A Fist Full of Essays

Great UKSG conference last week, despite coming back with a horrible fluey cold that left me pretty much wiped out for the entire Easter weekend (and still recovering).  I’ll write that up this weekend.  So instead here’s my part-week which will be all about marking the Face to Face to Facebook essays.

Wednesday 8th April

  • 9.00: On the dot fire up the work account, checking emails from the module leader.  Couple of students have withdrawn and a few high Turnitin scores to take particular note of.
  • 9.10: Access NOW backend (the VLE) and start slowly going through the list of student submissions for the ones in my groups.  Yes it would be easier if I could just display those in my groups, but no that useful facility is missing.  Slow clap for the designers.
  • 9.20: Done, but there’s quite a few students missing in the list – so have to search for them.  Ah, the names they’re listed by here aren’t the same as the names they have listed in the register.  Nice little bit of consistency, so correct my marking spreadsheet so it’s sync with the Dropbox list.  Should be 84 essays for me to mark in total…11 are missing.  Well that’s 13% completion for me without really any heady lifting.
  • 9.30: Download essays as zipfile, try to extract but native zipping can’t handle the daft long files names that some students give their files; not to mention the prefix extensions that NOW slips on them too.  Thankfully I’ve got 7Zip which makes short work of the extraction.  As there are 14 different essay topics, next job is to sort all the essays into those tackling the same topic, which I found last year makes it easier to grade like for like.  Hoping there’s not too many tackling Freud this year!
  • 9.35: Need for 2nd cup of the tea for the day rising…also I really ought to put some socks on.  [Current marking music: Total Eclipse of the Heart].
  • 9.55: Drinking tea and taking a moment to catch up on my student email. And discover I won the travel scholarship I applied for.  So that’s 1 grand towards my Vienna conference – I am to say the least, delighted.  Phone Mrs Llama to share the news.  It was, out of ~150 emails, the only one of any value I received over Easter.
  • 10.05: Okay, enough excitement – need to knuckle back down to marking.  Or at least the preparation which seems to take longer than the actual grading.
  • 10.25: Coughing fit.  Blurgh.  So not over this cold yet.  [Current marking music: Eg a Lif]
  • 10.55: Right, essays all grouped.  Popular topics look like piracy, public service broadcasting and leadership.  That’s good, topics I love discussing.  No love though for the questions around globalisation (not surprising, not got to that on the module yet) or conversation analysis (darn, that’s a fascinating topic!).  Right, time to head on in to the marking finally! [Current marking music: Love as a Construct]
  • 12.22: Gah. Struggled through a difficult one there and agonised over the mark.  Not a great piece of work, but trying to work out if the student had put effort into it or if it really was as slapdash a piece as it appeared in part.  [Current marking music: Theme from Thunderbirds].  [17% completed.]
  • 12:53: Okay, I need a lunch break.
  • 15:20: I have a sinus headache (legacy of the cold and staring at the screen).  This is making marking less than fun right now.
  • 16:30: Finished marking the first topic, moving on to the second which means I need to open my various lecture notes as well.  First essay on a topic is always the hardest to mark.
  • 17.20: Agonising over another essay – well written…but doesn’t answer the question. Which means I have to give it a much lower grade than it deserves.  Think I’ll ask for this one to be 2nd marked, as that seems a fairer solution.
  • 17.36: Oh sweet Jovis.  Just read (and then re-read three times) a sentence that frankly has broken my ability to think.  Think I might just write “NOOOOOO!” in the feedback.
  • 17:57: Grrr.  Had to break off to explain to Mrs Llama that just because I’m working at home, doesn’t mean I can be roped in to do things she needs doing!  Desperately trying to get through my last essay of the day and the distraction is not appreciated.  Wish bloody NTU gave me an office to work in (for about the 1,000 time).  It’ll now take me 5 minutes to recover my train of thought.
  • 18:15: Okay long note written on that one to try and encourage the student to overcome the issues they had with that essay.  Think I’m calling it a day and am off into the garden to let my brain decompress!

