Easing into the day
This is what yesterday looked like:
The alarm goes off at six. A little mad I know, but I like to read for about half an hour with a first cup of tea no matter how early I get up. This is half an hour before my normal getting up time because I have a nine o’clock lecture. Most times setting off straight after breakfast will get me there in time. However, I daren’t risk it. Going at this time I’ll probably arrive at about eight. If I leave it until normal time I might arrive just before nine. Or I may not.
I arrive at five past eight in the end/. I have a quick look through my emails. There’s nothing particularly urgent though there are a couple I can answer quickly.
I have some time to do some writing. I’m working on the second draft of my latest novel. The first draft was a disaster.
At 8.45 I set off for my teaching room. Today it’s in the same building as my office. On all of the other days I have to walk up to the main campus. That’s twenty minutes each way. It’s great exercise but it really eats into your day.
We generally arrive at our teaching rooms ten minutes before the start so that we can log on to the IT provision. Students these days bring along laptops, tablets and smart phones. We can also show them documents via the data-projector. There is far less paper around.
I deliver my lecture on pushing boundaries in young adult novels. There’s a reasonable turnout though by no means all of them are there. The very material I’m teaching says you shouldn’t expect people of their age to attend classes that early in the day. The PowerPoint presentation covers the lecture anyway and there is more on the topic in the chapter of my book they’ve been asked to read.
I provide some value-added, I think, for those who are there, in that I insert some right up to the minute material. I’m also able to answer a few questions.
Breakfast for lunch
I return to my office, answer another couple of emails, and carry on writing.
At 10.45 I make my way to the canteen and order a cooked breakfast. I do this, as lunch is served between 12.00 and 2.00 – the exact times that I have to facilitate a seminar. We have a break in the middle and the students sometimes bring food back from the canteen but I prefer not to eat in front of them.
This week three people have submitted work to be critiqued and we have a fourth left over from another week. We check first of all what everybody has “got” from what they’ve read, then the writer is allowed to ask specific questions. We then all add out other comments. Finally, I reveal my annotated text. I always try to make at least ten comments. These can range from commenting on missing punctuation through to discussing characters or plot. My final comment is more summative. I define the main strength and the weakest part of the text and I identify the action that will make the biggest difference. I’m always keen to emphasise what has been done well. It’s good then if students can work out how they did that.
They learn as much if not more from looking at each other’s work as they do from just looking at their own.
That takes up a little more than the first hour. We have a short break. I always give them a ten minute task and a ten minute break so we look at their task after twenty minutes. Most go and get refreshments and bring them back. A few go and smoke and some visit the bathroom. Most work through the break.
Today I ask then to write down the titles of three books they have found useful and say three things about each one. We revisit each week one of the skills they’re assessed on in each assignment. This week we’re looking at Writerly Reading and Research.
One student has discussed her idea in the break with a peer. Now she shares it with the whole group. A couple of people who haven’t contributed a lot to class so far join in enthusiastically. I am pleased.
However, we don’t have a lot of time then to go through their task, look at this week’s creative writing skill – dialogue, though we have discussed this quite a bit as we’ve looked at students’ work - and this week’s topic, Pushing Boundaries. I do remind them about their homework.
I point out that other materials that are on Blackboard, our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) - that will help them and I invite them to a conference I’m running.
I’ve arranged to meet at 2.15 an MA student whose project I’m supervising for one of his modules. He’s already outside my office when I arrive. We may as well get started straight away.
We discuss his project, hone it into shape and work out a timeline. I promise to email him a copy of what we’ve said.
It is now three o’clock.
I now start the main sweep through my emails. I do this once a day and always go back to the beginning of the day before. This normally takes a couple of hours, as there are some actions one needs to do in response to some of them. If we don’t do them immediately we‘ll probably forget. I then also tidy up my sent box – delete items or move them into folders. Then I turn the temporarily deleted items into permanently deleted ones.
I come across one where I need more information. I phone a colleague. The other colleague who shares his office picks up. She has to do similar admin tasks to those I’m currently completing. We talk them through for thirty minutes or so.
I finish at just after five today.
I must go straight home now as I’m going to the theatre this evening with my husband.
Yes, going to the theatre is great. We laugh a lot a Hindle’s Wakes. However, I’m also thinking about the three act structure and whether my novel can be turned into a stage play. Reading and watching productions is never the same again once you’ve got a degree or two in reading or writing.
I wake up in the middle of the night and realise that I’ve not sent that email to that MA student. Nor have I dealt with this week’s absences. Oops. When I got some new copy for the Module Choice booklet I only put it into one, not all three. And I still haven’t done any more about my conference.
I get up and write a hasty list. That does the trick. I’m able to get back to sleep.
My colleague earlier had told me not to worry about anything over the weekend. I won’t. I shall be indulging in some weekend activities but I shall also be doing a bit of work and some of writing, but, hey, that’s actually part of my job.