open-door policy. Working at the weekend is normal.

Number of students you teach : In a year, I generally facilitate the academic development of about 80 academic staff, mainly associated with the postgraduate certificate in higher education. We refer to our PG Cert colleagues as "participants" rather that students, though when it comes to their assignments there's no guessing which mode they adopt.

Worst moment in university life : Having to teach a session on "loss and bereavement" the day after the Dunblane massacre in 1996. The session was planned the previous year so the timing was coincidental. Being relatively new to teaching large groups at that time, I had overestimated my competence and underestimated the strength of feeling among the students. I still reflect on that incident today and wonder what others would have done (apart from cancelling the session).

What is your office space like? Spacious and light. I share an office with the tidiest colleague in the university.

What university facilities do you use? The Learning Resource Centre. It's our pride and joy and second to none.

Do you socialise with people at the university? More the exception than the rule.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with and how do you cope with them? My nursing experience taught me that there are no difficult people, only different ones.

Best excuse for bad behaviour I have heard : "Don't take it personally..."

Do you interact with other parts of the university? Yes, as a staff developer this is probably one of the most enjoyable parts of my job.

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