February 2008

I should have known better: it is useless to start working on your thesis when you have only one day for delving into the literature. On Wednesday and Thursday I had to drive to My City and work in the office. My office hours were packed with students who already have handed in their papers (due at the end of March) and wanted to hear my feedback.
Plus I had assigned my seven undergraduate final examination candidates to show up. Last week I had written an email and told them to come on Wednesday to discuss their research paper (which they have to hand in in a little bit more than two weeks from now on – that is an official date which I cannot change). I told them to send me their outline, introduction and research question the LATEST by Monday (and to be fair – they knew that I want to see the above mentioned within the first two of the four weeks they officially have time for their paper). Anyway – some of them did not respond to my email. One handed in her introduction the night to Wednesday and showed up around noon, expecting to receive valuable comments from my side. Luckily I had found some spare minutes to read it because one meeting in the morning had ended earlier than expected, but I wonder what she was thinking my day looks like: just procrastinating around until a paper shows up to be read?

And to top it two of my students from the summer semester showed up to hand in their paper (which was due at the end of September, just as a side note) and ask me for their grade immediately as they need the record of having the course completed to enroll in another. Wtf?
I told them to come back tomorrow and spent the evening reading their paper. Luckily it is a pass/fail class, so I have not think think about a grade. Unfortunately the paper is so bad that it is more a fail. Anyway – I handed her the required piece of paper that they have completed the course after they promised me to rewrite it – after one of them is done with her undergraduate final exam which she is taking with me. She was one of the students who had not responded to my email as well. On Wednesday I told her to write the introduction asap and hand it in so we can discuss it the next day. She showed up on Thursday and gave me half a page which was her introduction. At least she had come up with a reasonable research question, but I had to cross out half of her writing because it was not focusing on the question but raising even more questions. We spend about an hour on her paper and outline.
Again – that is a part of my job I love and I wish some of my colleagues would take more seriously. I am always surprised when the students tell me that my feedback was the first they have received for their papers. No wonder some of their papers are so poorly written. The transition from school to university is not well assisted.
But I am still wondering how to manage the feedback of 93 papers-I need time to read them, think about useful comments, and then meet with the students for feedback. And after being so frustrated about the afternoon class this one-to-one interaction is important to me. Normally I knew all names at least by the end of the semester, but this time they were just too many-and some of them never participated in class. It is not part of the departmental grading tradition to give a grade for class participation, but I think that would have been a solution. On the other hand, reading about the problems with figuring out just grades for participation I think it would have set up new problems as well. Oh well.
The afternoon was not meant to work on my own work, so when a student came to pick his letter of recommendation (which he asked me to write on Tuesday, he needs it by Friday) I told him that he really should rewrite his state of purpose (which I had told him to send me in order to know what he was applying for). I offered him to go through the weak points together and another hour was spent.
Now I am back the MyNewlyWedToMeHusband’sCity, having time until Tuesday evening to write a draft of Chapter One to hand it in. And I feel it is a restart as I have to read again what I read last Tuesday. I really really need a longer period of time that is not interrupted by other work to delve into my own research. I will not get a job without my dissertation being completed. So – not procrastination until Tuesday. Back to work my dear. Oy.

Get up early – check
Have a proper breakfast – check
Answer all emails from my students – check
Have a huge mug full of coffee standing on my desk – check
Now lets start writing chapter One.

if the editor has such a precise idea how the article is supposed to be written and does not really want to consider the suggestions made by the freelancing author – why is he hiring a freelancer anyway and does not write the article by himself?

just wondering.

The first week without classes is over and I have been busy working on those piles of tasks and deadlines that have accumulated.
So far I have handed in a contribution for a booklet. It will not be an academic outstanding item on my publication list but I am paid for it and having received my first pay slip after announcing my marriage and the change of wage tax classification [which causes that I earn less, a topic for itself] I desperately need the money.

Besides the publication I did the second part of a workshop, substituting for my again sick colleague (paid as well.). I made some suggestions for other workshops and maybe they might hire me again next semester.

I finished a book review which will be published (and it sounds way nicer than I had intended at the beginning).

Having worked off most of the tasks, my plan is to sit down and consider my next steps in writing my thesis. I really really really need to get it done. If only I was not receiving the first of the to be expected 93 papers of my students. And inside I am still grumbling with myself how the afternoon session worked out, wondering and knowing what I could have done better. That was definitely not my best semester.
But enough of last semester! It is semester break and I want to use the time for writing the first chapter. In one week I have to hand in the draft for discussion with PD and BD. Oh, and I had to present my state-of-the-thesis (and my research question and way how to answer it) to my colleagues and my thesis advisor at the beginning of the month. Not that I had gotten done anything since September, but they were so not up to date with my work that it was no problem in presenting something. Anyway, I have not found time to think about their comments nor figuring out which of them is useful and which useless.

Tomorrow morning I will finish the four-page summary for the above mentioned booklet, thinking about some nice visualization, and in the afternoon I am finally finally turning towards my dear thesis. If that does not sound like a good start of the week I do not know.

for the release of 29 version 3.

I knock on wood heavily that this version runs way more smoothly than the last update.