Waiting to teach

So, another long-overdue update.  All job opportunities fell through, until I had been enrolled at Teachers’ College for two weeks, by which time, I was quite enjoying myself, and so actually turned down a job which was offered.  Tomorrow, I begin my first placement in a small high school, and I’m looking forward to seeing live test subjects, I mean students, very much.

There was a great presentation by @MissDtheTeacher at TCol last week, on the use of social media and various e-learning channels, and in response to that, I have gotten my twitter account up and running (with the same user-name as this) so as to track and interact with people who use exciting new learning and teaching methods.  Thus, once again, this blog will take on a slightly different slant, as a way of commenting on (and hopefully discussing) new ideas, and older ideas.

One thing I am passionate about in teaching (and yes, I will be teaching English…) is reading.  I really want to work out ways to encourage students to read, and to enjoy reading.  I understand that students might not like quite the same geeky things that I like, but I really want to focus on ways of helping those who are struggling, and encourage those who are enjoying it.  As part of the English curriculum course I’m taking, we’ve been reading Young Adult novels and writing quick descriptions of them.  I’ve enjoyed some – usually the urban fantasy or sci-fi – and struggled with the normal, every-day life kind of ones.*  The more I read, the more I’ll have to recommend to students, but I also understand that some won’t want to read fiction – because fiction is not real life.  How does one explain the value of escape, or imagination, to those sort of people?  What do you like reading?

Experience from tutoring at uni suggests that those who read more write better too.  Of course, I’m going to be working on teaching students how to write properly, and the value of checking and rechecking drafts, but I want their writing to be informed by their reading as well.  And when I think of this, I run up against all sorts of issues I’ve been having while taking notes for the various classes. Spelling is not my strong suit (Middle English is much more forgiving!), though I seem to be able to spell better, with less thought, while typing than when writing with a pen.  This means I’ll have to be careful when working on the board, but will also hopefully show students that dyslexia is not something which needs to stop you from doing things – even teaching things!

So, if you have any hints on teaching reading or writing at high school level, or useful links, let me know!

*For Instance: At the moment, I’m reading something called Populazzi by Elise Allen, and I’m struggling.  The book is so pink!  And the girl is all taken up with ideas of the boy who she might be dating, or not dating, and I find it really hard to care, even though I remember marrying myself off to any number of dreamy boys at that age – not one of whom I had the guts to approach!

Hellooo, 2014

I think it’s safe to say that 2013 was seriously derailed. In many ways. And I am so glad that year is over. One more hour, and there’s a whole new year to play with/muck up.

Looking Back
My last post here was sometime in June – at which point I got a permanent position in a library, had to drive 140k a day to-and-from work, and started to totally ignore the Museum Studies papers I was doing. I ended up being a zombie when I arrived home from work, and despite only working 3 1/2 days a week, I was exhausted.

Since the end of December, I’ve been on secondment to a much much closer library. I arrive at work 10 mins after dropping of my other half, rather than 50 mins. My other half can come and meet me at the library when their work is over. I get home, and still feel like I have some life in me. (On the financial side, we’re also saving at least one tank of petrol a week, $70 or so, and working 2 extra hours makes it another $30 a week – so that a whole $100 better for two months! Such small sums, but they make a difference!)

Things I have learnt this year include:
a) Museum Studies are not really my thing. Museums still are, and I have some ideas of how to make them useful in the future, but I really only passed those papers by the skin of my teeth;
b) Librarianing is not really my thing. I enjoy the contact with people, the regular hours, and having books in their right places. I do not foresee a future for me in libraries, however, as anything I’d like to do further, which would actually use any brain-power, requires Library and Information Studies, and what I’ve seen of them bore me silly. Given how hard I found completing papers in Museum Studies, there’s no way I’m putting myself through that. I’ve done enough study, surely!?!?
c) Teaching is my thing. I took (as in, convened) a Continuing Education (read – Adult Education, for fun and curiosity, with no essays or grades) paper at the local university in the second half of the year – just a quick 6 week intro to Old English. Walking into that classroom on the first day, after 6 months away from teaching, just set me buzzing. Somehow, I have to make teaching a part of my future. Already, I have another “Intro to Old English” lined up, followed by a “Reading Beowulf”.

