Last week was full of professional deadlines and next week is going to be even busier while exams are just 9 weeks away. It is a major crunch and I wonder how to manage it. The first quarter of the calendar year is usually rather quiet professionally but not this year. The projects I am working on are very exciting and stimulating but they require a lot of time. With just a few weeks to go before my first exam and a mountain of secondary reading on my desk, it feels like I need to regroup a bit to be sure my study outcomes stay on schedule. Read the rest of this entry »
This week my reading and study time settled into a particularly productive schedule. It is kind of a relief because I have been waiting to hit this study sweet spot. Something clicks, the penny drops, it all comes together – whichever phrase you think best describes that moment of increased confidence in, and command of, the topics and texts I am studying. How and why it happens is an open question. How to maximize this opportunity and develop a better grasp and expression of my material is the more urgent one. Read the rest of this entry »
Do you know that first line? Today I read that Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sonnets have some of the most recognizable first lines in the English language. This week I decided to add some Valentine’s Day appropriate study – Victorian love poetry. Do you have a favorite Victorian love poem? Victorian poetry, or even Victorian sonnets, is a wide topic, surely too much to study properly in one week. To narrow the field somewhat and make the best use of my time, while still being a bit indulgent, my focus will be on Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning. Theirs is a love story in verse if ever there was one. Read the rest of this entry »
After some seriously cold and snowy weather, we have just had two or three rather warm days and steady rain. Jelly Bean and I were going to play outside all weekend in between study sessions. She is not feeling well and most of the snow is gone leaving some good, thick mud. Staying inside, cuddled on the sofa seems like the better plan. It was Super Bowl and Ground Hog Day weekend here in America, which means spring must be around the corner, if we can just be patient for it to arrive. It is also my ‘Odd Man’ weekend and time to dedicate study resources to Victorian Literature, the course that was carried along in the wake of my focus last week while preparing three other units for exams.
What a difference a week makes! Jelly Bean and I are snuggled up like two bugs in a rug watching the snow come down thick and fast outside of our window. We decided to enjoy a week or so of winter on the farm, nestled in the Laurel highlands, among the highest hills in Pennsylvania. This is a great place for winter sports, and we do enjoy a frolic in the snow of an afternoon, but Jelly Bean is more an observer of winter than a participant. There is about a foot of new snow on the ground today and a second ‘Polar Vortex’ is expected to drop our temperatures dramatically over the next forty-eight hours. There is nothing like a pot of stew, a cup of tea, and a dozen or so good books on a cold winter’s day. Read the rest of this entry »
It is a truth universally acknowledged that things do not always progress the way we intend them to. My exam registration is formally complete and a good case of nerves is setting in right now. On certain days, it feels like I have let a splinter swerve my academic project from its groove, especially if I do not review my progress in each course regularly. Several strategies that I thought were going to be quite useful have turned out to be less helpful than planned. Sometimes they seem more like impediments than aids to effective study. Two things are certain: 1. if a portion of my study plan is not working then it needs to be changed and 2. I have to manage the pre-exam nerves to optimize my study time. Read the rest of this entry »
I always get a little nervous at this time of year – It is sixteen weeks until my first exam. We just enjoyed the long holiday season that, at my house, begins in mid-November, and now are settling into a cold, snowy winter. January can leave me feeling a little disengaged from my study process and maybe even in a bit of a panic, especially with four courses to prepare for exams. It is time to consider how I study, what methods work well for me, and how I can make the best use of my time over the next three and a half months. It is important to develop a method to manage the work over the next sixteen weeks, and ensure my time is used wisely.
I might be feeling a little nostalgic because this term, if all goes according to plan, I will complete my BA English degree and with marks sufficient to enter further study! I’ve been thinking about what I thought studying English Literature would be like, and what I expected to learn. When I enrolled in the program I knew very little about English literature and soon found I knew absolutely nothing about English Studies. For me, as you become immersed in a discipline what you don’t know usually becomes apparent fairly quickly. It can feel a little uncomfortable and even a bit disorienting while trying to learn. There were days when I wondered how I was going to get on in a degree program where intellectual expression and academic attainment have such a high standard and I often felt inadequate for the task. Yet in the 2013 exams I earned first class marks, and find that the challenges of academic work are entirely a pleasure. I expected earning a degree to be a lot of work, and it is. I did not expect the work to be so much fun and to completely change my way of experiencing the world.
Here we are at the edge of the wilderness putting together my study plan for my new courses. Jelly Bean and I like to sit on the screened in porch to read and study. She can watch the meadow while the breeze tickles her nose and I muster my digital resources. So far we have only seen several doe with their fawns ambling by. The fawns are quite small, only about Jelly Bean’s size. Surprisingly the deer and my collie dog are mutually disinterested. The meadow grass must be too sweet and my dog is to comfortable snuggled up beside me while I work.
I have been working on my strategic and tactical study plan for these next four courses. What does that mean, exactly? Well, I want to be sure to accomplish personal and professional goals and also pass my courses with higher marks than my 2013 results. That’s the strategic part. I also want monitor weekly and monthly progress through each module, and be certain to master things like jargon and details specific to individual courses. That’s the tactical component.
It’s been a busy week, with another trip to the edge of the Everglades. Business travel and competing responsibilities sometimes encroach on my precious study time. The year ahead looks like it is getting a bit busier professionally. Although it would be absolutely fabulous to have only my classes to concentrate on in the last year of my degree it is helpful to look ahead and plan how professional or personal interests might intersect with studying. I’ll be spending more time in the library for my work projects, which is a very helpful coincidence. I will also be doing a lot more writing professionally which is a welcome way to develop writing skills. But doing more does not necessarily mean doing it all well or that doing more work will be a pleasant experience.
There is an old adage in the restaurant industry that goes something like this: You might think you have been in the restaurant business for 20 years, but in reality you have been in business for one year and then repeated the same mistakes for the next 19.’ When I set out to make a new study plan, or begin a long and complicated project, that admonition is valuable to consider. Finding a tool to help with organization, efficiency, and revision seemed like a really good idea.