Bank holiday weekend. I went walking. It was epic.
I went along to the Midlands 3 Cities event at the University of Nottingham, in part to find out what it was all about but mostly because I’d been asked to be there as a representative of NTU and present a 4 minute version of my research. I have to say coming away from this that these students are very lucky in terms of the opportunities available to them for training and support. On the other hand for those of us not involved directly in this programme, I think there is a very real feel that we’re going to be second class students! There’s a lot of money sloshing around here, and none of its coming the way of we established students – for whom the university won’t even cough up a couple of hundred quid for conference travel.
There was also a real feel that the organisors wanted the students to very much do things…in the normal way. For example we had an exercise to think about events or activities they could do as part of their research training. Normally this would have been a great way to get some innovative ideas flowing, but the organisers of the workshop very much had their own fixed ideas about how and what students should do. Not for them the exciting world of the unconference (which I did my best to pitch to my group); but better a structured, normal conference. Sigh. There are times when academia makes me want to scream – older and more senior academics seem intent on socialising and normalising the behaviour of the new generation of researchers to such a degree, that they really risk eliminating truly original and creative praxis. Somewhat depressingly 95% of those there seemed to have come direct from M-level studies, and so will have very little real-world experience if they do go forward as the academics of tomorrow. A crying shame really.
Anyway, my talk went okay (despite the organisors having forgotten to load it onto the PC – so much for Thursday’s frenzied efforts to send it to them on time!) and a few people showed a bit of interest in it. I suspect given the arts field that most people were coming from there, I’m more in the social sciences than they are. Reflecting on my conference experience today I think I probably need to spend more time getting to know social sciences people or at least talking to them, as there’s much more cross over in my work with them than say History and English people. Not a shocking conclusion as Kornelia and I had the same conversation about this a year ago.
The day wasn’t a total waste,as I did meet a few very lovely new students who I suspect will thrive in their research. There was also a useful group exercise where we passed comments and suggestions on each other’s PhD ideas in a consequences style activity. The comments the others in my group had were actually rather good, and while none of them weren’t areas I hadn’t already considered in terms of academic culture (disciplinarity, historical parallels) it was refreshing to have people show this kind of critical friend support. I suspect the students in this programme will come out a lot more polished than those of us who have had to suffer through the terrible RTP experience – just listening to the lead up to the 2nd year conference for this makes me glad all over again to have dropped out of it as soon as I had the credits.
After a brief (and very tasty) lunch and a quick look at the afternoon programme, I concluded I’d gotten as much out of the day as would be useful – so I jumped back into the llama-mobile and came back home to finish writing up the OER14 conference blog, and spend a bit of time sorting out some minor administration needs (like tidying up all the papers in my home office).
Final lecture of the year to attend…and not helped by the lecturer turning up at the wrong room, and then proceeding to make confusing asides throughout the talk. Transnational media still isn’t something I’m that keen/understanding that well, so turning her lecture into some shorthand notes for my students was a bit of a challenge. Even more of a challenge is the fact that tomorrow’s seminar has…pretty much no structure suggested for it other than “feedback. Given I suspect the handful of students I’ll get tomorrow, I’d like to have something for them to discuss! So the afternoon was spent designing a seminar. Yeah, I don’t actually get paid for this bit you know.
Also spent an hour or so adjusting student marks. Turns out I’ve been too mean a marker according to the course leader, and while I might not agree on some scores, I actually can’t be bothered arguing from the pretty poorly paid position of a GTA. So most of the students have had a little uplift in their marks as a result.
Today I’d planned to get organised and back into thesis writing and interview planning. But then a friend sent me a conference announcement I’d missed with a deadline of tomorrow. It’s one I could afford to go to (whoo!), so a quick rewrite/reimagining/recreation of a proposal around my research was called for. Aside from teaching this pretty much filled my day, and I ended up working to past 7pm trying to polish it off and get it submitted. Had a bit of a battle with the OpenConference software, but the folks at the other end were very helpful and after an hour or so got the problems ironed out and the damned thing submitted. No idea if it’ll get accepted as is, but I was happy enough with it. And if not I can always use it as a template for another submission. Nothing is wasted that is written these days.
The final days teaching was a bit odd. In the end I did get a seminar outline (well one slide) from the course leader so I was able to pull something together around transnational news media. One of the groups got quite into it and we had a fine debate, that only slightly sidelined into a discussion on behavioural science of geese towards the end. The other group, less so, which was a bit annoying – especially as I had the course tutor in at the end for stern words with one of the students. Never keen on being observed, but hope he could tell I was giving my all, even if the students were less than responsive. Quite chuffed that the group I’ve had all year seemed genuinly sad to hear I won’t be teaching them next year (or any teaching at all, unless I get a new contract). Will miss the sessions, but at least it means I can now dive back into the main event of writing my thesis.
And as if to cheer me up along these lines, I had the mailshot requesting my annual monitoring submission by 17th June. Annual monitoring’s gone a bit weird this year, and it means I’m having it a whole 9 months after the last one. Dropped a line to my supervisors and internal examiner to see if we can arrange the review meeting, as I need to have that in advance of the submission (and about 11 hundred signatures). Downloaded the form, fired off a question to the graduate office, and started working on the outline.
After lunch hit a bit of a blue funk workwise, but forced myself to finally sort out all the papers on my desk in the conservatory. Partly inspired because I couldn’t find the letter confirming my transfer to the PhD direct from last October. The conservatory-office has become a bit cluttered in the last month with conferences and teaching demanding pretty much my entire time, so giving it some much needed order will spur me next week to get on. At least I hope.
Found the letter – eventually – neatly filed away in the most logical place possible with all my other important papers. Of course, where else would I have put it! D’oh.