The Scamp Meets a Milestone

If anything ever summed up the way I feel right now, it is this photo.

Today I have officially graduated from Edinburgh Napier with a PhD in Educational Assessment. I’m a doctor now. Dr Kimberly Davis.

I’ve thought about this day for a long time. This is my second attempt at a PhD (well, the first one was an attempt at an EdD, so not quite the same). I always thought that I would feel different once I was done. I thought I’d feel more grown up or more serious, but I’m currently wearing leopard print yoga pants and eating a cupcake, so I guess things have not changed.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so incredibly happy and relieved to be done. I am so glad that I don’t have to deal with Napier anymore and that I don’t have this extra stress hanging over my head. This means I can focus on my actual job, I can write for fun, and I can actually focus on getting healthy again. I am splurging on a meal plan and PT for the next couple of months so I can have my butt kicked and eat actual well balanced meals. While all this is good, and moving in the right direction, I really wanted to feel different.

I know that this is not an uncommon feeling. I know that it is even harder to really feel something when the hand-in was a PDF emailed to the research office and graduation was an email and cupcake. I didn’t really celebrate after the viva because I was ill and the experience was so awful, and the pandemic is keeping me from really being able to celebrate now, which I think will go a long way in being able to close this chapter of my life.

I have had the question of ‘What’s next?’ a couple of times, and to be honest, there is no next. I’ve been a student since I was 6 years old (with a year off between the MA and the MSc) and I am ready to not be a student. I’m ready to not have to juggle fourteen plates whilst hula hooping over a fire pit. I want to feel normal. I want to sleep in on weekends, and I want to start a hobby.

I’m also really looking forward to being a good friend again. I want to go out when the rules lift and meet people and do fun things. I want to help and support all of the people that spent the last five years supporting me. We got the tentative date of pubs being open on the 15th of July, and that might also be a tentative date when we can travel within the UK again, and you best believe I’m getting my doctor butt on train and going on an adventure.

If anyone wants to read the thesis, it is 221 pages of pure assessment and feedback fun.

Okay, if anyone is having trouble sleeping during the pandemic, my thesis is 221 pages of proven sleeping tonic. It’s even more fun when you have Microsoft Word read it out loud to you in one of the three preset slightly robotic voices.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 40

Although it is week 40, I definitely have not written 40 posts for the challenge. Somewhere along the way I got lazy and then super focused on my thesis. I haven’t been making much progress on that, so the last thing I’ve wanted to do was do any kind of writing, for work or otherwise. I’m currently feeling guilty about sitting on my couch eating bad Chinese food and watching TV, so I thought I would give this the attention that it deserves.

So back to the challenge, or at least a chance to write in a focused way with no right or wrong answer. I’m hoping that a little of free writing will get me back on my game and help me figure out what to do with my literature review and theory chapter.

The challenge for this week is as follows:

Express yourself
Tell us about a time you couldn’t quite get your words or images to express what you wanted to express. What do you think the barrier was? For bonus points, try again.

This is an easy one, and I am hoping that when I explain it here, I can work out some of the issues that I have trying to structure a really important chapter in my thesis. Explaining critical theory is the foundational basis for what I am trying to do with feedback and assessment at the university, and if I cannot explain it in a clear, but academic sounding manner, then I have no hope in moving forward with my PhD. If I cannot make connections between the previous research and what I hope to accomplish with my study, then I am not working hard enough, or smart enough for a PhD.

The problem is, I know where I went wrong. I spent the whole summer obsessed with word counts and the number of pages that I wanted to have written that I went for quantity over quality. My methodology chapter came together pretty nicely, and now it is in its third draft and gets a little better every time. That was a really easy chapter to write, the first draft came together in about three weeks. I thought that if I followed the structure and the guide I was using for that chapter while I was writing the theory chapter, I would be in good shape. I became focused on getting my 500 words a day in, and really did not stick to the outline I made at all. I was so disappointed that I did not make it to 30 thousand words by September 1st that I sent off a really crappy draft that was all fluff and no substance. The feedback I got from my supervisor sucked. It was hard to hear. I have to start over. The part that she did like was the part that was written by the group for the paper that is up for publication. I spent two years on that paper, and at this point, after 17 drafts, there is very little of it that is my words. So, the part that I wrote myself is shit, and the part that my supervisors wrote is great, but still doesn’t quite set out to do what I wanted to do. I have a lot to try to redo, and the outline of how to do it, but when I sit down at my laptop, or at a computer at the uni, I cannot seem to get anything written that ‘sounds like it belongs in a PhD’. I see that as having wasted three months. Three months that I needed.

This brings me to the second problem. My funding ends in July. There is no way I am going to get more from the programme, and when it runs out, if I am not done with my degree,, I am not sure that I will even be able to finish. I cannot take out any more loans, cannot afford to stay in Scotland, and will never be able to finish my PhD. I am so stressed about finding a job, trying to get something done in three years that usually takes people four years, and worried about the fact that I will probably have to leave Scotland in a few months. I am so worried about all the things going on in my life that aren’t related to my PhD that I am too stressed to be able to sit down and focus on the work in front of me.

I’d really like to be able to take my mom’s advice and just write out the chapter in my own words and then go back to make it sounds all fancy and pretentious, but I just don’t have the time to do that. I also hoped to work it out here and demonstrate that I actually understand critical theory, and that I can use it, critical pedagogy, and the Ideal Speech Situation to explain why the research on feedback, while it has done a lot to help students in terms of their learning, does not do enough to help create a dialogue between students and teachers and allow them to use feedback as a learning tool. I thought a lot about being able to just free write here and then hopefully get some feedback from my lovely readers. Then I realized that if I did, I’d probably get popped for plagiarism when I turned in the draft because it is published here before it gets published in my thesis.

