Teaching: on the front line

May 21, 2004

What is your experience of teaching? Mandy Garner asks teachers how they manage.

Name : Mohammed Yunis Alam

Age : 37

Job : University teacher/research assistant in the department of social sciences and humanities, Bradford University.

Salary : University teacher point 11: £24,435 to £25,451; research assistant point 13: £25,455 to £26,0.

Qualifications : BSc South Asian area studies.

Training/experience/background : After stints in various fields, I came to university as a mature student. I graduated in 2000 and then picked up hourly paid work that involved leading seminars as well as some guest and co-lecturing. In March 2001, I got my first temporary research assistant post and since then, I've had a few more short-term teaching and research posts. Over the past few years, the number of courses I've taught has changed, but I try to lean towards social research, popular culture and "race" as well as creative writing and literature.

Hours spent teaching : About six a week plus preparation time and tutorials.

Hours spent on red tape : Officially, none.

Hours on research : More than 20 hours a week.

Teaching bugbear : Either I'm inefficient or I have taken on far too many commitments.

How did/would you solve it : Try to work more methodically. Cut down on extra activities that I do outside the university. I also need to stop giving tutorials outside of my office hours and without appointments. Mind you, I said that last year...

Worst teaching moment : Trying to maintain calm between two students who pretty much hated each other, had opposing political beliefs and fashion sensibilities. Ironic considering they were both "mature" peace studies students.

Best teaching moment : I was chuffed when a student nominated me for a distinguished teaching award a couple of years ago.

Funniest teaching moment : Reading a draft essay with a reference to Karl Marx and "his famous American brothers" had me worried. The thought of Karl knocking out one-liners about the bourgeoisie while Groucho jiggled those eyebrows and wagged that cigar around took some getting over. Turns out, the student was not being serious.

Teaching tip : Try to stay positive, enthusiastic and relatively approachable. It matters to students.

Outside interests : Family, football and films. I'm working on my third novel. I take an active part in Bradford's book festival and occasionally run creative writing workshops. Music's pretty important (hip-hop, reggae, ska and a fair old dose of Pothwaari folk stuff).

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