Thursday 9th

  • 9.05: Okay, today I’m going to mark all those essays that only one or two students attempted to see where that gets me too.  [25% completion of marking.]
  • 9.14: Oh dear, the references. Oh, the references.  Seems once again this year I’m going to be marking a lot of essays down for poorly formatted references then.
  • 10.24: Right, that’s transnational media, migrants and the 4th estate topics dealt with.  Onto nation branding, persuasion and suicide prevention (yes, some of these topics are less cheerful than others!)
  • 10.53: PC crash!  Gah!  Oh phew, thankfully autobackup and paranoid saving regime means I lose about 3 minutes of work while the machine reboots – but that’s it!
  • 11.34: Making tea and taking pain killers.  Lovely sinus headache today too (it only hurts really badly when I cough).  Then back to reading essays about suicide.
  • 13.10: Okay, time for lunch. Gah, only 35% through now.
  • 14.05: Back to it, investigative journalism and Wikileaks is a go!  You’ll note I’ve given up listening to music today to better focus on these essays.
  • 15:10: Arg! Painfully bad essay marking am I. Follow struggling language and phrase taking, in sentence.  Usual self-enlargement now to decide if it is bad enough to fail or scrape a pass.  Takes so much longer to mark the lower graded papers than the good ones, as aside from the amount of feedback I write – I really have to think hard about where to put them on the grade curve.
  • 15:33: Genuinely good essay, has just reaffirmed my belief in humanity.
  • 17:40: Okay, Mrs Llama needs me to run errands for her.  Going to have to stop here.  Only 45% of the way through – gah, will be working this weekend on these I can tell!

Friday 10th

  • WikiLeaks...you bad rat!
    WikiLeaks…you bad rat!

    9.05: Here goes nothing and…oh damn, thought I’d marked all the essays on Wikileaks, but looks like I missed one.  That’ll teach me to watch South Park  episode Bass to Mouth (the Wikileaks one) to celebrate getting through them.

  • 9.45: Read work email, some student questions to answer later it seems (not so straight forward answers – will save them for my elevenses I think.
  • 9.55: Okay, today I move onto Freud, communication, broadcasting and democracy essays.  What fun, given some of these are going to be quite hard work to mark (if last year was anything to go on).
  • 10.22: A rash of essays where no in text citations.  Dear students, please meet plagiarism risk…
  • 10.45: Half way through Freud, time for my mother.  I mean a break!  Oh dear, what a slip.  Luckily Mrs Llama is making me some tea (since she’s working from home).  Slightly annoying as I like being able to walk away from the PC for a bit to make the tea, but it would be churlish of me to refuse the offer.
  • 11:30: Broken off for a few minutes twitter debate over the local election candidates for MP.  Red, blue, green, yellow and vile purple standing here it seems.  No Monster Loonies – a shame…but I wouldn’t be voting for them anyway.
  • 12:03: And that’s Freud done for this year.  Phew, those are always the brain strainers.  Onto leadership I think now.
  • 13.05: Lunch, and a spot of all new Daredevil I think.
  • 14:00: Right, let’s see how far through the rest of them i can get before close of play today!
  • 16:00: Eye blurring as I work through essays on leadership.
  • 16:45: Heart break. Had to very harshly mark one essay, where the student has really had a good go, but has really not to grips with the subject.
  • 17:16: No, no, no!  Another essay that is making me cross!
  • 17:43: Okay, since Mrs Llama is off on a business trip tomorrow, stopping now to spend some more time with her.  I shall keep on marking over the weekend though with the hope that I’ll not need to spend all of Monday marking as well.  Biggest problem with these essays are all the different topics – if there was just one topic by now I’d be flying through them!

Saturday 11th

  • 17.15: Urg. Working on a Saturday.  Wouldn’t normally do this, but I still have 32% of the essays to mark.  also Mrs Llama is now out of the country for 10 days, so I’m trying to keep myself occupied and distracted from how isolated I’ll be over that time (bar teaching, I suspect I won’t actually have much face-2-face interaction).  Right let’s open the first one and crack on.
  • 17:40: Open essay, insert page break, reformat opening page to landscape, insert object from file, marking grid, enter student details.  You know I wish NTU would reformat this bloody grid to portrait (since that’s what 99.9% of students write in) or we made it a punishable-by-failure* task for the students to do this step for themselves.  (*I jest…slightly, but doing this 80 odd times does slow me down!)
  • 18:48: Right, did one more essay than I planned to do in this stint.  But I’ve made some more progress towards my goal.  Another couple of hours tomorrow and I think I’ll be down to just one topic to mark – the most popular one by far – media piracy!

