Every year we are supposed to have a personal development review. The idea is that you fill out a form with what you have done in the past year, what helped you doing that, what hindered you, what you want to do next year, and what will be needed to let you accomplish that. Then you discuss that with your line manager during the PDR, the agreed course of action is added to the form, both parties sign it, and then it goes into the archives. And a year later all of that repeats.
I had found them useful with the previous head of school, but my PDR last year with the current head of school had not struck me as a particularly useful exercise. I flagged up I had RSI; it is his job to then try to do something about it, but he didn't. I reminded him of his old promises to take particular tasks off me because they were incompatible with other tasks I have. Nothing happened. I suggested losing one module and gaining another one, and nothing happened. I never was told what he wanted me to teach. He never added the results of the conversation to the form, he didn't sign it, he didn't send it back. Basically he had just been talking at me for an hour and that was all. So it wasn't a particularly good experience! But this year everything would be different. As I am on a teaching contract, the director of teaching and learning would join the conversation. And that would change things!
After having felt completely battered by being sent home to work there without University facilities, and developing RSI and not getting support for that, then finding support through my Welsh tutor of all people, signing off sick, and facing the management-supported threat of redundancy while being off sick for a work-induced injury, I wasn't going to hold back. The head of school was going to read in my form that I didn't appreciate his lack of support with my RSI, his support for my redundancy, and his complete intransigence regarding who should do what tasks. And then we had the actual meeting.
I decided to go through practical things in order of importance to me. I first wanted to bring up the RSI. My manager needed to know that my first priority was to recover. And I mentioned I was struggling with that a bit since I got a laptop. And he rightly kicked me in the bum and said I needed to involve the helpdesk in sorting that. That was action point 1!
My second point was that I wanted him to know we can't work if he doesn't tell us in advance what sort of work we need to do. All academic staff had had a nervous summer; one of the biggest modules the school offers had not been assigned a module organiser. And any of us could be landed that. It was only just before the start of term he made a decision and decided that the person who had done it last year needed to do it again. That person was not pleased. And I was pretty grumpy that he had promised to take welcome week off me the minute he became head of school, but I was still organising it, just because he refused to choose someone else to do the job.
That led us to the third point. I wanted a decision on what I was going to teach, and otherwise do. I had suggested the previous year I would take over a module, and he had ignored that. He now promised to consider that again. I will keep nagging him until he makes a decision! And I mentioned I wanted to do teaching in Welsh. I had wanted to start that this academic year, but the RSI got in the way. I can dictate all my English, and that is quite efficient, but in Welsh it is not. I can only use Welsh as a written language if I can type without hurting myself. I have faith that by the coming September I will have reached that point. I already write short emails in Welsh with my hands! And Dei was there, and he would be the person I would have to liaise with, so I was sure we could now make that work. And the head of school was not going to actively discourage me from doing that with Dei present. And, of course, I wanted to get rid of welcome week. And with Dei there, who confirmed you can't physically do both that and the fieldwork to a reasonable standard, he took it seriously.
I didn't go into the whole redundancy issue, or his lack of support for me in regard to my RSI. Hopefully, these situations are in the past. And if he tries to make me redundant again, I don't think whatever he said in this PDR would make much of a difference. And if the RSI goes out of hand again I know where else to get support.
We then also talked about the things I could do to build up a portfolio that would allow me to first become a senior fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and then a senior lecturer. That will have to wait until I feel I have space for it; for now I am desperately trying to balance recovering from RSI with keeping the job ticking along. But he and Dei formulated some good ideas that I can act on when I feel able to.
Altogether it was a positive experience. I got to vent some of my frustration, and the head of school confirmed that he appreciated me and the work I do, and that if I think he is not doing his job I should just chase him up. And this time, actual notes were made. I will make sure that we finalise the PDR form, that it gets signed, and that promises made will not fade into the twilight. I feel better about things now! I hadn't looked forward to this conversation but now I am glad I had it. So watch this space; when will the first confirmation come in of a change being made?