One of the necessities of trying to complete a PhD in a post-scholarship state is the need to find work to support my research habit. Like many in my position, I rely upon a series of teaching contracts for university level courses taught in my field–media, communication, and cultural studies–but the business of being a researcher and writer has equipped me with another whole set of skills, which I have also drawn upon to find employment.
Most recently, I accepted an offer of a marking contract for a distance education course that prepares students for university-level education. Specifically, the course seeks to equip students with the necessary skills for academic essay writing.
Whenever I’m first involved in a course, whether in a teaching or marking capacity, as part of my preparation, I try to do all the work that the students do on a weekly basis. I don’t do the official assignments, but I complete all the reading and any tutorial or other preparation activities. My strategy here is to familiarise myself with the course, but it’s also a way of attempting to cultivate some empathy on my part, for what the students have to do each week. I’ll never be able to entirely experience what they do, since I’m used to reading the jargon-laden material of my field, for example, or, in the instance of this course, I have advanced writing skills by comparison. Nevertheless, I enjoy immersing myself in the learning required for effective teaching (or marking).
It’s the first week of the essay writing course and the students had to use the clustering technique, proposed by Gabriele Nico, to write a poem about any topic. Here’s what I came up with:
Hannah She is love, Quivering with excitement When she sees me approach. ‘Aunty Kirsty!’ she cries, Breaking into a wide- Open run Closing her arms around My waist and squeezing As hard as she can. We hold on to Love and joy and fun, Life after heartbreak: ‘I wanted to die’, she’d said.