Friday, January 27, 2012

Can anyone teach me to pole vault?

The end of another week and now I've got all but one of my results from last semester. Surprised and delighted with them but also a little worried. Managed to improve on last year but am thinking that I've gone and set the bar a little too high now. Having broken the mystical '70' in English, do I have it in me to keep up the pace? There's only one way to find out - just do it.

Being a cold, wet and miserable Saturday, nothing will tempt me out of the house (not even football) and, once I've finished procrastinating, will settle down to read. Waiting for me are Aristotle, Hume and Descartes for Philosophy modules, and Marie de France, Hazlitt, Wilde and Arnold for English, as well as three Medieval mystery plays. Secondary reading will have to wait until during the week, methinks!

Of course the housework will have to get done first so my that study area is clean and tidy; the grate needs cleaning out so I can light the fire and be warm while sitting reading and preparing meals to fuel the 'little grey cells' is essential. Is that procrastination? I can take it further by deciding that the fridge HAS to be cleaned out today or it really is time to clear out my inbox...

NO! NO! NO! It will take only a few minutes to bring the fire from last night back to life, make a snack and a coffee and clear enough space on the table for the books. If I want to get over my self-raised bar, there's only one way - keep on working. That is, unless there's someone out there who can teach me to pole-vault?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I spoke too soon!

Knew this would happen - we've suddenly been given a heap of reading to do for all courses and it was only yesterday that Blackboard got its act together and gave access to reading lists and links to all the online articles. Why do I always open my big mouth?

On the writing front, we had our first Creative Writing Seminar yesterday and I think it will be even better than I had hoped. Was as nervous as anything but we have the most amazing writer/lecturer: a polyglot Fullbright Scholar no less! We're going to be learning about writing from the publishing as well as the practical side and it should be the kick up the behind I need to put pen to paper more often. At the end of class we were given a topic and then told to write continuously on it for six minutes. I couldn't get over how the words flowed and, if you are interested, part of our course is to put what we write on the class Facebook page. Check out the page: "EN284a Writing Commercial Fiction".

This morning is 'Click and Connect' day so I've come in early to get some reading done for this evening's lecture - Hazlitt essays. Loved him in school and have a beautiful book of his poetry which I picked up many years ago in a poky second hand bookshop in England; one of those wonderful Aladdin's caves with shelves all over the place and nooks and crannies to explore.

Really can't stay here and chat so I'll leave with a 'vignette' from yesterday...

While working in a computer suite, a student very kindly gave me a lolipop, saying: "We have to look after our matures". And I thought I was still only a young one :-)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

The end of another week and I'm starting to find a rhythm to the new term. It's strange not having any early lectures and that makes it hard to motivate getting up in the mornings. At least we are now getting serious reading to do and time in the library is beginning to become part of the routine.

The new extra-curricular activities certainly make the days fly. This was the first week of the 'Click and Connect' programme. It's a short computing course for complete beginners which uses student volunteers to assist the tutor. As I've done this sort of thing on-and-off for years I figured it was a good idea to put my name forward. It's lots of fun and very rewarding. Most of the people we are teaching are in my age bracket or older and I'm enjoying showing them the 'magic' (as one lady called it) of computers. When keyboard skills are as natural as riding a bike, finding ways to explain the basics to someone who has never even used a typewriter is actually very humbling. What we take for granted can be a huge hurdle - even holding a mouse correctly is a new skill for some. These wonderful people, who want to be able to contact loved ones abroad, book holidays, pay bills, get access to the 'WWW' and even download knitting patterns, have so much to share with us. Coffee breaks are an education in themselves! One absolutely amazing gentleman has offered to come and fix a few things round the house for me and I'm going to prepare him some letterheads and standard letters to assist him in his new digital correspondence. All of us 'assistant tutors' are loving the experience and look forward to meeting our pupils again next week.

Another new departure for me is getting trained in the Socs Box. This is the hub for all the college societies and another learning experience and social outlet.Some of the slides on the campus tv screens next week will be mine :-). The staff and other volunteers are a lovely bunch and it's nice to be in a busy office environment again as well as get to meet lots of students I'd only known to see.

