The Scamp and Confidence

I took an extended break from the Scamp Chronicles.  I didn’t mean to do it, but I have 6 jobs and very little free time so instead of writing for fun, I have been hiding under the covers binge watching bad TV and freaking out about the future.

I am 30 days from turning in another draft of my thesis. At this point, I have done no work on it. I keep putting it off to do other things. People keep coming to visit. I have too many projects on my plate. I cannot sustain this lifestyle, but for now, it is what I have to do to pay the bills (seriously, can someone just hire me already?). I am relieved to finally have a submission date, even if it means that I have to work through Christmas. I am so close to finally finishing my thesis that I should be happy, and writing away, but I am tired, and when I am tired, I doubt myself.

The writing challenge for this week (although, who am I kidding, I haven’t been following that at all) is to write about my confidence in my ability in the workplace. If you asked me two weeks ago I would have said that I have no confidence in the work that I do. I recently applied for a lecturer post in the office that I have been based in during my three years at Napier. The post advertised was an entry-level position doing all the work that I am currently doing. I felt like I had a really good chance, and felt like the office would be stupid not to hire me.

They didn’t even shortlist me for an interview.

It really sucks to be told that you are not good enough for the job that you are currently doing. I have a feeling I am also going to have to give up my desk when they hire someone, which leaves me out in the cold again. It was a tough blow. A really tough blow.

Move forward a week and I have snapped out of my stupidity. I have recently started a major project at the University of Stirling. I spent last week meeting with programme leads and discussing my ideas for improving feedback at the programme level. The work is based on my thesis and based on the last three years slogging through the mess that is Napier. The five people that I met with listened, and by the end of my pitch were more than willing to work with me and help me actually put my thesis into action.

It is more than Napier was ever willing to do.

The fact the Stirling is letting me run this project and giving me carte blanche to do as I please renews my egotistical thoughts that I am good at what I do and that I have chosen the right field. I am really good at developing curriculum for teachers, and really good at teaching new teachers. One day I will actually be known for it. People will follow the Wilder Way of feedback and curriculum design. I will have a single office (with a window that opens and a comfy chair) at a reputable university and co-workers I like. I’ll have a nice steady income and be able to start paying off my student loan.

I’ll be living the dream….and then I will get a puppy….and a car.

But first, time to finish my thesis edits, book chapter, conceptual article, quick guide, project admin work, student meetings, GTA training and feedback initiative.

oh, and job applications. Lots of job applications.

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A Scampaversary

Today marks three years of living in Edinburgh fulltime. Today marks three years of my official start date in the PhD programme. Today marks five years since I submitted my MSc. Today marks the first day of Fringe. Today was my original target date for submission.

I’d love to say that I was almost done with my PhD, but I’m not. My mom let me hijack her entire morning to work on my theory chapter. I’m talking about 4 hours of her time to read all 7,586 words and then video chat with me and talk through some edits. To be honest, it is the best I have felt about that chapter since I started it six months ago. She has a background in education but never worked with Critical Theory, and for her to tell me that she now understands the theory, and can see how it can be used in the classroom, and how it is being used in my study is a huge relief.

Maybe I don’t suck at this writing thing after all. I have never had this much trouble getting the words from my brain to the page before. I have been so beaten down by my supervisors that I no longer feel like I know what I am doing.

If only someone would hire me now so the impending deportation looming over my head would go away, I would be a very happy camper.

I’d love to say that after three years working as a PhD student that I had something deep and profound to say, but I am too tired to even think boring and shallow thoughts. I’ve been working on this blog for 8 years now, and sometimes I wonder if any of the posts say something deep and profound.

While I debate the merits of sleeping for the next month and hoping that my thesis magically gets written, I thought it was important to mark this day as a good one for me. I haven’t had too many good days lately, so I really appreciate them when they happen.

The Scamp in Belgium Day 2

I’m not going to lie….I decided on day 2 that the conference was a waste of my time. I’m officially too old for an early researcher designation, and I struggled to find presentations that I wanted to listen to. I met a fantastic woman from Melbourne who actually grew up in California. She had developed an Aussie accent to help her students! It gives me hope for developing an accent living here (I mean, that probably won’t happen, but a girl can dream). She is similar to me in snark and research beliefs, so it was nice to have a friend among the aliens.

