I was out and about this evening and, amongst other things, taking a few pictures of the Christmas lights. I really really wanted to include pictures of the George Square Christmas lights especially for derf as I know she loves them so much and they’re one of the main things she misses about Glasgow (*cough*). Sadly all of my pictures of the bling were rubbish, but I was rather pleased with this one, which is of the sheet of dinky little lights that are draped from the Gallery of Modern Art to the shops on either side, a little way down from George Square, and which I think are lovely.
In other news, I had the last of this year’s tutorials today – hooray! No more till the end of January (just don’t mention the essays).
Apparently the student reps had their meeting with the department today and were very complimentary about me. Which is great (although not great enough to diminish the fact that in just over a week I am going to get 80 of their essays dumped on me from on high. Yes it’s that time again, oh joy). And, it really has left me mystified. Nothing to do with false modesty (“oh shucks, you don’t really mean that”). It’s just that loads of them look so bored and vacant in the tutorials I was convinced they hated them and was getting really paranoid about it.
Perhaps I should introduce whoopie cushions into the tutorials. That’d loosen them up a bit.
I do occasionally* have a tendency to be anxious about things that really don’t merit me using up such a large amount of emotional energy. My teaching is one such thing – now that my teaching day is officially Tuesday, I found both last week (the first tutorials of the new academic year) and this week that on Monday evening and (especially) Tuesday morning I felt physically sick, anxious, and really wanted to be ill enough that I could phone in sick. Isn’t that awful? It’s the strangest thing – I never used to be like this, whereas I remember my sister at school often getting stomach aches on the first day of term, and one of my godsons sometimes experienced a similar thing on Sunday nights knowing that he had to go to school the next day. When I was young it didn’t bother me at all, but now I’m a little bit older** it gets me every week. I know it’s irrational, but today I felt so anxious on the bus in to uni, almost a sense of dread, it was horrible, and not helped by the fact that (probably due to the anxiety) I hardly slept at all last night. And it was all so pointless – the tutorials all went really well, much better than last year, and I felt much more like I had a handle on the topics (whereas last year I was totally winging it).
In other news, after all the tutorials I then met up with my Romanian teacher for my first proper Romanian lesson since I was away in Romania in the summer. It was great! I have been really aware that now that I’m no longer in an environment where I have to think and speak in a different language it would be really easy to lose all the language I learnt there, not to mention losing the confidence to speak, but we ended up talking pretty much solidly in Romanian for an hour and a half, and she couldn’t believe the difference from last year, when she knew I understood lots but I simply wasn’t confident enough to speak very much. I got such a buzz, and I’m so pleased that I can still do it, I haven’t forgotten it all and I can even joke convincingly (I think she particularly enjoyed my confession of a mistake I made when I was staying in Cluj with the host family – I was trying to describe a strawberry pudding I’d eaten and liked, but temporarily forgot the word for strawberry, just remembering that it started with c, so I just used the first foodstuff beginning with c that came into my head hoping I’d guessed right. After the laughter had subsided I realised that onion dessert probably wasn’t what I was intending to rhapsodize about).
* well, OK, maybe a bit more than that!
** well, OK, maybe a lot older!
So, I survived supervision and it was useful for me and thankfully they didn’t rip me to bits. I’m currently full of good intentions, let’s see how long they last.
Good thing is that I miscounted as I’d forgotten about Easter Monday, which means I actually only have 15 tutorials to go, not 16. Hooray!
Currently my main intellectual concern is trying to figure out how to get the cereal bar crumbs out of my keyboard. Oops.
PS Mary yes I’ll see you in just over a week. Have just realised it will be the Mothers’ Day service – promise me it won’t be too cheesy! (I seem to remember last year attending the early Morning Prayer service instead!)
Before I moved here I shared my angst at discovering that one of my week’s tutorial tasks was ominously titled “Role play exercise based on lectures”. Oh well I thought at the time, at least I don’t have to do it till the last week of February.
And, oh joy, here we are at that joyous week. I’m trying really hard not to make it painful for them, but basically, it’s Painful with a capital Everything.
I haven’t dared look at the feedback forms yet.
Our Department Secretary has just told me that in the staff meeting this morning (which I missed, oh dear how sad never mind) they agreed that from next academic year I can do my tutorials (5 in total) over 2 days rather than having just one per day. Which means that it will be easier to occasionally work from home, or attend conferences without facing a timetable rescheduling nightmare, or really get into a block of work without then having to stop what I’m doing to go to the tutorial (or not, as the case may be – see last week’s blog :o). At the moment I have to come in every single day, and on Thursday and Friday the tutorial is the only thing I have to be here for, so it’s a bit galling to currently have to do over 3 hours of travelling just to be in uni for an hour. Very pleased that they saw my point. (It may even mean that I could get a part-time job, but I’ll need to be careful to remember to factor in enough time for my research. But it’s something to think about)
I went to the gym today, but undid all my good work after a fight with the photocopier (I lost). I was so cheesed off I went and bought some chocolate. Whoops. I keep meaning to give up chocolate but I think I left my willpower in London.
During this morning’s tutorial I became aware of the fact that my trainers smell Very Bad Indeed. I hadn’t even taken them off, I was still wearing them. Of course, curling my feet up under the chair to hide them made all the difference in taking the smell away. Lovely.
