Teaching: On the front line

January 31, 2003

What is your experience of teaching? Pat Leon asks teachers how they manage

Name: Anne McBride Age: 45

Job: Programme coordinator and lecturer in animal behaviour, University of Southampton New College.

Salary: £34,000

Qualifications: BSc, PhD psychology (University College London); Certificate in conservation and ecology (Birkbeck).

Experience: After university, I worked as a keeper at Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust.

While doing a part-time PhD on rabbit behaviour, I joined a project with the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology and Welsh Water on the natural and social history of the Elan Valley.

After Wales, I worked part-time as an animal behaviour counsellor and dog trainer in London. Many vet referrals I saw would not have happened if the animal's owner had seen a therapist earlier. But there were no professional courses.

I pitched the idea of setting up a course to veterinary colleges and other institutions. There was a group at Southampton researching companion animal behaviour that was interested. The course content drew on several disciplines: psychology, biology, law, physiology and pharmacology. The first unit ran in 1994.

Hours spent teaching: About 450 hours face-to-face contact hours, plus marking.

Hours research: Only about 5 per cent, although I am trying to write a book on rabbit welfare and one on dog ownership and the law.

Hours on red tape: About 30 per cent. There's been extra admin this year because we have revalidated courses and, in association with Guide Dogs for the Blind, validated two programmes.

I organise lecture rooms, materials and teaching staff.

I'm involved in pastoral care. Students are spread over the globe, so contact is by telephone and email. They tend to be adult and parttime, so they have different problems from traditional undergraduates.

Who studies animal counselling?

We attract veterinary surgeons and nurses, psychologists, police and prison-dog handlers, pet shop and rescue centre staff. We have about 350 students, mostly women, ranging in age from late 20s to 60s. Most are self-financed.

Teaching bugbear: Work overload - like everyone.

Teaching pleasure: I love the "Ah-ha" moment when someone gets the point. My ambition is that students will leave with enough knowledge to improve animal welfare and human-animal interactions.

Teaching offshoots: We run an animal behaviour clinic at New College. The clinic provides a community service but also gives students the opportunity to observe sessions, do supervised work and collect case studies.

Career high points: Getting the animal behaviour counselling course up and running.

Co-founding Hope, a charity to help homeless pet-owners in the UK. This provides a neutering and parasite-control service for pets of homeless people. It was taken on by the National Canine Defence League in the mid-1990s. I was made Myerscough College's first "lady fellow" - an unexpected tribute for my contribution to animal welfare.

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