I ditched the conference at lunch though to enjoy the sunshine and get a little culture. My first stop was the main square to see the Brabo fountain. Unfortunately, most of the buildings are under construction so I could not see much.

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The statue gets its name from the legend of the city. According to Wikipedia:

The reason is the legend of the name of the city, in which it is said that the giant Druon Antigoon cut off a hand to all the ship captains who moored in the area and refused to pay toll, then throwing it to the Scheldt. The captain of the Roman army Brabo cut off the giant’s hand imitating what he had done. The fountain reflects the moment when the Brabo throws the giant’s hand into the river. According to this legend, the etymology of the name of the city Antwerp is a composition of the Dutch words “(h)ant” (hand) and “werpen” (launch).

However, John Lothrop Motley argues, and so do a lot of Dutch etymologists and historians, that Antwerp’s name derives from “anda” (at) and “werpum”(wharf)to give an ‘t werf (on the wharf, in the same meaning as the current English wharf). Aan ‘t werp (at the warp) is also possible. This “warp” (thrown ground) is a man-made hill or a river deposit, high enough to remain dry at high tide, whereupon a construction could be built that would remain dry. Another word for werp is pol (dyke) hence polders (the dry land behind a dyke, that was no longer flooded by the tide).

Brabo’s hand will become important for me later in the day.

I decided to keep walking to the MAS. It is on the port and used to be a storage depot in the 16th century.

Each floor of the building held a different exhibit. My favourite was the one dedicated to celebrations. It was bright, it was weird, it was cheerful. The last room had an amazing electric band. It was colourful, the music was a cheery circus/jazz music. There weren’t a lot of people in the museum, so I had the chance to wander at my leisure, which I love.

I’d walked myself to blisters along the harbour, and on the way back to the hotel, I decided to stop by Brabo’s Hand Tattoo (https://www.facebook.com/braboshandtattooshop/) to see if they could help me out with a souvenir to mark my time in Belguim. When I first walked into the shop, I was less than impressed. No one acknowledged me and give that it was 30 degrees outside, and about 40 degrees in the shop, I did not see myself lasting long. When the shop assistant finally did acknowledge me and I asked about walk-ins, he mentioned that he had an artist with an opening. The guy was fantastic. I told him I wanted a brightly coloured cactus and within 15 min he had something simple drawn up for me. He also worked really quickly, which I appreciate.

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The cactus sums up my personality. Prickly, but still pretty, and if you can get past the needles, there is a soft nice heart….not to mention I thrive in warm weather and I’m fairly low maintenance.

The music in the studio was amazing, but there was one song that my artist played a few times while I was there that really got stuck in my head. It is hauntingly beautiful, and unfortunately shortly after the video was made the rapper was shot and killed.

I walked home humming this song and thinking about travelling, my struggle with mental health and my horrible sense of direction. I got myself turned around on the walk back and Google maps failed me to the point where I was texting the wombmate practically in tears about being lost. I was so happy to find the hotel by accident.

The work and the motivation to work was still almost nonexistent. Every time I sit down with my laptop and the chapter, I hear my supervisor in my head telling me I am doing it wrong and that I am just going to have to redo what I am writing. It is hard.

I quickly made up my mind that I was going to ditch the third day of the conference to try and get some writing done because none of the papers seemed interesting or worthwhile. There was only one thing that was going to save day three: WAFFLES.

 

The Scamp has Imposter Sydrome

One of the worst things you can do when you are sick is google your symptoms….except for that one time WebMD said I probably had Lupus.

I digress. The worst thing that you can do is google your symptoms because chances are the internet is going to tell you that you are dying within three months. Last week I went to a department-sponsored lunchtime lecture on the notion of Imposter Syndrome. This pesky problem is the feelings of inadequacy that can cause a person to believe they are not worthy of their position and live in constant fear of being exposed as a fraud.

Until last week, I did not count myself among the countless academics that suffer from IS. I have always felt that I am a good little academic research monkey who belong in higher education. I would like to think that I am a good teacher, and that my students are getting the most from me.

