Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Finally there

It is now as official as it gets: my defense will finally take place next week, with all the pomp and circumstance these things require in Finland, and particularly at the University of Helsinki. I have heard that elsewhere defenses may be pretty informal occasions, with no one else there but the prospective PhD and the examiners. I, on the other hand, will have an audience of a couple of dozen people at least, and the whole day is choreographed according to ancient customs from the beginning of the defense through the ceremonial dinner I will host in honour of my opponent in the evening. Everyone present will be dressed in white tie, or the feminine counterpart of that.

Maybe sometime later I will write a little post about tips how you can (mis-)use your position as a scholarly authority to obstruct the career path of dangerous younger generation researchers but now I am going to tune into a festive mood. Afterwards, there will be a party for various friends and colleagues, and I can finally let my hair down. Anyway, life is too short for academic rancour and personal vendettas.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The quest for becoming a better teacher

What I should be doing is the final assignment for the course in the basics of university pedagogy. What I am doing is this. I hope writing this blog will clarify my thoughts enough to be able to finish the actual assignment.

I have been teaching undergraduates now and then for more than ten years. Mostly I have had one or two course in an academic year, often a parallel course to a university one in the open university. I think my first courses were pretty straightforward - I did it as I had seen it being done, and did not come to think that there might be something more to teaching. However, then I had the luck of having some really good teachers in Leicester, and ever since I have been attempting to get better at what I am doing. So I was delighted when I, after two previous attempts, finally got accepted to a five-credit course in university pedagogy.

It turned out that the course would require quite a lot of work, and since my autumn was going to be busy, I wondered if I should drop the whole thing. However, expecting to be parted with my beloved Alma Mater next year, I decided to tackle it. Should have known better. Between my "part-time" research job, teaching and other things I had to take up to manage to keep my nose above the surface financially (not to mention family responsibilities), I really did not have the time I should have devoted to the course to do it well. 

Neither was the course quite what I expected. It turned out that rather than giving us skills in teaching it was aimed as an introduction to the field of research called university pedagogy. From the viewpoint of academic achievement the course has not been a huge success for me. Most of the time I have felt a little lost with the assignments, which is probably reflected in the quality of my output. From the viewpoint of personal development I think I am doing a little better. I might not be able to write a theoretical treatise on  teaching in higher education, but that was not my goal, anyway. I did not want to become a researcher in university pedagogy, I just wanted to become a better teacher, and towards that end I think I have gained some useful tools, which I intend to apply as soon as I start teaching again - in a couple of weeks. It is a course I have always thought I would love to teach, so it will be interesting to see if I can impart some of my enthusiasm to the students.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I (almost) did it

Ending a long silence here.

I finally handed in my dissertation in the end of March. According to the Finnish system, it was then sent for so-called pre-examination for two external examiners. They will read my dissertation and comment it. After that I am to do corrections and additions according to the wishes of the examiners. Only after that I can apply for a permission to defend from the faculty. Since I have not got the comments yet, and I have loads of work for this autumn, my defense may not take place until early 2012. Such a long, slow process, and I have not even got the external examiners' comments yet.

Monday, September 20, 2010

No news is good news?

But now I have some. First, I'm in Jordan. Not for fieldwork this time - truth to be told I am not yet in any shape for that - but for delving in institute libraries and getting a good kick-start for finishing my dissertation. It seems to be working, too: I have only been here in ACOR for a day, and I've got more work done than I have for several months (not withstanding a congress presentation and an article on which I worked for most of August). 

Second, I have an update on the dissertation: Five chapters are in various stages of "nearly finished". Two chapters need a little more work than that but are basically there. One is missing a half but the structure is clear and it just needs to be written. I still have no clue of what the final chapter will handle, but otherwise things look bright.

Remind me of this optimism in December when my three-month finishing-off-the-dissertation grant is running out and I am fighting every night with the illustrations, missing references and miscellaneous corrections. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Assessment of the situation

I feel like I should wrap up this blog since I never seem to have anything worth writing about. This spring has been mostly about being seriously ill and trying to get some work done despite that. And having scary thoughts about whether I'll be fit enough to do fieldwork ever again. For me archaeology is really about doing fieldwork. I did not choose this subject to end up shuffling papers somewhere. If I can't go to field, I don't want to be an archaeologist anymore.

Last week I was in the congress in Paris. It was a very invigorating trip both academically and otherwise. I met many Names, and they were actually nice people. My paper was very well received, although, being me, I can't help but wonder whether it was really good stuff or everyone was just being nice to the poor sick girl.

I dare dream that it might be possible for me to go to Jordan next autumn with the rest of the team, if not for the whole three-week period, then at least part of it. There are some things to be done still in the field, and I could spend some time in the ACOR and British Institute libraries. But that remains to be seen, really. Although the treatments are now over, there is still a lot of being ill to do.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Feeling optimistic

Things are looking up. If all goes well I will have only one treatment left. And my doctor gave me permission to travel in June! So I registered for the conference in Paris. I have even been slowly working towards producing a paper and have something more than a foggy idea of what to say. Now I am just restlessly waiting whether the university gives me a travel grant or not. Then there is also the matter of a cloud of volcanic ash over Europe, but maybe that will disperse by June?

I handed in one more chapter and according to my supervisor there is not very much work left with it. So now I have three almost-finished chapters for my dissertation. I realized that I might still be able to finish the whole thing by the end of this year! 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Idleness is good for your brain

I woke up last night with the first half of a forthcoming article formed in my brain. I had to get up and write the major points down, otherwise it would have been gone in the morning. The funny thing is, I have not actively thought about it much since last November, except for printing out an old, very confused draft a week ago and giving it a cursory glance. For the last week I have been doing absolutely nothing academic. In fact I was even hospitalized for two days due to neutropenia (abnormally low number of white blood cells which fight infections in the body).

I realized to something of my surprise that I have now, on top of the almost-finished dissertation, altogether three articles in various stages. The first one only needs some polishing, and now I have a draft and a good idea of the structure of the second. The third one is the paper for the conference in Paris, later to be edited to an article. I hope it will turn up as easily as this one!

Speaking of the conference, my recent experience with neutropenia confirmed that as long as my current treatments continue, I will not travel abroad. No travel insurance would cover the costs if I knowingly took the risk and the same happened somewhere else.