Last week, four out of the seven days I spent being sick and hanging around in my home. Being sick of course doesn’t prevent one from reading or writing email, although friday was a rather low point and the laptop was turned off as much as possible. However, students still emailed.

Wednesday was the introduction to the course I’m coordinating this semester, and not everything went as smooth as I hoped. First, a student emailed that she couldn’t find the literature in the handouts. Well, no, since the literature was hosted elsewhere on the internet. Location: specified in the syllabus, obviously. (Acutally, there were more emails in that vein, but an announcement on the intranet took care of that.)

Second, we recently received an email from our students (and it’s still unclear to me whether these are the bachelor or the master students) concerning mandatory attendance, grading exams and level of the lectures. All of it rather positive actually, since they mentioned they would like the staff to keep track of attendance, return grades within the specified time (in my alma mater, if grades weren’t returned on time everybody got a pass, period), and make sure lectures were tailored to the appropriate level. Well, huray, rejoiced I! Students care about education and show they care!

So I mentioned the letter in the introduction, but unfortunately several students took this to mean that the mandatory attendance in our course was because of this letter. Uhm, yeah… so not, giving that letter way too much credit. Of course, this has to be rectified, since it’s rather unfair for the student who sent of the letter to get thisĀ  kind of blame from collegea student.

These appear to be some of the side effects of me opening up my mouth in lectures without thinking through beforehand what I will or won’t say. Obviously, there’s still much to learn in that corner. But at least it didn’t deter me in showing up, or feeling quite good about being able to coordinate a course for the first time.

Learning point: carefully think through notions and consider consequences before opening mouth to say something to students!

Recently, while sitting at the airport with two friends who’ve already obtained their PhD, we were discussing current research plans and opportunities for the future. While announcing that I officialy had gotten a co-lecture position for a course on cognition, one of them looked at me and said “You volunteered to teach?! But that’s the last thing a self-respecting academic should do!” Half-joking, half-serious, that remark, I could tell, but still serious enough to make me want to stand still and reflect.

Yes, I volunteered to teach (not just TA), because teaching makes up quite a big chunk of life in academia. If trying teaching now gives me chance to find out whether I like it or not, why shouldn’t I do so? So far, supervising MS students is the other experience, and that has also proved to be invaluable. Mostly, with regard to the selection and management process (I really detest micromanagement!), but also with regards to insight into the kind of questions really interested students ask.

So, spring semester of 2008 I helped out in a course on cognition, gave 3 lectures myself, came up with exam questions for said lectures, graded the exams, helped with coordinating discussions and graded posters. The only thing it did was make me hungry for more, give me ideas on how to reorganize, which other books to use, find more articles for examples to make the students as curious about the world of cognition and psychology as I am.

As a result, the lecturer in charge asked me to cooperate again with him this semester, and gave me responsibility for a group-based actions of the students. He won’t claim responsibility for it either, and I get my share of the evaluations. I think, if I survive this semester, it will have given me a good grounding in how to prepare a syllabus (how to write one up to) and hopefully I’ll still love teaching. Also, this might very well steer my decisions about post-docs. Ideally, my first post-doc would give me a couple of years experience abroad and let me test my hands more fully in the waters of academia: i.e. not only research and publications, but how to share the research with students, be the undergrad or graduate ones.

Looking back, the list for InaDWriMo probably was a wee bit optimistic with the things that should be able to get done. One of the things that I still have trouble with is giving up my weekends. For a long time there would be a very vague blur between the weekends because I would be in Original Country during weekends and in Current country for the week. Now that that border isn’t there anymore, it seems as though other things try to act as borders and one of those is a very serious feeling of resistance. This feeling of resistance has to go, because it interferes with my concentration and ambitions, but it is entirely unclear at the moment how to work it out.

After visiting my osteopath this morning, things are somewhat clearer, also because he pointed out to me that maybe, considering all those stress-points in my life that it woulnd’t be a bad idea to get somebody to help me work through them in a different (maybe more constructive) manner. Not necessarily advisors / supervisors, but somebody else altogether.

Anyway, accomplishments:

– workshop proposal (should be hearing about that next week)

– studyguide (mostly finished, need some more revisions and get the co-teacher to decide which papers he wants to use)

– 1/4 of revisions to technical note for inside Company

Still to be accomplished:

– tutor instructions (cannot be done before deciding on assignments for students)

– introduction and theory of journal article

Feelings on this: mixed. Happy about the accomplishments, but realise that the still to be accomplished part now has to be done in what’s left of december.

The workshop proposal has been submitted, and both co-chairs were positive that it’s a good proposal, so let’s hope the reviewers (or workshop chairs?) do too. Should know more about its acceptance by the 8th of december. One thing down completely.

The first version of the studyguide also has been written, through much cannibalizing of earlier guides. Also, it still stands in two languages, and the next step is not only adjusting it for language (since students will get to discuss in their native language rather than English), but also for content. There’s more to cannibalize though, which is a sustaining thought because writing a studyguide for the first time without support is not a thought I want to entertain at this point in time. For sure, later on, especially when I will be the main responsible person (actually, I’m looking forward to that already). No tutor-instructions yet, since the content of the study-guide has to be settled beforehand. At least, that’s the conclusion we’ve come to. Also, examples are a good idea here as well, and those won’t make it to my grubby hands before 28 november.

No introduction and theory for the journal paper either, but that’s because first an overview of two conferences visited in september and october has to be given. One in presentationstyle, the other more report wise, if only to give me feedback and see if another presentation should be made. So, adding those two things to my list, instead of the editing for my student’s thesis.

The presentation overview worked out just fine – mainly because the idea was to foster discussion rather than me blabbering on and on about what might be to some interest. Discussion was definitely available, since very few people in the cluster are shrinking violets and will speak up when they don’t get something or have conflicting opinions. Today the focus is on the next conference overview, since one the businessmanagers is awaiting that eagerly.