Still feeling cheesed off* about the essay marking. I finally got to formally meet the Prof of the Department yesterday, he’s an absolutely lovely, gentle man, and he was clearly very grateful that my position had been created and that I am taking on the Level 1 essays. In fact, he told me that when he had heard I was going to do all the essay-marking he had thought that Christmas had come. I nearly cried. My Christmas (and the next 3 after that) are well and truly screwed because of this. He said that in previous years the lecturers had discussed marking each others’ essay questions but had decided that as they didn’t know so much about each others’ subjects that was a bad idea, and he also said that sometimes he gets as many as 40 essays and how tough that is. So what do they do – give me twice as many when I don’t know anything about any of their subjects, and have Christmas off. Gah. I know it will be really good experience for my CV and all the rest of it (that ‘good’ just got typoed as ‘ogod’, which is probably more apt), but it’s just overwhelming – I want to start getting my head round my own research (which I still feel I’m not working hard enough at or have enough time for), plus once I’ve moved house I need to sort out getting some nursing work to ease the financial strain. I really really want to get a life, but it’s just not happening 🙁
Yesterday I met a couple of students who have changed to our course so will start coming to the tutorials. One of them was really anxious that she hadn’t got History A’level and thought that might be a disadvantage. She looked relieved when I told her I didn’t have a history background at all – I thought better though of telling her my only qualification was when I got History O’level 20 years ago, mostly because it can’t really have been 20 years ago, surely – I’m so not that old.
* considerable understatement
I had my 4-weekly meeting with my supervisors this morning, and I have to say (again) that I’m really worried I’m missing something. I was a bit apprehensive because, what with the language learning, tutoring, and free internet access meaning I spend way too much time here, I don’t actually think I’ve done very much at all in the way of work towards my PhD. But when I went through the paltry amount of work that I’ve done, and made up on the spot what I’ll do for the next 4 weeks, my supervisors both kept going on about how impressed they were that I’d done so much so early on and how much thought I’d clearly given it, and I’m now slightly paranoid – I’m sure it should be harder than this.
Mind you, if I do half of the top-of-the-head stuff I came up with for the next month I’ll be pooped. They also suggested I get my head round NVivo, which is a qualitative research computer package which (apparently, after the initial setting-up) will make structuring and analysing my data a lot easier. I’ll have to set aside a little time for that, as it will take me a little while to get my head round the transition from random bits of paper and post-it notes. I think it will be worth it though, not least because the post-it notes may soon be commandeered elsewhere into covering every item I own to help me with my Russian vocab. Mixing notes for complex academic studies in with notes saying “wardrobe” and suchlike I suspect would add to my stress somewhat.
One good thing that came out of the supervision session was that I highlighted my paltry salary (I worked out over the weekend that once I start paying for my mortgage I’m going to have very little left for everything else, and so got a bit stressed about it), and they are going to try to see if they can get it raised for next year (though obviously they can’t make any promises). They were under the impression that what I’m being paid was similar to what I’d have got if I’d been successful with ESRC funding (which apparently went up quite a bit this year). They were quite shocked when they realised how much less I’m getting, despite doing work for them as well as my own research. So although it won’t make any difference to me this academic year, hopefully it will prompt a payrise for next year (and will mean that I’m less under pressure to do more nursing than I want to). Fingers crossed.
In other news, I saw the first of my tutorial groups giving their presentations this afternoon. And I’m so proud of them! They had obviously done a lot more work than I have, and although they all complained that none of the books were in the library (welcome to university life, better get used to it) they still managed to come up with tons of information. I’m so pleased – if they keep this up it will make tutoring much less of a hassle and much more of a pleasure.
I can feel a whiny self-indulgent post coming on – it’s been brewing for a while 😀 Unfortunately, although the alarm didn’t go off till 7.30 this morning (luxury!) I’m still feeling a bit dribbly and incoherent and sleep-deprived, so I’ll wait till I’ve caught up on sleep before I embarrass myself. I’ll probably think better of it when I’m not so knackered.
So instead, I shall declare that I had a gym induction this morning, with a very very cute instructor (though he was a bit skinny, oh well nobody’s perfect). So things aren’t all bad.
Yesterday’s Romanian lesson was excellent. We had started last week working through a book that my teacher had which, to be honest, was a bit too easy but which I thought would be good for me to get back into the swing of things. However, I put the wrong stuff in my bag yesterday morning (well it was too early – my eyes weren’t fully open) and so didn’t have the right material with me, so instead we did a lot more conversation and I think she was surprised by how much I understood. We ended up conversing about everything from my tutorials to the new flat to buying bookshelves from a well-known Swedish furniture store. And for next time we shall start digging out articles from “Romania Libera” on health so that we can have some topical conversation about stuff that will be relevant for my PhD. So I’m feeling good about that.
I have another tutorial in a few minutes. I’m starting to get a bit bored with them already. This is not good, seeing as I have to do them 5 times a week for the next 4 years! Maybe I shall have to start hiding whoopie cushions in the classroom or suchlike, to make them a bit more entertaining.
A couple of hours after the tutorial I sat in on the Level 1 lecture for the course I’m tutoring. The girl I was sitting next to happened to have been in the tutorial today. The lecturer (my supervisor, coincidentally) asked us to turn to the person next to us (ooh, just like church! Ick!) and discuss our thoughts on the topic (about which I knew precisely nothing). So she turned to me, realised it was me and said
“Oh it’s you! You already know everything!”
Part of me thought “Oh ****, is that what they really think?”
And the other part of me had a Homer Simpson-type moment and thought “Heheheh, actually I am pretty cool.”
But I won’t think that for long. Reality will hit soon enough 🙂