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What am I doing? And why? I’m not sure I even know the answer…

So I set this blog up back in June, posted an introductory blog post and then disappeared. Working in academia, I had so many people around that time telling me to “enjoy your summer off”. Initially (as happens annually) I regurgitated the same old lines about how we don’t get the summer off and how summer is actually really busy. Then as I watched their eyes glaze over I moved on to just smiling and burrowing in to that big pile of reassessments, placements, marking and admin (oh the admin!). But it did make me think that perhaps the summer wasn’t the best time to start this blog, and maybe it should begin when everyone thinks we begin; at the start of the new academic year.

So here we are, week 1 of term where I work and returning to the blog was somewhere a long way down the bottom of what seems like an endless to-do list mainly consisting of yet more admin. When suddenly it got mentioned on twitter and interest in it was on fire. And when I say “on fire” I mean that three people asked me questions about it, which is more interest than anyone is taking in anything else I’m doing at the moment (apart from to ask me when things will be completed). So I took it as a sign and here we go.

The interest from those three people on twitter could probably be summed up in two questions: what exactly is this blog; and why is it anonymous.

The answer to the first question is that I’m not exactly sure yet, and I have no doubt it will start out as one thing and evolve into something different. For the most part it is probably my own space for reflection and catharsis. I’m not expecting it to have vast numbers of followers (and that’s certainly not my motivation) but if people do read it and can offer related experiences or alternative viewpoints, then that’s great. It’s not going to be theoretical. It’s not going to be about promoting my research (though I’m sure I will touch on the issues involved in research). And it doesn’t set out to be a campaign (though many of the best campaigns didn’t start out as campaigns).

The focus is my experiences (pleasures and frustrations) of trying to be both a social worker and an academic. I’m no longer new to academia, with it now being a few years since I left my last job as a practicing social worker to go into my first academic job, so many of the issues I am likely to blog about aren’t new and surprising to me anymore. However there still remains something jarring at times about the tensions between the underlying values of social work and the demands of the academic environment, with its competitiveness, (at times) cutthroat attitude and its commitment to (often financial) productivity. Academic social work is – in my experience – often an environment where only the strongest survive (or at least thrive) and where the social work practice we pass on is at risk of becoming increasingly formulaic, because of the pressures social work academics face. This is, right now, the main focus of this blog.

As for why it’s anonymous – there are lots of reasons! Firstly I’m quite a private person and I really don’t want the fame (and associated pressures) that I know some other academic bloggers enjoy. I don’t want to use this blog to promote any other work I might do – there are other ways to do that. Secondly, if it becomes clear who I am there is a risk that some of the issues I talk about become seen as individual issues at my individual institution, and I really don’t think that’s the case. From talking to other social work academics I don’t think my university is any worse or better than others, and I think many of these issues affect the sector as a whole. There are also issues about how this would affect my own employment. There is the concern that blogging about aspects of your employer’s practice, or questioning whether we always do the best we can by our students or by the profession as a whole, is not always the wisest thing to do in such a political and ruthless environment. Not least because if it’s seen that you have time on your hands to do that you are likely to be handed an even bigger pile of work! Being anonymous also allows me to mention issues where other people are also involved, without risk of identifying who they are. Finally (for now!) while this blog starts off with me ruminating on (or ranting about) my experiences it is not intended to be about my voice per se, and over time this may well evolve into some sort of collective blog. But that’s just an idea for the future.

Anyway, that was my first proper blog post. I hope it answered a few questions and I hope you’ll continue to make me think about what it is I’m doing and why. Apologies in advance for the typos I’m going to spot as soon as I hit the “post” button!

First blog post

I struggled long and hard to come up with a better title for this than “First blog post”… but then that’s exactly what it is!

So why am I doing this? Well, I’m a social worker and an academic and for a while now I’ve been thinking about how the two intersect – in many, many different ways. I also wear many other hats – researcher, teacher, occasional practitioner, sometimes service user, feminist, activist – and I’m interested in the issues and debates where these come together.

In the last few weeks in particular after terrorist attacks, the general election and the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, I’ve been thinking more and more about how those of us who are in social work academia can best respond; how we can make social work the best it can be to tackle current and future issues.

I suspect this blog is going to take many forms and cover a wide variety of issues. For me it’s about thinking, reflecting, learning, sometimes having a rant, and sharing that with anyone who is interested. There are some fantastic resources out there specifically for student social workers (Social Work Tutor on Facebook deserves a special mention) and this blog isn’t aimed specifically at student social workers, though I hope it will be of interest to a variety of different people with different perspectives on both social work and academia.

I’m always interested in generating debate, and hearing views and opinions on issues, so please add your comments. I hope over the coming weeks you find something that interests you on here.

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