Your favourite blogs
I don’t know that I have any particular favourite blogs, more that I enjoy reading whatever appears on my feed, usually thematically – travel, languages, history.
Thoughts on Education
We’ve been here before on this topic!
I believe in education as a means to progress, to move forward and upward – stepping out of the cave and into the light. But I also believe in education for education’s sake. The reduction of learning to testing and scoring and grading really defeats the point of education. We’re supposed to learn so we know, not memorise to get an A. And I’m speaking as someone who rarely gets As, even now in my masters… I don’t really care. I’ve long since accepted that there are people who just get the system and know how to ‘hack’ their work to fit what is asked for, and I’ve seen myself work my arse off doing what I believe to be the right thing only for it to be handed back with a limp grade and red pen marks telling me I didn’t get it…
Education shouldn’t be elitist and exclusionary, but it is. Education should be for everyone, should be free and easy to access in whatever form is most suitable for a person. Not everyone can up sticks and move across the country to attend a uni for five years to earn their degree, more needs to be done online and more accessible online… that includes the fees and making the internet far cheaper, if not free. Let everyone have a chance.
Hell, make it as easy to get into education as it is to apply for Big Brother. Open the floodgates, let the people learn!
Meet Dippy the Diplodocus. He’s on tour around the UK having left the Natural History Museum in London for the first time since 1905. His show is on the road until 2020 and is next heading to Newcastle on 18th May, having just wrapped up a several month stint in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
Dippy is a beautiful big beastie who originally roamed the earth 150 million years ago, munching on leaves and hanging out with his dino friends. I can’t help but be reminded of The Land Before Time and Disney’s Dinosaur, so excuse me while I wipe away my tears.
If you are a paleo purist (ancient bones, not the diet) then maybe Dippy wasn’t your thing, he is a replica – plaster cast of the original Dippy in residence in Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History. However, I don’t care, because it’s thanks to Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist, that we over here have a Dippy to look at! Carnegie financed the excavation of Dippy in Wyoming in 1899 and they later discovered it was a new species, thus named the
Diplodocus carnegii. As a favour to King Edward VII, Carnegie faithfully reproduced the bones of the original at the cost of $2000 back in 1902 and gifted them to the Natural History museum in London.
Most people know how much Kelvingrove means to me, it’s my hang out place when I can get there; where my interests in art, history and old buildings converges so for that to be the temporary home of Dippy’s Scottish visit, I couldn’t have asked for more. Picture it, me in all my 30 years turning up with my pater and the two of us nerding out worse than the kids swarming around.
Even though the photos show other people as scale, it still doesn’t do justice to how massive Dippy actually is. He towered over the adults, nevermind the kids and weighs in at a hefty 20,000kg (alive, I’m sure).
I had to zoom in to get his wee face, and felt so small and insignificant. Really makes me wonder about people who deny the existence of dinosaurs – we might mostly be top of the food chain these days, but we’re all fairly tiny and annoying.
It was a great day out to visit Dippy and I can only hope that there have been countless children inspired by seeing him. I may have ended up at the merch shop and may have acquired a Dippy soft toy for a small fortune…
Kelvingrove is a free-entry museum and is open nearly all year-round from 10/11-5pm everyday. There are accessible entry points from both the Argyle Street and car park entrance. There are two cafés serving hot and cold drinks and light foods, the basement café serving meals as well. The basement features different installations and the two gift shops sell the permanent and temporary merchandise. There is artwork from Dalí and the Dutch Masters to the exhibits of Ancient Egypt and Scottish Wildlife, so there is definitely something for all to see.
First things first, my last post was officially my 100th post! Woo hoo! I think I’m happy with it, or maybe I believed I’d posted more. Anyway, here’s to another hundred.
Monday was the recommencement of the Monday study sessions in town. My Italian class starts back next week, so I used this time to haul my laptop and notebooks with me to work on my Creative Writing assessment. It was a fairly early start (for me) and I was in the library for 12pm and a giant coffee to get things started. Unfortunately, for the first few hours we had to make do with a drafty round table, but later we got using a booth (not the usual one, but good enough). I’m a bit like Rory needing her study tree, I’m a creature of habit!
I’m terrible for procrastinating, even when something is right in front of me to be done. I also put it down to being more of an evening, nighttime worker but needs must and since being ill my sleeping pattern has improved somewhat. But I had my checklists and tried not to overdo the pressure with the tasks I wanted to complete yesterday. In the end wrote 1700 words for my assessment which is sufficient as the bones of a first draft, it’s not due until the end of January but I can’t leave it because who knows what is around the corner.