Now, I am not so sure. I am two weeks behind schedule with my writing and I am terrified of sending the drafts that I have to my team because I am sure that they are going to tell me that they suck and aren’t worthy of a PhD. I’ve never actually gotten this far in the PhD process, so I am not sure how to handle this little valley of shit that I find myself in.

It sucks.

At the end of the month, I am turning in an application to become a teaching fellow in the Higher Education Academy. I was going to apply for associate fellow because the university doesn’t offer me teaching opportunities, but have decided to aim big and use the rest of the teaching I do to help justify the award. I am going to do a 45-minute presentation of how great I am and hope that after that they decide that I am worthy of the award. This whole time I have felt like it was easy to provide examples that demonstrate my teaching and assessment skills, but not so much this week.

Now I am wondering if I let the ‘fake til you make it’ philosophy give me a sense of overconfidence and if I really should be worried about how good my chances are for the award. I don’t like this feeling. I like feeling confident, like knowing that I am capable of doing all the work that is in front of me.

But, on the upside, it is nice to know I am not alone in these feelings.

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 19 and 20

Feed your senses

Write down the first sight, sound, smell, and sensation you experienced on waking up today. Pick the one you’re most  drawn to, and write. (For a bigger challenge, pick the one you’re least drawn to.)

Sight: my flamingo pillowcase

Sound: The jack-hammering demolition sounds of my next door neighbors (starting at 8 am)

Smell: lavender

Sensation: the stiff feeling in my bones that comes with the Lupus

To be honest, I am not drawn to any of them. I was looking forward to sleeping in today, but whatever construction is going on in the building woke me up earlier than I wanted, and I am a tiny bit cranky. I know that it is a work day, and I do not begrudge anyone for working, but if they could have started at 9 am, that would have been nice….or even better, started tomorrow when I am gone for two weeks.

That’s right. Wanderlust is kicking in and I am headed to the Balkans with my heterolifemate. We’ve had this trip on the books since November, and I cannot wait to be off on an adventure. We start our journey in Croatia, then cruise by bus through Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Macedonia, Bosnia and Serbia.

I’ve packed a tiny carry on sized suitcase and a backpack. Who knows if I am forgetting anything, but at this point I am so excited for some sun, beaches, and culture. The lifemate and I work well together, so travelling together will be a lot of fun.

I’m a bit worried about not working on my thesis for two weeks. I have not really been working as hard as the people around me who are in the same boat, so I am really worried about falling behind. I started playing around with the stats, and so far they are showing me the same trends that I am getting from the interviews and focus groups, so I am optimistic about how the write up for that chapter will go. I am worried though because there is talk of me having to collect more data, which means adding another year to my programme. I am not thrilled about that because I am not sure there is funding, but also because I am ready to be done. I have been a students non stop since I was five years old, and I am tired. I am also lacking a bit of motivation (yay 2nd year slump), but I’m taking a notebook and pen with me, so hopefully I can get some work done while I am sitting on a beach or hiding from the other people I will be on tour with.

Then it will be me locked in my office almost nonstop for the summer cranking out drafts so I can either get ready to complete my final year, or be in a pretty good place to collect data and be ready for my fourth year should it come to that.

I also wouldn’t mind if someone wanted to give me a really good academic job here in Scotland so that I could stay here forever.

Please and thank you.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 10, 11 and 12

Can you tell I’ve been in California for three weeks visiting my family?

I should be finishing my taxes. I should be fixing the statistics that my supervisor doesn’t like. I should be working on my theory chapter. I should not be eating chocolate, binge watching Sons of Anarchy and staring at a blank Word Doc. That Word Doc has been blank for three weeks. I haven’t even thought about writing. Haven’t even been motivated to sit down and try it. I don’t like that feeling. I don’t do well with the stress of not being motivated.

So, because I am not feeling motivated to write, enjoy my life for the last three weeks in photos. It is hard to be depressed when you are surrounded by family.

I know. All of the photos involve me with my Muffin. That is pretty much how I spent the three weeks. Making sure that he knows who I am since he will be 2 before I can see him again.

I  managed to beat the worst of jet lag coming back, so I’m thinking that by next week I will be back in fighting shape.

I’m going to need it since I am going to have to tackle statistics and my thesis.