Sunday 12th

Didn’t feel like doing any marking today – so spent most of an hour adding the marking grid to the front of all the remaining essays.  So it’ll save me some time tomorrow.  Yes, I am having a fun Sunday, thanks.

Monday 13th

  • 7.50: Yeah, you read that time right – I’m kicking off early today, getting everything opened up and ready for marking.  Planning to work straight through until I get these finished…might well be a 12hr day I suspect.  Might be less if all the remaining essays are brilliantly original, well written and cited, not to mention not in the teeny tiniest bit plagerised.  That’d make it a slam dunk to give them all 2:1s or 1sts.  I suspect though I may be very, very disappointed with this optimistic view.
  • 8.00: Here we go again, open and start with the references to check them to begin with
  • 8.10: Trying to eat cereal with one hand and mark with the other isn’t working.  Need to eat then mark it seems.
  • 9.10: Struggling a bit with an essay which through the fog of words I can see is trying to make some good points.  But not sure it’s really hitting the mark.
  • 9.26: Reading work emails, and trying to sort out some issues with the forthcoming group assignment.  Just like last year some groups I think are working out better than others.  No shock there, but feel for the students going through the process – I’ve suffered enough group fragmentation and problems in the real world, let alone university!
  • 9.55: Well that was a real curates egg of an essay.
  • 10:35: Interruption- it’s the Wife calling from Chile.  I guess I better break off and chat to her then.
  • 10:55: Well that was fun if a bit like talking to an autotuned robot at times (frame rate wasn’t brilliant).  Think it’s time for a mid-morning cup of tea.
  • 12:15: Have reached the point where I wish I could teach my students a hour long seminar on how to bloody reference and cite correctly.  I know it’s my inner librarian but so many poor examples across the essays, not to mention people using dodgy sources, insufficient references and struggling to understand the difference between citation, paraphrasing and direct quoting.  Feels like it is so much worse than last year’s essays – doubtless a result of the Government’s national curriculum agenda which teaches school students to pass exams, but doesn’t teach them the scholarly skills they actually need to succeed in academia!  Maybe NTU should employ me to teach this… (or you know, just employ me full stop!)
  • 12:25: One reference only?  Sheesh.
  • 12.58: Okay, time for a lunch break!
  • 14:10: Begrudgingly…back to work.
  • 15.47: Finding it very hard to concentrate.  Man, I hate marking.
  • 16:30: Time for more tea.  Lots and lots of tea.
  • 17:35: Break to check email and discover I’m giving a lecture at NTU next week.  okay, that’ll be the next thing I have to write once I finish these essays then.  Slowly dawning on me that I will not be getting through all of these today – and beginning to debate how many more I will get through before I lose the will to live.  Or at least mark.  89% done…but that still means 9 more essays.  Let’s see where I am in an hour!
  • 17.43: Oh dear, just wrote a note saying “References should be in Z-A order”.  May be losing it earlier than expected.  Caught it though, so perhaps still okay.
  • 18:43: right that’s it, I’m done.  93% completed now – but as I’ve been at this almost 11hrs (bar lunch okay), I’m calling it quits to go and paint a radiator.  Yes, the thrills keep on coming.

Tue 14th

Well despite a groggy start to the morning I finished them all of before lunch.  Phew.  Just in time before I have to start doing the next batch of marking for my other module next week.  Arg!

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The Inevitable Fall After the Rise

Cheer up you miserable old sod
Cheer up you miserable old sod

Should have known this was coming, after last week’s wonderful feedback (and I even had some more over the weekend), this week has rather pissed on my chips a little.  So I’m finishing off the term feeling exhausted, worn out and totally depressed with the world.

And I’ve still got a long hard slog over the coming week before a couple of days off over Easter.  I’ll talk more about my woes below – those of you who enjoy a good moan will at least get a little schadenfreude out of this; so it’s not a total loss I guess.  See, I’m starting to get more cheerful already…

Blog Revamp

Yeah, I’ve been threatening this for a while – and I’m now in the process of revamping the look and feel of the blog.  As I’m using the free version of WordPress I can only really make changes to the live site, so my regular reader (I think I’ve got one of them…possibly) might be a bit surprised that the site will keep changing over the next few weeks as I tweak the colour palette etc to get it just the right shade of vermilion.  I jest…possibly.