Looking Forward
Where is this going, then? And what does it mean for this blog? Who knows? Beyond the 28th of January, when my secondment ends, I have no clue what I am doing. I will go back to working in TinyTown for a week or so, because I want to say goodbye.

Given my interest in teaching, I have applied for Teachers’ College next year. However, I have strong reservations about that – I like teaching adults, people who want to learn. I have a romantic dream that I could be a teacher who makes a difference, who takes kids with no desire to read, and makes them all poets and play-wrights, but I’m not sure I have the stamina for it. Also, another year of study, of student debts, and not enough income…

I am also applying for various adult teaching roles around the place. I think Foundation Studies, and helping people who want to do further education, but are struggling with traditional forms of learning, would be very rewarding, and occasionally exciting. I had very good feedback from one place where I was rejected, so I’m reasonably confident I can get something in this area. I’m afraid some places will want me to do a course in Adult Education (you need the _right_ bit of paper for everything, here in NZ – they don’t seem to believe in transferable skills!), but if they’re willing to hire me, I’m willing to do a month-long Certificate.

As for writing… A couple of interesting academic type things came up last year, and I’m afraid I let them pass me by. I’m planning on spending my January as a Novel-Writing Month – it’s summer, and apart from job applications, there’s nothing much important which I need to do. So I will be up-dating (daily?) at least through January! Beyond that, we’ll see. I’m supposed to be doing some research in early printed books for a retired professor, but have not been able to do much these last months. Over January, I will spend one day a week in a private library, and another day volunteering with a DefenceForce Museum. So I should have interesting things to write about.

Looking forward, 2014 has got to be better than 2013!
Happy New Year!

Another one bites the dust.

So, I managed to get my essay off in time.  2,500 words, with 20 sources/references, left me little space to actually say anything, and, as usual, I have no idea how good it was/wasn’t.  I only came up with a decent outline the day before it was due, but by that time I had 1,400-odd words of notes.  So, trimming them a bit left me some room to tie them all together.  And since then, I’ve been more avidly avoiding writing.  

This is despite the fact that one of the avoidance techniques I used was clearing my office at last.  The calendar on the wall read March 2010.  I cleared out 10 file-boxes of thesis stuff.  I rediscovered floor space, and about 7 partly used notebooks. I have a problem with buying pretty notebooks, or even serviceable ones, and then either not using them at all, or  writing a page or two, and then forgetting the notebook exists, or hating the sight of my hand-writing, or the pomposity of the content, and not touching them again.  I am going to put them all in a line on a shelf, and work my way through them.  At least one can be used for my novel!

Writing Involves Reading

Once again, I realise that, in order to do any of the writing I need to do (either for courses, or for my ‘novel’) I need to read. How much do I need to read? The answer is always ‘more’.

However, I feel that the post-grad paper I’m trying to write (which won’t get a widget, because it’s only 2,500 words) is rather prescriptive in its lay-out. I guess they’re more used to dealing with people who’ve done more practical under-grads, like archaeology, or anthropology. Being told to use “at least 20 major sources” and to “remember to rely primarily on refereed journals” is rather strange, until you remember that ‘post-grad’ could mean this is the student’s first paper/course outside of undergrad. I wouldn’t have even thought to look at unrefereed journals, and nor would I have gone straight to the museums’ web-pages (which are not to make up more than 20% of our references) to answer the question. Different strokes for different folks…

In other projects, I’m currently reading a very well-written biography of St Catherine of Siena, which is making me re-think the scope/angle of the novel I’m wanting to / trying to write. I want it to be historically based, and even to use primary sources. I’m just trying to work out how that might fit into a speculative non-fiction text.

