What I do…

Graduation 2015

I’m often asked what I do. And my answer is often vague. I’ll mention that I work with parents to explore birth and early parenting, then I might say I also teach yoga for pregnant women, and also for postnatal women with their babies. I will mention I work for NCT, and then have to explain that it used to be called National Childbirth Trust. It is the UK’s largest parenting charity, and makes a difference to thousands of parents every year. It’s campaigned over the years on issues such as Dads’ being allowed in labour rooms to support their partners , women being able to feed their babies in public and, most recently, perinatal mental health with the Hidden Half campaign.

Hold on! I hear you say. I thought you worked for a university, how does that fit in with Birth and Parenting education?

Ah yes, I’m an Associate Lecturer with University of Worcester. I work with an amazing group of women to train NCT Practitioners to work with parents before and after they have their babies. It’s a foundation degree course and taught across the UK. In order to become a NCT tutor I had to study adult education in some depth over several years, as well as being an experienced NCT practitioner in my own right. It led to a second degree (see graduation photo above) and a Postgraduate Degree in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.

I’m not surprised if you haven’t heard about how NCT trains it’s practitioners. We are, as an educational organisation, not great at telling the world what we do. Perhaps NCT Education suffers a little from impostorism at an organisational level. NCT tutors are educators and academics. We have decades of experience in adult learning, group theory and facilitation theory. We are reflective practitioners at every level, grounded in evidence led educational practice. But we don’t share this with the world. A few of my colleagues have published articles and papers about our work, but they are the exception. When we look for evidence about adult learning we look outside our own organisation. Yet we know how adults learn. We see it in our own practice all the time. We underrate our experiences and knowledge.

This weekend I was at our annual Education and Practice Weekend and I had the opportunity to speak to my colleagues about my current studies. I had been inspired by thinking around open pedagogy and digital scholarship. I mapped Bronwen Hegarty’s attributes of Open Pedagogy (2015) against NCT educational practice and showed my colleagues the many parallels to how we work. I then asked them to consider how they could work more openly? What might be the benefits and risks? How they could share their knowledge and experience with a wider academic audience? To my surprise they were enthusiastic and open to the ideas I proposed and I look forward to reading and sharing their contributions to adult learning and education theory.

In future, I hope that when I’m asked what I do, no one is surprised by NCT’s academic side. That we become known, not just by our contributions to birth and parenting but for our depth and breadth of knowledge about how adults learn.

‘That’ student…

It’s been a very busy week. I’ve been travelling around the country in my educator role to assess student practical assignments, and I had my own assignment deadline in the latest module of my MA in Online and Distance Education (MAODE) with The Open University.

This morning, as I was reflecting on how my week had gone, and indulging in a some self-critical thought, I realised that I was ‘that‘ student.

You know the one I mean. The one who always just meets a deadline and has a suitcase of excuses as to why they submit rushed work. The one who despite being told many times hasn’t read the logbook or the assignment guidance fully. The one who could probably be an ‘A’ student if they just planned a little better.

As an educator I am frustrated by these students. I know that a rushed piece of work makes it more likely that a student will drop ‘easy’ marks to grammar, spelling or referencing mistakes, and even to plagarise accidentally. When you are up against a deadline there is less time to proof read and sanity check. I long to tell them that if they just planned a bit better, or read ahead, or gave themselves some thinking space, they would make their lives so much easier.

I wish I could take my own advice.

Instead, I made last week incredibly stressful for myself and my family. I worked on trains and in stations, and every spare minute I could find to ‘pull it out the hat’. I’m pretty sure I was a cow to my husband, and I burst into tears in front of my own students! I wasn’t sure of the direction the assignment was meant to take, but felt I couldn’t approach my tutor at this late stage. I should probably have asked for an extension, but that felt like defeat. I submitted, under the word count but I’d had enough, a piece of work that is far from the best I could do. 

I wish I could say this was the first time. I tell the tale of how I once, back when essays were still submitted in hard copy, of driving two hours on the submission date to post an essay through the door of a tutor in order to meet the 3pm deadline. It was not my finest moment.

So, I’m making a pact with myself. To be less ‘that’ student, to plan more, to be kinder to myself. To ask for help. Otherwise I’m going to be stuck in this pattern forever.