Sometimes I really hate the fact that we have to be a slave to Turnitin since it not only claims the rights to your work once you submit something there,  but the people at the university who swear by it, swear that if too many words or phrases are strung together then you might be cheating, or if you do not cite your sources correctly then you are trying to maliciously dupe the university into thinking you are smarter than you are. But that is a rant for another day. I’m also a big believer in collaboration, and posting it here and then discussing it with others means that it would not be my own thoughts and ideas, and that is a big no no in the world of the tortured PhD student.

I’m not sure how it happened, but I started this post thinking that I could work through some writing issues, and ended up feeling grouchy and angry that I am having trouble getting the thoughts in my head onto paper, and that now I am falling further behind in my quest to become a doctor of philosophy. I’m taking yet another day off when I cannot afford to take another day off.

Jogging. I am going to go back to jogging. At least being really tired after a run is a better excuse then I am too afraid to sound stupid.


The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 24

It is going to be hard to top yesterday’s hilarious story from the kids, but I dedicated to the weekly challenge.

Like last week’s challenge, I am having a hard time thinking of what to write for this one. This week’s challenge is to write about the last new thing that I tried.

Nothing comes to mind. My life right now is pretty boring. An all work and no play type of thing. I’m currently in the middle of trying to finish a draft of a paper up for publication, write a report that will advance me to a proper PhD candidate, and work on two separate papers with two other research assistants to bolster my CV and hopefully get accepted at a couple of conferences (one of which is in Wales. I’ve never been to Wales.). All I can think about is the amount of work that needs to be done, and the amount of time that I have spent watching cat videos on YouTube because I’m looking for an excuse not to write.

I think this post would better suit me in a couple of weeks when I get my first solo presentation at a well respected academic conference. I am so excited for my three minute ‘nano presentation’. The paper being presented will be done by then (hopefully) and I will get a chance to razzle dazzle the crowd in sunny Manchester. This is an extension conference from the one that I attended almost a year ago, and this time when I get there, I will already know some people going. Seeing the familiar faces in the crowd will make it easier to present as well.I got a bit of practice in short presentations this week when another research and I presented a poster at the 2016 Edinburgh Napier Research Conference. The poster we presented is not what I will be presenting at the end of the month, but it was good to practice talking with people and trying to be short and sweet about it. My supervisor liked the poster we made as well, which was an extra cherry on my phone little academic sundae.

This month has been a real struggle for me. The weather has me feeling down, a lot of deadlines are fast approaching, and it has been a long time since I had an adventure, so I am starting to feel very antsy.

Maybe the weather will improve for next week and I can write all of these reports and finish all of these drafts while getting some sunshine as well. I miss sunshine.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 12

The single most depressing thing to my new found sense of Britishness is a bad cup of tea. I have become quite the connoisseur of tea in the last 8 months, and while I was in California I picked up a box of hibiscus passion tea that sounded amazing.

It isn’t.

It will taste great as iced tea, but as a hot drink, it leaves a strange aftertaste and smells a bit odd…of course, I have been sick for two weeks, and am currently producing more snot than should be humanly possible, so that could very well be the problem.

On to more important things. I’m supposed to be working on a script for a presentation I am giving on April 6th. I’m doing a pecha-kucha (my supervisor called it a Manchu Pichu, and someone else said bless you after I mentioned it). That means I have 20 slides and 20 seconds a slide to get my point across. I got the presentation done, but trying to say more than ten words in 20 seconds is proving to be a challenge.

I am not known for my brevity.

This quandary I find myself in speaks perfectly to the writing challenge for this week. The goal for this week is to think of one word that describes my life right now and one word that I wish described my life.

Let’s start with my current word: Stressful

Much the way trying to say everything I need to in 20 seconds is driving me bonkers, the state of my life right now has me feeling like one big ball of stress and snippyness. In addition to trying to get this presentation done, I am having to beat feet to collect the rest of my data for this year, and write the first draft of a paper I am trying to get published all before the end of April. Part of this was my fault for not getting the data collection done before I left for California, and for not working on my paper while I was there, but part of it is just the nature of being an academic. Couple that with the project being done at the university, and my work at the tutoring center, I am feeling a bit like my life is just a blur of diary appointments right now. I’ve been back for almost two weeks and I cannot even tell you what I had for dinner last night (wait, the dishes are still in the sink….I had pasta with garlic and herbs. Guess I need to add clean my flat to the list of things that needs to get done).

The word that I wished described my life right now? Adventurous

Don’t get me wrong, there is a certain amount of adventure that comes with being an expat and living in Scotland. There is a certain amount of adventure to my life no matter where I am living, but right now, the only thing that I want to be doing is traveling. I have been spending an awful lot of time planning trips to different places. I made the list of 30 things I want to do before I am 30, and visiting three new countries is on the list. I’ve been looking into a trip to Paris in November, and a trip to Malta in September. That trip to Malta is giving me so many problems. I am having a really hard time coming up with reasons why I shouldn’t book it right now. I don’t want to feel stressed. I want to wear cute sundresses and sandals. I want to wear a bikini and get a tan. I want to see sunshine.

I don’t want to feel antsy and uncertain. I don’t want to take hours to get something written because I am so afraid that it is going to suck or that people are going to hate it, or I am going to let my supervisors down because my writing isn’t strong enough.

But first, I am going to take a nap. Naps solve everything, even a bad cup of tea.