Thursday, February 19, 2009

Why writing essays is hard all of a sudden.

Ooooh!!! No one ever told me I was gonna have to do all these essays when I signed up for these courses.

Did they? yeah, well, they probably did. I just wasn't listening. And anyway, it's fun at the beginning. It's a novelty & you're proving you can do it. You assume you an just go - witter, witter, I'm very clever, these are my opinions, witter, witter - the end.

Then you get your essay back and you get like 40% and you think, what? I spent ages do that! 'Harvard Referencing'? What's that when it's at home. Structure? Reasoned argument? Conclusion? Pah....

Writing blog-style nonsense is easy, but these academic johnnies don't want rubbish jokes and random opinions. Why not? What's wrong with ill-informed unstructured ramblings, Mr Professor? Welcome to the modern world! This is how we bloggers write!!! We're sure we know all the answers and the only research we do is on Wikipedia....... well I'm talking for myself here. I also use the Internet Movie Database. But that's not much use when you're doing an English MA & a teaching qualification.

Although I was tempted to quote Michelle Pfeiffer in one of my recent Learn-to-be-a-Teacher essays, "An interesting method of teaching poetry to ruffians is shown in the 1995 film 'Dangerous Minds' as illustrated by the following slightly dull quote:
Mr. Grandey: This wouldn't happened to have been their reward for reading poetry would it?
Louanne: In my classroom, poetry is its own reward."

Yeah, Pfieffer, you tell em. But no. You have to read real books & as far as I can work out, those people in America that promise to write your essays for you if you pay em - well I gave em the money - but they aint sent me an essay yet, the buggers...

So it's hard. It's hard in a way that isn't brain surgery, cleaning floors or surviving in prison. But it's also sometimes dull.

So I've got M.A. stuff to do. I've got PGCE stuff to do and it's all *doable*. I'm not really complaining (yes I am). And being a pretend student and getting a student loan does give me time to (waste) writing other things (my long-lost novel). So I really should be grateful for my mercies. Hey! I've even got a student railcard. I can get 10% off in TopShop.... if I wanted to...

So being a student aint so terrible. But it's the being mature thing I'm having problems with at the moment. Cos I'm a mature student - I'm not supposed to be so effin lazy! I'm supposed to 'realise how important education is'. I'm supposed to enjoy it.

But this last PGCE essay - it nearly killed me. It was like a tidal wave of DULL that engulfed me. Oh it was uninteresting. I can scarcely bring myself to describe it less I send someone to sleep just reading about me not wanting to do it...

But I knuckled down and started researching it. I read the books. I surfed the web and read the appropriate articles on the subject. I downloaded the government Pdfs (Oh how I loath reading pdfs....). I fell asleep. I didn't write any blog. I wouldn't allow myself. The essay must be done.

For 3 weeks I just tried and tried. Essay writer's block. I just hit the wall. I banged my head against the wall.

I didn't have the maturity or the youthful enthusiasm. I didn't even have a dog I could blame for eating it. I considered the more modern, "My laptop exploded. Just burst into flames!" excuse.

Quality Assurance and how it impacts on you and your college; Quality Improvement and ...... oh dear. Detail and discuss the Learner's Journey and your role facilitating something or other. Evaluation.

I read so much. I cared so little. OfSted by the bedsted. And yes, I know it's important but boy was it dull. And I was such a little waster. I just couldn't help myself, I kept being distracted by everything and anything while I was trying to write it. "I'll just check my email..... Oh, I wonder what the news is....... I think I'll make a cup of tea, make a quick phone call then re-read my notes.... Is it 2am already?" I was worse than a 14 year old failing to do his geography homework.

How I yearned to write some crappy blog, some tedious Twitter, some scurrilous email gossip. Please God - no more Quality Assurance..... And don't ask me what it is. I want to forget.

But it's done. IT'S DONE!!! And now I feel bereft. Lonely. Purposeless.

The night after I completed it I just didn't know what to do with myself. "What do I normally do with my time?" I went to Asda and started to consider how Quality Improvement impacts on their checkout queuing process. I wondered if they would like my feedback. I was tempted to take my clipboard and start evaluating their customer service processes.

I fear I might have brain-washed myself. I am the saddest man alive.

I've got one more project/assignment to go for my PGCE (well apart from the hell of my personal portfolio of evidence - but I'm trying not to think about that - that's what Easter's for....).

One more then I can retire from academia....... or do a Phd. Cos as much as I hate it, I think I might be slightly addicted. A Phd in blogging? My assignment is going to be about the uses of Web 2.0 applications in the classroom.

Anyone using Twitter for something useful? No, didn't think so...


  1. Yes! Me!
    I am using twitter to "follow" celebrities.
    It makes me feel loved.
    Love is useful.

  2. I have a terrible confession to make.

    When my girl was at school doing her GCSEs she had this appalling homework essay type thing to do on Shakespeare's Romeo and Julet.

    She had to explain in modern day language what the characters meant when they said... what they said.

    I said I would help her. I love that play, I practically know it by heart......

    I did the homework *has the grace to look ashamed now*

    She got a 'F'.

    I think it was for 'Fuck'


  3. I actually love essays. I procrastinate like crazy, but I really enjoy writing them. Often even if it's something I'm not interested in, by the time I've researched it and written the essay I tend to have my interest piqued. I can bore for Britain on traffic lights.

    My brain works, it's reassuring. I like using it.

    However, I don't get the "mature" thing either. I've not turned into one of these mad keen sit at the front types, I'm still lazy, I still do everything slightly after last minute, I still wing it.

  4. Twitter is useful. I'm sure. For those of us with not enough friends. And those celebs with too much ego to go round.

    An 'F' Sarah? An F for failure, lady. But having taught Shakey (sadly not Stevens) you might know the play but you wouldn't know what the examiner wants - and if the daughter gets questioned about the essay and can't explain it. Hmmm. That's a straight F. For Fakery. Stay after class. Detention.

    I will admit I learnt a lot from writing the essays, much more than if they'd said: go and read a book (and fall asleep) it does force you to understand and regurgitate the ideas. One of those 'old fashioned ideas are still the best' things.

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