Rediscovering Research

I have made it through four years of teaching high school. I think I can take another few, although this year had me questioning myself and my ability to handle a class, and engage certain students. There were definitely times when I was thinking about running away and joining a circus. It would have been quieter, for one thing.

More importantly, however, I think I really must get on with writing the book which has been fermenting in the back of my brain for the last umpteen years. Discussions with SH, my dear supervisor, lead to her throwing a pile of reading material at me, with instructions to do better. Then one of my friends from the library in SmallTown sent me a copy of History Today, a journal claiming some form of historicity. In it was an article by Michael Green about Wynnflaed’s Will, which I thought would be useful. Turns out there are NO footnotes or refererences, which further goes to show that I can’t be more useless than that.

I’m not really looking at creating an academic piece – possibly more of a coffee-table book, except that illustrations are pricey! What I really want to write about women and their role in the recreation of Englishness. This was part of my thesis – the part that others didn’t care that much about, but which I loved. So much of the focus of National Identity is focused on men, male writers, and with no mention even of women, but I am certain that women played a key part in the re-emergence of English as a language, and Englishness as something to aspire to.

So, whatever else happens next year, I am going to be plodding away at this. Queens, Saints and Commoners: Women and the re-writing of Englishness will be coming to a store, or screen, near you at some point. The only minor issue being that the section on “saints” is the only bit researched so far. Sure, I can do this. Actually, is anyone interested in helping? I could really do with an Art Historian, because a lot of the info on “commoners” is in illustrations.

And, as a starting point, I’ll be getting William of Malmesbury out again, because I love how he writes.


Quick Update

Oh, good grief!  The best laid plans of want-to-be-school-teachers-come-bloggers gang aft agley.  Cutting a long story short – I made it through Teacher’s College, was chased and hired by my second secondment school*, and had a whale of a time teaching my first year while my husband (also a PhD struggling for a job) followed me through TC, and ended up with a job this year in the same school.  This year has felt like more of a struggle, partly because I have some different classes, so am doing a lot more new preparation, while helping with the school production for the whole first term of this year.

Medieval-wise, the school I am teaching at uses the Cambridge curriculum, which is not common in NZ.  This means that Shakespeare is taught from at least Year 6, and I had so much fun with my Year 8s and Romeo and Juliet last year.  And Richard III with the Year 12s.  But best of all, this year I am teaching The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale to the Year 13s.**  Teaching is great, but it has felt so good to get back into some Chaucer over the past little while.  Watching the student’s eyes glaze over was a bit concerning, but we’ll get there.  There’s not that much difference between Year 13 and First Years at Uni, and I have 8 weeks to get them to the point where they can read and appreciate the text.

Being on the Cambridge curriculum has made it harder to integrate with other teachers using NCEA, so I haven’t been very ‘present’ online.  This is about to change (say I, with a hollow laugh, because I’ve said this before!) as I am going to be using this space as a way to keep track of my reflections, and share with you some of the things which are working, and some which are not.

So once again, Dear Reader (if you exist), I invite you to join me on a new journey, as I delve into the frustrating, yet fulfilling, world which is High School Teaching.

*OMG!  After so many years of rejection, it felt so strange to be wanted!  And they wanted to pay me!  Money, actual money!  I might one day, own a home after all. Just not in this city, because the housing market has gone mad.  But that’s a post for another blog.

** After beating out my husband for teaching the Year 13s.  The very kind VP wanted to help me, by letting me repeat teaching the Year 12s, but I explained to them that making my husband (a Romantic) teach Chaucer was akin to making a physicist teach the best bits of the Chemistry course, and being a Chemist, the VP got my point.

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!

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.

Let’s try again

Okay, so last week didn’t end up being much better -writing wise. Put it aside, and move on.

This week, the focus is on getting the rest of my notes written up into full sentences. Then, when I get back to uni next week, and get library access again, I can start some of the secondary research. I suppose I also have to finish reading a rather annoying book, as well. That can be next week’s problem.