Work wise, the new courses are absorbing and not as heavy on the reading as last term - yet. Friday afternoon Ethics seminars are probably going to be the most fun and Modern Philosophy the hardest but, as we all agree, NOTHING can be as bad as Phenomenology. English is only warming up but I'm looking forward to the Creative Writing seminar which begins on Wednesday. As ever, the new semester brings new insights. I used to believe that my brain couldn't learn well in the evenings but, as I'm filling up a lot of my days with other things, necessity means that I've had to study after dinner and, much to my surprise, it's only been my preconception that prevented me from opening the books rather than flop in front of the goggle-box. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

Now it's my 'mothering' weekend and I have brought my youngest teenager to Galway as a treat. We're heading off to leave a book back to the library and mooch around some shops before our favourite joint past-time of watching football. Time to put on my Liverpool shirt and venture forth

Farewell for now :-)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

An amazing day

It didn't start out that way. For some reason, after eventually drifting off for a couple of hours sleep, at 4.30am I was wide awake at the same time as being exhausted. Needless to say, when the alarms went off shortly after I'd finally nodded off, it was a case of 'I'll get up the next time it rings' and ended up sleeping soundly at last and missing my morning lecture. What got me out of bed was a friend ringing unexpectedly to say he was in town and wanted to meet up. By the time he got to the house the kettle had boiled and the first caffeine of the day started to take effect.

The phone rang - my eldest son, who doesn't usually ring unless he wants something - had opened some mail which had arrived at the home house for me. To my amazement he telling me that I'd won a small scholarship for my 1st year results. I get to dress up and go to an awards ceremony and everything! Just as well I was at home when I got the news because it was such a wonderful bombshell. If only my dad was alive to go to the event with me. I can picture his face beaming with quiet pride at the success of another of his children.

The rest of the day went great - even got my first choice for English Seminar (Creative writing) and meetings and lecture were good. However, my overall emotion is one of gratitude - for the genetic heritage of my parents and grandparents; the fantastic education I was given as a child and the support and encouragement of my amazing family and friends. Without all the people behind me I'd never have got where I am now and this scholarship is as much down to them as the work I did last year.

Now just keep pushing me to continue the effort for the next 18 months :-)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

No... I wasn't dead!

I'm sorry for being so neglectful of this blog. There are lots of reasons why I've done no personal writing for weeks but no good excuses (if you know what I mean). At first it was a matter of trying to get five essays written and studying for the one and only end of term exam on History of Philosophy. Despite all the study I'd done during the semester, when it actually came to the point of doing the essays, it was like my mind went into total 'freeze' mode, just like a computer - all the data was inside, correctly filed, but the operating system went on the blink. Despite knowing what had to be done and being aware of time slipping away, I seemed to be as calm as a millpond; no feelings of anxiety that the essays wouldn't be completed on time (or that they'd even be sub-standard). It was a very strange place to be in.

Now I'm not going to bore you with details of my mental health; suffice to say that the little grey cells were too busy worrying about a load of things that had nothing to do with college and the part of me that has to be kept under control with a little white pill and lots of determination every day had somehow managed to shut the rest of me out. Eventually I roped in some outside help and made the most of the NUIG Health Promotion unit and the de-stress programme. Would recommended it for everyone as, after the first treatment and a good chat (and a cry), I got a few hundred words written that afternoon!

Once the floodgates had been opened, on all fronts, the end of term flew by and before I knew it Christmas was here. Had a lovely time at home with all the lads for two weeks and completely chilled out. Did a little study but mostly let my mind do its own thing while I got on with the serious business of making and eating lots of delicious food for us all and being 'Mum'.

Now it's a week into the new term and a whole new set of modules and timetable to come to grips with. Have two compulsory courses in Philosophy this semester so have chosen the History of Ethics to go with Language & Logic and Modern Philosophy. In English I've picked Literary Theory and Criticism and, for fun, Medieval Drama with Frances McCormack. Just waiting with fingers crossed to hear which Seminar they give me this time round. If I don't get one of my top 3 choices I'll go nuts!

What else is new? Well, I walked in every day bar Friday (twice on Wednesday), only to develop sciatica in my left leg... so much for trying to get fit. The Philosophy Society has got off to a great new year and I'm looking forward to our showing of The Meaning of Life this week :-) Tomorrow I start a new volunteering venture - tutoring people in basic computer skills.

Yep! I'm back in the land of the living.