That was the term that was…

…it’s over, let it go. Time to reflect, sum up and move on.  The usual three questions, starting at the top.

What’s gone well?

I’ve enjoyed the core course.  I now have a much clearer idea of the areas of linguistics that I want to know more about, and of which areas I’m going to set aside for the time being.  Some of the content has been tough to get to grips with (set theory and various kinds of formal logic over five lectures, anyone?), but I haven’t been completely at sea.  And I’m looking forward to the remaining elements of the foundation programme next term – semantics, morphology, historical linguistics – alongside the specialised options.

The course extras have been good too.  The working- and reading groups have been a chance to think about evidence and methods with colleagues, the seminars have opened my eyes to research questions I’d never dreamed of, and it is much more fun learning Korean in a class than on my own in front of a computer.

I’ve got to know some really excellent people: sharp, energetic, witty, relaxed, funny.  I’d forgotten how energising university can be, and I’ve enjoyed hearing different perspectives on the work and the subject.  I’ve also learned from seeing how other students are using their experience to tackle their own learning challenges.

Having been accountable for an organisation for the past seven years, I now have a chance to look at various other organisations – bits of the university – from a different position.  This has been fun, interesting and also a relief that it’s not my responsibility!  I’ve had lots of ideas which people within the organisations have been willing to listen to, and I feel like I’ve had space to experiment.

Outside the course, I’ve joined in (and started some) initiatives in the faculty, college and the wider university.  I’ve engaged with social media.  I’ve had a whole range of dance lessons.  I’ve been to a conference and workshops.  And I’ve rolled around on the floor pretending to be a snake trying to move quickly on sheet ice.  What’s not to like?

What’s not gone so well?

Overall, this has been a good term.  There isn’t a lot I could flag up as going badly.

The biggest challenge is getting feedback.  I’m not at all missing the health service performance management regime, but the foundation course is mostly about listening and thinking, and the feedback I’ve received relates to work submitted for classes.  I’m not looking for summative feedback, as the exams in 2015 will come soon enough, but I am looking forward to tutorials starting so that I can get more of a sense of what reasonable expectations are in terms of the breadth, depth and pace of my learning.

The other areas feel a bit nit-picky or hyper-critical (which was not the point of giving up work to study!), but I think they’re worth noting nonetheless.

Despite the best of intentions, I haven’t written every day.  To be fair, I started the term with almost no subject matter on linguistics, and there really is a limit to how much reflective writing I can do.  But this is still something I want to spend time on, and the discipline will be important later on.

A couple of times, I didn’t deliver on commitments because I had too much on.  I don’t like letting other people down, but the downside of my low boredom threshold and tolerance for “good stress” is that there isn’t a lot of margin when deadlines pile up.  It’s the usual answer: if you can’t stand the heat, you shouldn’t make the kitchen so hot!

I made time for wider reading, but not as much as I would have liked.  And although keeping enthusiastic in the library is a bit easier than it was in 1987, it is by no means a cinch.  I wonder if this has something to do with that unforgettable Bodleian smell?

And I’m not very good at proofreading, particularly when the text is on screen.  The trouble is, this gets in the way of me (and the tutors) realising when I haven’t understood something properly, rather than just clumsy typing.

And so what to do differently?

A big challenge will be embedding what I’ve learned.  We’ve covered an enormous amount of ground in eight weeks, and it’s going to take some revision and practice to make sure that I really do have firm foundation for the rest of the course.  This isn’t just the theoretical frameworks and the evidence base, but also the tools of the trade.  So one of my tasks for the next six weeks is to spend some time playing with Praat, TreeForm, LaTeX, Python and the rest so that when I need to use them in earnest, I’m not back at square one with the manual.

The next biggie is prioritisation.  Alongside the course, I have a number of small elephants on the horizon between now and July, that are going to be bloody big elephants when I’m staring them in the face.  This means that I can’t realistically take on another commitment, and I’m also going to be sparing about evenings and weekends.  It’s helpful to have realised that now, the challenge will be to stick to it when the next enticing project shows up.

I’m going to tweak my routines a bit, to make time for more exercise, for writing every day, and for wider reading.

And I’m going to keep on with the 23 Things programme at my own pace, and keep on with the blog.

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