The great thing about this library is that it is much warmer than the one in Aberdeen. Granted I felt chilly at points throughout the day, but most of that was to do with the draft from the door way and my brain wanting to curl up and go back to bed.
My plan now is to rework the draft into something I can share to the forums for feedback (I missed the workshop deadline – didn’t have anything to submit), then I have to start worrying about the commentary. It’s a horrible exercise of only 500 words which I apparently still don’t have the hang of. I ought to message my tutor for help, but what can she tell me that hasn’t already been shared in our groups online?
I need to remember more study snacks for the next library session, I had some food, but there’s nothing dairy-free or vegan as options at the coffee shop or canteen as a snack and the vending machines were empty too. You might recognise me on the next trip though, I’ll be the bag-lady laden down with laptop and books and a tote-bag full of food.
Yesterday was the first day I finally felt better, and to crack on with my every growing pile of work. So, naturally a study-date was called for. Unfortunately, the uni is still in Christmas holiday mode, I arrived on campus and found the library open but no coffee outlets, no food, and empty vending machines. Like the apocalypse.
I met my study buddy at her flat and after going foraging for food at Sainsbury’s we came back, ate and attempted to work. Yes, it took a while to get back into the swing of things, but as I had tried to be kinder to myself with my to-do list I did all right.
My next assessment is at the end of January, I do essentially know what I’m doing now, it’s just doing it that’s the problem and the most time-consuming part. As I remembered from the last assessment, the bibliography is the most awkward bit, because of formatting and remembering everything I read and skimmed over the last few months. I’m glad I started it and have at least the bones and formatting down, just minor information points and a few other sources to reference, otherwise it’s taking care of itself. Still hate writing the commentary though, it’s only 500 words and I’m wordy dammit!
I missed the deadline for the workshop for the second block, unfortunately they’ve been appearing earlier this year and I had nothing to submit, not even a semi-formed idea… in part due to the beating I took from the last assessment. I’ve tried not to take the criticism too personally, perhaps the genre of my work isn’t to my tutor’s liking or… I don’t know. Alas, I’m attempting this assignment from a different angle; I made a list of all the technical points we covered in this block and constructed a chapter where I was actively trying to include many of these points in it. I understand that the assessments are to see how we’re managing with the new topics learnt and if we are able to weave them into our own work… Which is fine, but I think others in my class are as frustrated at not being able to crack on with longer pieces to see how we are developing as writers and not trying to hit bullet points in a marking scheme.
Just my thoughts. Next study date is tomorrow, but I’ve a ton to get on with later tonight. Italian class starts back next week! I’m planning to start a new series of blog posts related to Italian grammar, at the very least to keep it fresh in my head!
Drinking: Black Coffee
Listening to: You look so fine – Garbage
I’m not great at exams or tests, unless it’s something I absolutely know – but even then there’s a good chance my mind will space out and I’ll get simple things wrong.
I coasted my way through standard grades and even my highers… in all my years, just off what I happened to remember from the classes. I didn’t know how to engage with the information, never mind study or formulate the answers lecturers wanted from me.
When I got to uni, it was mostly all about those essays. My first essay at uni I scored 18/20 in Classics, and the teacher said I saved her soul because my enthusiasm for Classics oozed out of the pages. But then, it set me up with a false hope – when other teachers didn’t appreciate my poetic style and my ability to inform rather than factually analyse the grades dropped and my attempts at essay writing faded year on year.
Then came the exams where you’re expected to remember and regurgitate the coursework verbatim and don’t start me on open-book exams! The crux of all of these is when the tutors don’t explain how to tackle the questions, what to actually do in the exams or they make something up which is the exact opposite of what’s required.
I had classes as well where the essay questions were pre-selected for you, but I could never make heads nor tales of them and in desperate attempt to figure it out, I’d have a whole plan and run full steam ahead. (Even consulting with the course lecturer, hoping I was on the right track but they seemed impervious to my pleas of help) Then the damn things would be returned a few weeks later with a shitty grade (at least comparatively to others – and sometimes just downright shitty) and there’d be no chance of support to improve or understand what the hell they wanted in the first place!!!
The most disgusting and heart-breaking example was my dissertation. The idea struck me in a moment of inspiration in the library while lamenting that I wasn’t studying Italian, nor the Romans and wondering if the Romans ever had any ties to Spain. Ha! Maybe it’s common-ish knowledge nowadays but it was the first time I’d come across the Conquest for Hispania and that it took over 200 years to be conquered. I knew about Carthage, the Punic Wars, and Carthago Novo (now Cartagena in Murcia), but suddenly everything tied together.
