Monday, 22 April 2013

That time of year…

Hi everybody. How was your weekend? I read some dissertations, saw friends, went to a lovely production of Around the World in 80 Days, cooked good food and ate my weight in cheese. So basically, perfection.

Little action on the blogging front today and probably for the rest of the week. Apart from a full teaching schedule, the dissertations and some final-year essays are due in a few days. The atmosphere is febrile, even more stressed than last year's finalists. So I have a massive pile of dissertation drafts, essays and some MA theses to be read, followed by a stream of people coming in to have their hands held/grammar fixed/ears boxed. It's a bit like this.

Actually, the ear-boxing isn't happening: all the OK-to-good students are coming in for help. The absentees are those who are very likely to fail, the students I haven't seen all year despite me sending regular emails, speaking to them in other classes and despatching pigeons to their homes. Why you would decide not to bother after getting to the end of a three-year degree is beyond me, but one of the games we play on stage at Graduation is 'put the face to the name', because there are always people there that we've not seen in three years (and not just the Dean). Mind you, I didn't have to do an undergraduate dissertation: the degree depended on a Shakespeare exam done at the end of 2nd year and the Finals exams at the end of year 3. That suited me fine. I'm a lazy and undisciplined slacker and certainly wasn't capable of sustained work throughout the year. Doing an MA and PhD thesis was a rude awakening, I can tell you. No, I worked according to the panic principle. Cram enough in to get me through the next day's exam, empty the cranium for the next one. I'm not proud, far from it. My students work far harder than I ever did, as I've been gleefully telling them this week.

Anyway, as I'm Independent Study co-ordinator for one of the subjects I teach, I've added to the stress by turning submission into a lateral thinking obstacle course. Dissertations have to be handed in on paper (two copies, bound), and electronically for Turnitin purposes. Turnitin is of course worse than useless for Humanities subjects: literature dissertations tend to quote a lot… and quotes up your Cheat Percentage considerably. So I'm viewing Turnitin submission as just a way to scare the bejasus out of the usual suspects. As long as they don't read this (and let's face it, they avoid words in any context, so it's likely they don't spend their leisure hours perusing Vole), the deterrent effect will continue. After that with thanks to Douglas Adams), all they need to do is hand the hard copies in at the Registry, now renamed Here2Hinder. Opening hours are 2-5 (a.m.) every alternate Friday. Mind how you go: the lights are out and those basement stairs are a bit tricky. Ignore the 'Beware of the Leopard' sign, he's a heavy sleeper, and you might need a jemmy to get at the receipt, as the printer is kept in a locked filing cabinet. Try not to annoy the staff there: they haven't been fed for a couple of days and they do get a bit snappy.

I've also placed this XKCD cartoon on my door, as I always do in this week (you might need to click to enlarge):

It's funny because it's true. 

I had to laugh at one email from a second year student today. She apologised for not being able to make  today's tutorial and asked if she could mail her essay instead. Why? Because she had a baby on Friday. The email ended with 'sorry for the inconvenience'! Last year another student gave a presentation two days after giving birth. In future, I'm going to send anyone with a lame excuse straight to them for a little chat. 

Right: back to the drafts. Correcting these semi-colon abuses might be the difference between a pass and a fail. 

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