UKSG Conference

Lots of preparation for this, this week.  Didn’t think a 15-20 minute talk would need this much work.  I’m basing my talk around a couple of previous ones, but at the same time tweaking the narrative so it tries and segues in with my co-presenter Bryony’s (aka librarygirlknitone.  Been enjoying a smashing correspondence with Bryony, which reminds me how much I enjoy collaborative work!  While our talks our separate we’re trying to give it a bit of a ethnographic theme.  As of this writing I think I’ve got the talk down, although I keep taking more and more words off the slides to make them appear less texty (my default mode, what a shocker eh) and more pictorial.  Might see if I can’t work in some more of the ideas I got from this week’s lecturing buzz lunch as well.  Although perhaps not the drum loops.  Will be spending most of Sunday travelling up to Glasgow for the conference, so am glad that next weekend is Easter and I get a few days off, I suspect I’m going to need them.

As of Friday afternoon though it’s all sorted out, I just now need to sort out my clothes and pack for the trip.  How many hats it too many though?  Also having seen the weather forecast I hope I don’t have to swim across the centre of Glasgow next week.

Buzz Lunch

Freud's theory of psychodyamics vividly brought to life in my seminar
Freud’s theory of psychodyamics vividly brought to life in my seminar

Went along to a lunchtime seminar hosted by the NTU academic staff development people on The Lecture as Performance.  Sounded interesting for raiding for ideas to improve my own teaching practice (hey, the feedback was great but I could always be better and I know it!) and also for my communications workshop for FIL later this year.  Free hot lunch too, which was great – although catering did forget the first rule of serving food: hot food: hot plates, cold food: cold plates.  So as I ate my rapidly cooling mushroom and butter bean pie (tasty) I listened to talks from a former actor turned mathematician, an avant-garde urban historian with a penchant for drum loops, a man deconstucting the speeches of Barack Obama, and a chap showing off tricks using simple PowerPoint and free apps.  Well worth the attendance I thought as it sparked some ideas in my head for future workshops and lecturing practice.  Also nice to feel (if only ever so briefly) part of the lecturing family of NTU, rather than the outside PhD student who they just chuck teaching at and forget about (can feel a bit like that at times).  Was particularly interested in the use of a phone-driven voting app for lectures- so much more effective than having to hand out those little handsets.  Wonder if it works on all systems or if you need install rights?  I shall have to have an explore of this over the next week or so, as anything that drives more student interaction in sessions can only be a good thing.

I did particularly like the little factoid about people remembering more about the questions you asked than the facts you tell them in a lecture.  Makes them engage on a more cognitive level, which perhaps explains why seminars have such a good reputation for allowing students to get to grips with aspects of their courses better.  I think I shall be looking closely at my next conference and lecture slides and trying to embrace that idea a little.  Or shall I?

Teaching – Face to Face to Facebook

International communications this week looking at Radio Free Europe and its role in the 1956 Hungarian revolt.  Slightly confused for a minute as I didn’t think I was teaching history!  But mostly this was about discussing the moral and ethical issues around the application of soft power like radio in terms of destabilising or countering effective hegemonic control of a state.  First session of this was pretty informal as I only had three students – and they had a lot of questions about the exams, so get a little sidetracked.  All the same it seemed a positive teaching engagement so I’m not going to stress about it.

Also been dealing with a whole host of questions over the last week or so from students worried about or wanting advice on their essay.  Hopefully I’ve steered them all in the right direction without giving them too much overt assistance.  Tricky line to straddle, especially doing it all online (lacking an effective on site presence is a bit of an issue being a seminar tutor, and not one that’s going to be resolved sadly).  Feedback from the students seems positive here, so am hopeful that this means I’ve averted their concerns and I’ll have a stack of top flight essays to mark next week.  Although slightly terrified at the idea of marking about 84 scripts in a short period of time.