My preparation work and presentation scored me a massively high A3 mark, so naturally my expectation was that this would translate into a similar grade.
Eleven months and over ten-thousand words later, despite going to every supervisor meeting possible and repeatedly being told that I had it and was doing fine… I got that plastic bound tome returned to me with not an A grade. The first paragraph of feedback was calling my work stellar, the narrative well-crafted, and that I’d handled the mixture of sources flawlessly, especially for an undergraduate thesis. Alas, what could I do? The supervisor I had was not skilled in European History, never mind Classical Western History and the classics department at uni had been made defunct, not that I could get another lecturer to mark it anyway. I was deeply angry about it for a long time, given how much effort I did put it – so many studyspo posts say that the effort won’t betray the grade, but in real life, it often can do – especially if you’re just not working in the teacher’s realm.
I’m still proud of my dissertation, and plan to rewrite and expand it in the future for MYSELF, because I find the subject endlessly fascinating. Isn’t that what education is? Or should be? About diving head-first into a thrilling new adventure and learning and absorbing all that you can about it… Not about how well you can construct a 2000 word essay or answer eight essay questions in an exam in under 2 hours.
I’m enthusiastic about plenty of stuff, I’m nerdy, brainy and have plenty of smarts, but maybe it doesn’t all translate to a specific grade. It’s a quality of knowledge that maybe can’t be measured but experienced.
Image Copyright https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:HansenBCN
Your Biggest Regret
While it’s not good to have regrets about things we can’t change… what I do regret is all the times in my life where I took the passive route instead of being more actively involved in my own life.
Times where I left early to go home and nap (I do love to nap btw), or missed out on opportunities because I couldn’t be bothered or didn’t feel like it. How often do we have to do things we don’t feel like doing because we must? Therefore when there’s the chance to do something fun but we’re not quite feeling up to it, then surely the right answer is just to do it anyway.
A lot of my regrets are linked to choices I made or didn’t make related to school, college, and uni. I wish at school I could have been more involved and invested in what school represented instead of being distracted by stupid arguments and dramas I can’t even remember anymore. If only I hadn’t taken the easy route, I could have gained a load of highers in fifth year instead of running out on the classes I did well on simply because I couldn’t face another year with said teachers. This is how I ended up being a fifth year with a free period (because I dropped music class), left Int 2 Maths instead of trying to work at it, and taking Int 2 ART in sixth year. What the hell! I wish I hadn’t drifted so much, school wasn’t a means to an end, it was just clocking time until my real life began. (It hasn’t really, yet.)
College the first year was great, I picked a bunch of subjects I was really excited about but then even though I had more free time than I did at school (but with an hour’s travel each way) I still looked to skin more time for myself, which meant leaving at lunchtime instead of spending time with friends – this could have solidified relationships more, gave me more time to study, made me feel less guilty about not studying at home. By the second year, I chose to resit classes I did in high school simply because it meant I’d already completed the course assessments and effectively would have more time to study for the final exam. That’s how I failed higher geography twice, upgraded my higher French and Biology from Cs to Bs… not that anyone bothered telling me they wouldn’t count. Not that anyone ever bothered informing me that four years of highers did nothing for me but kill time and make me realise I never wanted to study Psychology again. Le sigh.
In terms of Uni, I’m still in a love/hate relationship with Spanish. I really wanted to study Italian and preferably in Glasgow… yet every uni in Scotland that offered Italian to degree level all flipped me off and that’s how I ended up doing Spanish at Aberdeen. My consolation to myself was that at least Spanish was a language, it was related to Italian and it was better than doing a degree in something I had little interest in. And again, we come back to the same problems I did at college and school. I buried my head when things got tough and I coasted instead of facing and owning up to the challenges I experienced. I was taking 25 hours of classes a week, working 25 hours a week, travelling to-and-from work for around 12 hours a week and living in student accommodation where I was only allowed to sleep for about 4 or fewer hours a night. Thanks to all this effort just to make ends meet and maintain my place at uni, there wasn’t a lot of time to study… not that I usually had the energy left to study… it was difficult to keep up my great grades and I passed well enough, but it only made subsequent years harder as Spanish got harder and the dreaded year abroad loomed closer.
When I started second year, I had my adviser meeting on the first day of freshers where my tutor (who was also my Spanish teacher) asked me if I was still happy doing Spanish. I said yes without hesitating, and honestly that moment has haunted me ever since…