Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Early reflections of a post-grad student

Last night I attended the first session of my Master's degree in educational studies at Oxford Brookes University. There were 22 of us present and, predictably, most of my fears going in were unfounded (I garnered a whole new set to fill the vacuum that they left, though!).

I was not the oldest person there, not by a long shot. In fact, I was pretty much the average I would estimate. I was not the biggest mouth there, either. That role went to someone else... no contest. I was very relieved, since it is often my designated role to be the speaker-upper. I was not the person with the greatest sense of inadequacy. I was not the only foreigner (I don't think - in a cosmopolitan place like the UK, it's not always obvious). I was not the one with the longest gap since my last bout of formal learning. The course leader did not opt for a lecture style and made it clear that she would not be doing so at any point. The rest of the group seemed really pleasant and mutually supportive. The campus was not forbidding and intimidating.

The course leader had arranged for a past student to come in and talk to us. His dissertation is due for submission in a few weeks, so he is at the opposite end of the process. He came to talk to us about things he wished he had known at the outset and to answer our questions. He talked about allocating time and space to the learning programme, about making use of peer support and about knuckling down to writing instead of faffing about and telling yourself you've done a lot. This was very useful. However, while it came at a point when all the above fears had been allayed, it gave rise to that whole new batch I mentioned:

  • This chap works in a school. After 3pm, his time is how own, and he can mould his marking and prep around other commitments.
  • He gets the school holidays.
  • His (private) school gave him a day off each week to work on his course assignments.
  • He has no children.
  • He found it tough to get the work done.
Urk. My working day ends at 5pm. I have 20 days leave per year. I get no time off work to complete assignments. I have two children. AM I NUTS????

Commenters on my earlier post may be interested to hear that there was no debate about the Hargreaves lecture. The assignment that came out of this was related to critical reading. I shall have to revisit the conversation about "the crit". Also, to my utter relief, the course leader was not about to adopt a psychophantic attitude towards the lecture, and referred to Hargreaves as a "so-called expert". When the designated speaker-upper pointed out that the phrase "so-called" implied a measure of criticism, her response was a level, "Absolutely". One more fear allayed.

And so to work, and work, and work.

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