Teaching – Media Communications

A bit of a confusion behind the scenes next week, wonder if the students were even aware of it?  Had the plan for a seminar on the power of images in hand, despite the lecture showing up as being about propaganda in the timetable.  Decided there must be a cross over…but no turns up there’d been a slight hiccup in the planning – as this was supposed to be a week for a tutorial on their PR campaigns rather than a seminar.  But as we had the material for the seminar it was decided to go ahead with that anyway.  Turned out the lecture was on the role of images in the media (including a potted history of art and image) – which was fascinating.  Great lecturer I’d not come across before with a wonderful relaxed and deeply informative style.  Just a little embarrassed that only 12 students out of almost 200 turned up for it.  I know we’re near the end of term but…wow.  I had 7 to my seminar (out of 26) so actually my %age attendance rates are a lot higher.  Not quite sure the students quite got what this week’s seminar was about mind you, but I could be wrong.  Possible they’ve done aspects of this in other modules so this might have all been pitched at too low a level for them.  Ah well.  Shame really as it’s the last time I teach this group – just seminars and assessed presentation sessions for the rest of the year now.  Going to miss them, as they’re by far my liveliest mix of students – which makes interacting and teaching them a whole lot easier.

Thesis

Supervisors seem to be on silent running since my email last week.  After a week I sent them off a gentle reminder, to hear on Friday that they’re snowed under and will get back to me after Easter.  Fair enough, but does leave me slightly in limbo.  Guess I’ll just have to finish off all my marking and conference funding applications and get bookings in place for the Vienna conference in the meantime.  And then move onto sorting out my next phase of interviews.  And catch up on my reading.  Actually, when I think about it, I suspect I’ll manage to fill all the time very, very easily.

Future Employment

I'm more Captain Slow than Clarkson, truth be told
I’m more Captain Slow than Clarkson, truth be told

Never thought I’d end up in the same position as Jeremy Clarkson this week, only you know, without the violence.  Went in to discuss my potential lecturing next year as ideally I was looking to expand my role a bit, even up to a day or two part time.  I’m acutely aware that when my studentship ends this summer I am going to be very, very broke and I can’t rely on Mrs Llama to pay for everything  – we’ve had three years of being not very well off, and this will exacerbate matters.  Turns out though dept aren’t permitted to keep me on now I’m this far through the PhD as they need me to complete on time so that that their PGR stats don’t take a hit.  (I’ll try not go off on a rant about marketised HE subsumed by aspects of neoTaylorist measure here…).  I could totally see their point from one direction, as I too would like to be able to finish this PhD before the end of time itself and move on to the next stage of my career.  But I’ve got to be honest, I wasn’t expecting this when I went in to the meeting – so I did my best not to sound like a deflating balloon throughout the rest of the discussions.

I will say they were really nice about it, and I could tell they were annoyed by the situation as well, so I’ve ever sympathy for the akward situation they’re in as well.  Especially as I can well understand it’s a position a lot of PhDs find themselves in .  On the positive side of things, and I’ve got to remember that there are a lot of positives about this whole experience, at least they told me I was an excellent teacher, which was great to hear.  Even if it isn’t going to keep the wolf from the door come September.  Did make it clear at least that I can work, as the university can’t stop me finding other employment, and will write me a stunning reference.  They just can’t provide it.

So what does this mean for me?  Well on the down side it pretty much destroys any plans I’ve got for holidays or LARPing type adventures unless I can find somewhere else to employ me in the meanwhile.  Suspect I’m a bit old for bar work.  So feeling a bit of a total failure right now, as my self-confidence has taken a right old nasty knock from all this.  Not really a rational thing, and I know I’ll cheer up in a day or too, but I might have to mooch around over the weekend doing positive things like updating my CV and scanning jobs pages.  Frankly, glad I’ve got the UKSG conference to go to next week as I need the distraction.  Debating hanging a “For Hire” sign around my neck at it or maybe just taking a batch of short CVs to hand to some people.  Not sure if I’m enough of a tart to do that, but I guess I might have to be – Mrs Llama has expensive tastes I need to cater for!

And of course I’ve still got 4 more weeks of teaching to come after Easter to look forward to, so I shall have to just enjoy every moment of what has been a great experience and opportunity for the past couple of years.  Not that many PhDs here get teaching experience, and that I have is something for which I’ll continue to be grateful.  I just know I’m really going to miss the weekly contact with…you know…people.  Working as a humanities PhD from home was ever isolating, and this was a brilliant distraction from that.  And at least now I have no excuses for not knuckling down and finishing the thesis.  If I can just get my supervisors to let me push on to the next bit!

A Whole Lot of Editing Going On

Monday

Having caught up on my sleep over the weekend…there’s no avoiding it, I need to crack on with the marking again today.  And as before, let’s track how the marking goes.

