Teaching: on the front line

August 20, 2004

What is your experience of teaching?

Name: Oliver Double

Age: 39

Job: Lecturer in drama, Kent University.

Salary: About £30,000

Qualifications: BA (Hons) in drama (Exeter University), PhD (Sheffield University).

Background: I started working as a stand-up comedian as a student and did it professionally for most of the 1990s - the photo is an old publicity shot. I was also part of a touring group of comedians called Red Grape Cabaret, and I ran and compered a comedy club in Sheffield called The Last Laugh. I first became a lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University in 1997 while continuing to do stand-up shows in the evenings. I quit stand-up when I got the job in Kent in 1999.

Hours spent teaching: At least ten hours a week, and it can be as many as 20 hours a week.

Hours on red tape: Normally about ten hours a week, but I've been doing admissions for the past couple of years, so it can go way over that at busy times, such as clearing.

Hours on research: For the past year, I've been trying to take one day a week during term time. It has meant working ridiculously hard for the rest of the week, and even then I haven't always been able to take a research day. But I'm on study leave at the moment (hooray), working on a book about stand-up comedy.

Teaching bugbear: There's always some new initiative coming down from on high. Normally it means more tedious chores that get in the way of what you're really trying to do. Quality assurance mechanisms only ever seem to have an accidental relationship with real teaching quality, and they're based on bad faith - the underlying assumption is that academics would be incompetent, lazy or corrupt if we weren't forced to be otherwise.

How would you solve it?

I don't know - anarchist revolution?

Worst teaching moment? I was playing a live recording of Max Miller in a seminar. A snooty older lecturer (whom I didn't know) came in from the next room and shouted at me to turn down the volume. Instead of taking her outside and quietly explaining that she was undermining me in front of students, I turned back into a shamefaced teenager who has been told to turn his stereo down and said in cracked, adolescent tones: 'Sorry, mum, I won't do it again, honestly!'

Best moment? Any time a student produces an outstanding piece of work.

My teaching tip? You can't impose learning on students - try to work out what they're trying to do and give them the guidance to achieve it.

Outside interests: Spending time with the wife and kids and playing punk rock mandolin.

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