Reflections

I’ve been on a break, hence the lack of entry last week. The last break was at Christmas, which, for various reasons, including a spectacular bout of well-timed illness – I think my body must save itself for those special occasions- was not really a break at all. So this break was much needed and much wanted. I used the Easter weekend as the filling to the annual leave sandwich, supplemented as it was by the bread of additional days off either side.

And I switched off everything. Ev. Ery. Thing. Fantastic. And then we (the good lady wife and myself plus Willowpants the Brave) pootled and pottered. The significant absence of an hour-by-hour schedule was, in itself, a luxury verging on the hedonistic. My mind, like my body went into multi-directional amble and explore mode…

And much to the delight of both body and mind, I’ve spent a good part of the last twelve days outdoors. I’ve jogged, walked and run around the hills near home, I’ve run along the cliff tops on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales, gone coasteering, (jumping off high things into the sea on a rocky shore line, for those of you requiring clarification) surfed in a beautifully lit evening ocean, fallen asleep by a fire on the beach, and even topped off the break with walks with friends yesterday and today in Lancashire. This has all been interspersed with more than my fair share of good food; culinary adventures and taste explorations accompanied by excellent company, cracking conversations which routinely put worlds at rest whilst emptying a bottle (or two) of red and white. At some points I wasn’t sure whether the walks and outdoor activities were just brief interludes between creative cooking/ eating, or simply that the day time outdoorsy stuff was personal (and, I feel, somewhat ironclad) self-justification paid in advance for the rich calorie-laden gastronomy which accompanied most evenings.

And across all of this, there has been a joyful sense of waking up; of, for me, an essential reaffirmation of personal connection to the outdoors and to nature and its cycles, but also through the break I’ve had time to see the world wake up from a winter slumber. I love this time of year – I find it genuinely exciting to see and feel the change as things cross over into a summer being, immersing myself in the change as it occurs. Sensory vignettes are a big part of this reflection; today, the warmth of sun on my face and the sound of birdsong on an afternoon bimble; earlier in the week sitting quiet on my surfboard in the sea and hearing the sound of evening waves hit the underside of the board; being half asleep by the fire and smelling outdoors and wood smoke all at once; running across the cliff tops from Aberdaron back to our rented cottage on the cliff tops at Hells Mouth beach, (10.5 miles y’know…); taking in the chilled evening scent of a summer not yet quite arrived in a spectacular dusky light which painted the yellow of gorse as almost luminescent; and many more besides.

There’s also been time in between these activities and moments, and indeed within them, to reflect and just listen; to take time, to ‘check in’, assess and consider all things in general – personal direction, milestones, plans, schemes, adventures past and present. Through all of this I find I am simply excited by the journey; both the personal and the seasonal. As ever the sense of possibility hangs in the air as being present. It’s not that I’m always looking forward (although I frequently do). It’s simply an enjoyment of the moment in the moment of mentally meandering through future possibilities, whilst immersed in an environment, which in itself is moving into its next growth.

In that last respect, I think there’s a lot of similarities with life at Salford, albeit in a very different context. The difference between Salford and this break is the sense of time aside – it’s a different kind of liminal bubble to the day job, but one which is just as absorbing.

Speaking of Salford, the train tickets have been purchased, the shirts ironed, the batteries charged (literally and figuratively) and the alarm set. After the break, I’m looking forward to jumping back in with gusto.

See you next week.

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Author: samgrogan

I am many sided; Pro Vice-Chancellor Student Experience at Salford University, Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, driven Tough Mudder runner, and a lover of the outdoors. I live in the heart of the beautiful Peak District with my wife and our pets. On weekends, you'll find me out in the countryside with the dog, running or walking up a hill, or typically cooking for friends (I'm getting better, so they say) My role at Salford is one I cherish. I'm one of the fortunate few who wake up excited about the day ahead. It's really not work when it's this much fun. As part of the Vice-Chancellor's Executive Team I work alongside a gifted and dedicated team of creative educationalists passionate about being better tomorrow than we are today. As PVC SE at Salford I hold executive responsibility for both the assurance of quality and standards of our institutional academic portfolio, and its strategic direction and character. Intertwined with this facet of my role, I am responsible for strategic leadership and enhancement of the wider student experience and the development of a distinctive Salford learning environment. My overall purpose, driven by these two key parts of my role, is to develop a bold, playful learning landscape at Salford which delivers holistic sustainable success, preparing our students for life. I'm fascinated by how people learn, and how we might collectively make that experience result in a profound expansion of personal and professional horizons and an extension of possibilities for all parties involved. My greatest reward comes from seeing thresholds crossed, barriers broken, new habits formed and changes made. To this end, I'm also endlessly absorbed in considering how we might develop better, more useful ways of integrating the digital landscape and other technologies, emerging and present, into the act of learning. I think we're just beginning - a brave new world awaits... My background is in performance - Before undertaking my PhD and before spending the first half of my university career as a lecturer, programme leader and head of department, in my early career I acted, danced and made theatre across the world. This ten year experience continues to be fundamental in shaping the way I think about teaching and learning. At its best I see it as a facilitated journey of discovery, play, risk and adventure anchored in 'reflective doing'. Not 'knowing' in this context is often a signal that a useful path is being trodden - Thinking on its own is just rehearsal...

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