  • 9.00 am: Check both email accounts and discover that my last student with an extension has submitted.  Good, that means I’ve all the essays I need to mark now.  Decide to find breakfast, tea and check on Prisoner Zero (one of our chickens is on special measures at the moment).  Exchange email with supervisor over a news article we’ve both read, and then pull up all my marking info and the essay directory onto the desktop.
  • 9.25 am: Eat breakfast, post blipfoto for the day.  Steel myself to pick up marking where I left off on Friday.
  • 9.30 am: Ear plugs in (it helps me focus and block out the traffic noise), and one we go.  Half way through marking an essay on Friday, so have to read it all over again now.
  • 10.15 am: always tickles me when students write the number of words at the bottom of an essay, and notes like “excluding references”.  I do just the same for official submissions; despite knowing that any academic worth their salt will not include references within a word count.  Oh wait, there was just this sort of discussion at the CRDC the other week over the project proposal submissions.  Paranoia rules and serves you well in academia.
  • 10.33 am: This essay is written in a river of toffee I think, and I’m trying to swim up stream against the grammatical flow.
  • 10:57 am: Hmn, marking one with a heavy use of quotes…and not much analysis.   Have been guilty of this in days of yore myself, so trying to give pointers rather than just writing “NO NO NO NO!” in the margins.
  • 11.19 am: Time for more tea and a swift check on the chickens.  Working on essays about new media now without ear plugs in as I’m expecting a delivery between “11.28-12.28”.
  • 11.37 am: Delivery man cometh – break off to collect my new tarpaulin (wooo!).  Restore ear plus.
  • 12.23 pm: Marking an essay from a student who rarely appeared in seminars.  Fine-toothed-comb deployed.
  • 12:48 pm: Gah, most of the last 30 minutes dealing with some moderation questions and second marking between a couple of the other academics (one of whom is my supervisor).  Some hard decisions been made.
  • 1.00 pm: No, need lunch.
  • 1.45 pm: And back at it.  Half way through the new media now.  Hmn, think I’ll mark this next one and then the other one I’ve been asked to second mark.
  • 2.12 pm: Eeek!  Thunder and lighting right overhead 😦
  • 2.55 pm: Flagrant apostrophe abuse detected. Punishable by de’ath!
  • 3.12 pm: Still in new media. Urg. Some of these definitions of new media seem to have switched off in the opening minutes of the lecture on the subject, given there were a fair few given there.  Only 3 more of essays on this topic to go and then I can switch to Freud.  Yes, that will be a bless’d relief…especially considering the students’ attitude to Freud in the seminars was “We don’t think he tells us anything”.
  • 3.46 pm: If I could offer one bit of advice to all the students, it’s “think critically”.  Lots and lots of descriptive prose, very little in many cases analytical thinking.  Keep writing notes in the margins like “Yes, that is very interesting – but why is this important? What does this mean? Is there a case against it?”
  • 3.58 pm: NOOOOOOO!  *ahem* Slight blinkered view from current essay causing me to scream at the screen.  Now to write a more constructive comment.
  • 4.11 pm: 13 still to mark.  Beginning to think I might not finish all these today, which is frustrating.  Onto Freud now, which means it’s time for a mid-afternoon pit stop.
  • 5.03 pm: Marking Freud is hard work.  Sneaking suspicion some of the students understand his work better than I do.
  • 5.40 pm: Mrs Llama has arrived home from work, hot, cross and fed up with traffic.  Wondering if she’s going to be projecting onto me shortly as still marking Freud.  Current essay has also given me a WTF moment requiring some background research to mark.  Sheesh.
  • 5.56 pm: Beyond Freud and onto the final set of essays on power and non-verbal communication.  Think I shall go and prep dinner, pop it in the oven and then have a last hour working on these before calling it a day.
  • 6.30 pm: These essays are more enjoyable than the Freud one.  Marking one now from a student I had to double check was in my groups; since they never came to a seminar I taught!  No, they are one of mine. Damn, have to mark it – but extra carefully!
  • 7.05 pm: Okay, 7 more to go – they’ll have to wait for the morning.  But at least these last batch are fairly readable and engaging again!

Tuesday

Okay, not many to go, but suspect this’ll be my entire morning.

