Name: Mary Thornton
Job: Assistant director, learning and teaching, Hertfordshire University
Salary: Approximately £45,000
Background: I left school at 15. As a mature student, I trained to be a primary school teacher in the late 1970s and got hooked on studying, progressing from a bachelor of education to a PhD without a break. I joined Herts College of Higher Education as a lecturer on teacher education courses in 1985. For the past six years I have worked in educational development and now train university lecturers rather than school teachers.
Working hours and conditions: My hours are very flexible. This academic year I have concentrated my main teaching in the pre-Christmas and post-Easter periods to free up time for work on widening participation and gender research projects. But there are often short-notice demands for workshops, teaching sessions or responses to new policy initiatives in educational development, so it is not always easy to plan.
Number of students taught?
Most of my teaching groups are very varied and number between five and 50, depending on recruitment of staff to the university and their interest in continuing professional development.
Biggest challenge this year: Making time to think and write.
How did you solve it: I haven't yet. I will shortly be unavailable for four weeks and that will be a cut-off point for clearing urgent things from my desk.
Worst moment in university life: Reading a commendation for a posthumous award for a mature education student at the annual awards ceremony. She died suddenly in her second year on the course. The cruel irony was that, reflecting my own educational history, her education was changing her life. It was so sad that her new beginning ended so abruptly.
What is your office/working space like? I recently moved office and now all the offices for staff in my centre are in the same area - seeing each other rather than emailing has tremendous benefits.
Do you socialise with people at the university? Having been at the university for almost 20 years I find that many of my colleagues are also good friends. There is an active, friendly staff society for current staff and an informal "dinosaurs" club for retired education colleagues.
Most difficult students: Those who are forced to attend by line managers, accreditation or probation requirements.
Best excuses for bad behaviour: I tend to find that badly behaved students don't bother with excuses.
Do you interact much with other parts of the university or other departments? It is a fundamental part of my job to interact with schools and faculties across the university. I seem to know almost everyone and they seem to know me.
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