Teacher audit

April 1, 2005

* Name : James Elander

* Age : 40-something

* Job : Principal lecturer, department of psychology, London Metropolitan University. I teach health psychology, research how people with chronic illnesses cope with pain and work on projects on student writing and assessment.

* Salary : See age.

* Background : Degree and PhD in psychology, and research jobs in driver behaviour, drug addiction and child psychiatry. My first teaching post was at London Guildhall University, which is now London Met.

* What are your working hours and conditions like? Flat out, mostly, with quieter interludes when I am at events that detach me from the office. But my basic teaching load is presently quite light, thanks to a certain amount of smoke and mirrors with externally funded projects that release me from different bits of teaching. The pressure is mostly self-inflicted - getting involved in too many interesting projects.

* How many students do you teach and which staff do you work with? Mostly classes of about 20 on our MSc health psychology course, as well as supervising health psychology research projects and work placements.

Learning and teaching projects mean I work with a lot of people across the university and in other institutions.

* Biggest challenge/bugbear this year? Last year I got involved in a project to produce a DVD about people with haemophilia and their experiences of coping with joint pain. Managing all the different contributions needed to bring the production to a conclusion has taken much longer than expected and stretched my nerves to breaking point.

* How did you solve it? My basic approach to difficult projects is just to refuse to give up.

* Worst moment in university life? I am fortunate enough not to remember any true disasters. But the most awkward recent moment was being pictured in The Times Higher burning the university contract of employment at a Natfhe demonstration a few days before a formal dinner where I found myself seated with the vice-chancellor.

* What is your office like? I am lucky - I have a room with a window, and in the evenings I see groups of tourists being taken on the "Jack the Ripper tour" of the Petticoat Lane district of East London.

* Do you socialise with people at the university?
Not in an organised way, but several colleagues in the department are reliable drinking companions on Friday evenings.

* Best excuses for bad behaviour? I have found that a sincere, grovelling apology with no attempt at excuses is surprisingly effective.

* Do you interact much with other parts of the university?
More and more, and it is surprisingly rewarding to get a view of the bigger picture of the university.

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