  • 9.15 am: Exchange emails about moderation, discover two invites in my mail (one to a conference, one to participate in some research). Will have to come back to those later.
  • 9.25 am: Open up all the files and programs…and on with the marking.
  • 10.06 am: These are certainly easier to read and mark, generally good and just had one excellent one.  Not sure if the topic is more engaging for the students, or the question’s easier – they just seem to get it more.
  • 10.14 am: Oh dear, another essay sans references.  How obvious could we have made this bit?  It’s actually on the marking sheet as one of the 5 criteria the students are marked on.  Sigh.
  • 11:16 am: Let joy be unrestrained…I’ve opened the last essay to mark.
  • 11.40 am: Done.  Now just to moderate my high/low scores, and pass them to Colin the course leader for his opinions.
  • 12.15 pm: Moderating Colin’s marking…there are some terrible essays here, which really make me pleased how many of my students produced excellent pieces of work!
  • 12.22 pm: Done.  Just have to wait on the moderators comments, and then the admin to sort out and no more marking for me this year.  Huzzah!

Rather lost the will after lunch, as I had to go out to an appointment.  And then paid a visit to campus to drop off the all important annual report form for marking.  The Wife came along for the ride, and so met my 2nd supervisor, which was nice.  Did discover my actual Director of Studies had buggered off to Germany which makes getting a signature out of him somewhat academic now – hope the Grad School will accept an email from him!

Then I got stuck on campus for 30 minutes as the power to the site went down, locking all the car exit gates! Sheesh.

Wednesday

More moderation today for Kornelia, as i appear to have turned into Mr Moderator for the whole course.  Don’t mind, as she and I have been mutually supporting each other throughout the past year on this course.  Today though was also the day I drew out my chapter on the history of open access in the UK, and started to hack at it.  Been away from it with other pressing concerns too long so it’s going to be a long hard struggle I suspect, and first impressions are that it needs a lot more work than I thought.  Beginning to think the end of the month might be a tricky target to get this one ready by.

Thursday

More editing – although not helped by the fact that I had a dreadful night’s sleep and spent the entire day feeling like I had needles sticking in my eyes.  Mrs Llama worked at home in the afternoon and made me go and sit in the garden for a while over lunch and enjoy the outside world.  That helped a bit, and I made some progress – even if it felt like I kept re-editing the same two pages over and over again.  Stressing about this chapter a lot, which is slowing the writing down.  Most of the day spent trying to write short pieces about who the key players and organisations in the development of OA in the UK is.  Bound to have missed some people I suspect, whom I hope won’t hunt me down and punish me!

And no, didn’t include myself in the list!  Sheesh, self-aggrandising much?

Friday

Having been asleep for nearly 12hrs last night (went to bed before 8pm) I felt a whole lot more human.  A lot more editing today, mostly about funders’ OA policies which required a bit of background research.  Chapter looking a whole lot better as a result – but I’ve still a page of suggested additions I need to look at next week.  Which could be tricky as I need to write a conference paper, and also make a day trip to Cambridge on Tuesday, which cuts down the hours I can devote to it.  Have to pop into the Uni as well to finally hand in my annual review.  Which may end in a punch up between me and the staff if they don’t bloody accept it.

Also, just to round out the week, moderated Tao’s essays as well.  Which means by my calculations I’ve moderated pretty much all bar one person’s papers this time.  Boy oh boy do I wish they paid me for this bit.  But it does mean it’s the end of the marking lark.  And time to collapse into a warm gin now.

Après Moi, le Déluge

Monday

Bank Holiday day off, and it is of course raining.  So in the meantime please enjoy the following strip which so elegantly sums up my life for the past year:

Click the image to enbiggen/visit the excellent PhD Comic site.

Tuesday

My view this week
My view this week

Back to work and joy, more rain.  Morning spent adding in more quotes to my analysis chapter and thinking about printing it off to edit.

Then remembered I’m due in for a meeting tomorrow afternoon (College Research Degrees Committee) so I may as well plan to work on campus for the day and make use of my free printing allocation.  After lunch I got ready for my essay marking, which took longer than expected (a recurrent theme of PhDs).  Downloaded all the essays, attached the header file (from all those students who forgot/didn’t bother) and worked out who had answered which question.  Plan to mark them next week in batches of the same topic – given that there were 10 essay choices there’s quite a spread, although no-one has gone for the one on transnational media.  Can’t say that I blame them though!