Also, note that I’m avoiding writing by writing about writing. Go me!

Progress at last!

I know. Once again, it has been far too long since I wrote anything here. On the other hand, I actually have some news this time. I have finished (for a given value of finished) my article and sent it off.

Work and not having a regular office in town have been hindering my writing. However, I think I now have a system up, and when I get to work at home, I have managed to get a fair bit done. Thus, it was only two days of solid work to finish the missing 3,000 words. Now, why didn’t I think of that sooner?

The buzz of finishing the article was soon eclipsed by the realisation that I now have essays due for my Museum Studies. I guess I will get back to work. Tomorrow.

And there shall be work on my novel. It might take the form of actual writing in a book, but that’s something I can do at the library.

Quick check in

So, last week I planned on reading a book for review, planning an article, and writing for my novel. None of that got done, as my new job was physically and mentally exhausting. However, I’m working on being less mentally wiped out at the end of the day this week, and also putting my article planning front and centre. Other writings can take a back seat this week.

Tune in next week, to find out if I got anything done. What might help with actual action is the fact I’m visiting my ex-supervisor for dinner next weekend, and would like to have something physical to discuss with her.

Happy 2013

Happy New Year!

This year is looking very exciting, and quite different from previous years. On Monday, I start a new job as a casual librarian in TinyTown, about half an hour’s drive from the centre of MainTown. This is a very basic job, and I’m back to almost minimum wage, but I am starting a new life, and indications are that I will move on up the ladder at a reasonable rate.

This ‘reasonable rate’ is, in part, aided by the fact that, in March, I will be starting a post-grad diploma in Museum Studies, and both papers I am taking this year can be applied equally to libraries and museums. Because, in the second half of last year, as I was questioning my worth, and my studies, and wondering how I could try and make a go of finding a job outside of Academia, the thing which most appealed was something to do with museums. This would mean not entirely invalidating my PhD, and would also mean I get involved in actual things, objects, items one can touch and hold. (Combine museum stuff with libraries, and what do you get? MANUSCRIPTS!)

The two papers I’ll be doing mean a bit of study, which is why I’m pleased that my library job is casual – as in, ‘on call’. I hope that I’ll get enough work from the library job, while having enough time to do the studies. (Cue doom-y music!)

And, to further add to the year, I’m volunteering at the BigMuseum in MainTown. This gets my foot in the door, gives me valuable experience, and helps me to see what areas I want to work in. Also, it will give me something to do when the library doesn’t need me. My first task is pretty straight-forward – filing donation letters – but the point is, as with the library job, that I’ll be there, getting experience, making contacts, and, as the woman I’ll be supervised by said, I’ll be on-hand for the next object-handling course, and once I’ve done that, they can get me into collections work. Whoopeeee!

The question you might be asking, at this stage, is “Why are you telling me all this? Are you still going to be using this blog for writing-related stuff?” Obviously there was a lot of soul-searching which went on off-stage, as it were, while I decided that the image I had of academia, and my place in it, was a wild fantasy, at least 30, or more probably 50, years out of date. The relief of not having to fight for an academic placing was great, but the minute I thought “I don’t need to work on writing articles to get me a job”, I had lots of ideas about articles. So, while you can take the academia away from me, I don’t think you’ll take the academic. I’m still a medievalist, and still intend to write about things which interest me, and get articles published. (And I’ll still need deadlines, and people to be accountable to.)

So, to get started, here is a list of writing projects for this year:
1) 800-word book review due by 15th March;
2) 6000-word article due by 1st April (first draft), for a conference in June and publication;
3) 2-3000 words a month on my novel (which has been in _vague_ planning form for years now!).

Thus, I had better get cracking. This week’s goals are:
1) Read the book;
2) Plan something more concrete for the article;
3) Write for an hour a day on the novel.

The overall goal is to get into the habit of writing for two hours a day. There is no real excuse for not doing this.

Look forward to weekly updates!