Highlight of the day was putting in my booking for the Sheffield conference (which tells you how thrilling a day it is!).  Which means I’ll have to think about writing my paper for in the next couple of weeks as well.  Probably once I’ve put the current draft chapter to bed, it’ll be an ideal time to get to work on that.

Finished off the day tidying the chapter up, and finalising my quotation/anonymised quote file.  Oh, and drawing up an updated plan of action based on the outcomes of my annual monitoring meeting.

Wednesday

Another wet day (and as we’re feeding the neighbours’ chickens, who live in a quagmire, it makes it especially delightful) and a bit of an odd one work-wise.  Went onto campus first thing as I had a meeting in the afternoon, so thought I may as well avail myself of the printing in the library.  It was a lot quieter there than it had been the previous week, so I guess most of the u/grad deadlines have passed now.  I did make the delightful discovery that they’re closing the library next week for the entire summer (June-Sept, inclusive) for refurbishments.  Sure, there’s going to be some kind of rump-library with a limited collection somewhere behind a porta-loo, but I really doubt that’ll have anything I can actually used.  Once again in the quest for the almighty under-grad experience rating/recruitment the post-graduate research student gets shafted.  *sigh*  Lucky I don’t need to be on campus much, but it basically takes away the only resource on campus that’s any use (let alone the only place that was fit to work).  This upgrade in facilities better make the library a shining beacon of excellence or there’s gonna be a whole lot of grumpy PGRs wandering around Clifton camps!

Ran off my printing, and a copy of an OA journal I read.  Then tinkered with my thesis chapter outline plan, as it was something my supervisors had expressed an interest in seeing.  There’s currently about 12 chapters in the plan, each of which has a brief bit of text associated with it to guide/remind me what it’s about.  I only started to create the paper for my Sheffield conference – or at least tidy up the template so when I come to start writing it next week that I can move swiftly on with it.

Then I went a picked up a huge pile of cultural/social theory books in preparation for research for chapter 4 of the thesis (not due to start on that until July, but planning ahead).  Boy were they heavy!

Ran out of anything too useful to do, so ended up reading the Guardian for the best part of an hour while I waited for my CRDC meeting to start.  As it was this ran on much longer than normal due to a long (and quite heated) discussion around changes the Graduate School had made to annual monitoring/project approval protocols; seemingly without involving the committee in them.  Seems this had caused a few ructions in some of the schools (though not mine), and provoked a looooooong discussion.  Hilariously for the second meeting in a row I was the sole student rep present; not sure why the others weren’t there (too wet? nothing to say?) but you could tell the academics from their schools were less than impressed.  Score one more point for me. 🙂

Came home around 4pm and finally had lunch and my second drink of the day, having forgotten to have anything earlier.  By the time I’d had that I’d lost the will to work, so ended up sorting out the bookshelves downstairs (they’ve been out for the last month while we had work done on the house)…which was sorta productive I guess.  Did end up having an email exchange long after hours with my fellow PhD tutor about marking schemes for the essays.  Looks like she’s dived right in to marking them already, so I can hopefully find out from her if there any hiccoughs!

Thursday

Excellent article by Tim Berkhead on how not to treat visiting speakers.  Having been a guest speaker on the odd occasion…thankfully I’ve never had quite such extreme experiences, but yeah, there have been times when you do wonder about the basic organisational skills of some of the people who arrange these things.

Brain escape!
Brain escape!

Today was filled mostly with editing.  And a spot of procrastination as my brain attempting to escape out of my ears as it was so bored looking at text on a screen.  Come back you grey thinky whale, I have need of you!

Friday

Editing. More editing.  A spot more editing.  Editing.  Whomever said “writing is rewriting” wasn’t kidding.  I’ve ended up essentially rewriting two huge sections from my chapter today.  However, it is now 66% on its way to a penultimate draft.  Looking like I’m on schedule to have it done and ready to share with my supervisors by the end of next week.  Sooner if I really crack on.  And crack on I shall…on Monday!

Most interesting event of the day, looks like I’m getting another publication out of an article I wrote a few months back.  There’s value for money…erm effort.  Best of all they want to use my twitter avatar as the author picture.  Much better idea than my mug shot!

In the meantime it’s the weekend, and I’m off to celebrate my favourite uncle’s birthday tomorrow.  Except we’re not allowed to mention the birthday.  So…just a friendly family visit it shall be!