Thursday, March 15, 2007

98 Reasons For Blogging: 14

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks. I’m not even sure how I managed to blog three times the week before last. Not that posting pictures created by other people really counts as a great blogging effort...

Anyway, I guess I’ve made up for that rush of online productivity with the silence of the last seven days.

If I thought that anyone was hanging on my every word, and wanted me to post more often, of course I’d be thrilled. That would be tremendous for my ego, which I’m afraid does need more shoring up from others than is seemly. I would like to be more seemly.

I think there are advantages for everyone from a general reduction in my blog posting. I know sometimes I get overwhelmed by the number of posts from any one blog, so if I don’t add to the number of unread posts in your bloglines or google reader accounts, then that can only be a good thing.

A reduction in posting—not that this is a concerted plan or anything—will also be good for practising how to work without constant reward. Yes, it’s back to my fragile ego, I’m sorry.

I once watched a documentary about the kind of people who are recruited into the SAS. I was interested because my father served in the British SAS before he married my mother. I’m not sure that I gained much insight into the paternal mind, but I was struck by some comments made in the documentary about high achieving soldiers from the general forces who were ultimately found not to be suitable recruits for the SAS. The problem, apparently, was that while the soldiers were recommended by their superior officers as being especially talented when it came to doing the kinds of operations that the SAS does, they were reliant on the constant praise from their superiors in order to work effectively. And, it seems that an SAS operative just needs to get on with the job and not require constant pats on the back.

I do recall, when I first started my master’s, attending a research session where the convenor said something very similar about the postgraduate experience. He warned of the dangers of getting distracted from the long stretches of isolation required for research and writing the thesis by the more frequent rewards of other activities—conference papers and journal articles, I supposed.

I didn’t heed the advice at all and basked in the rewards of being involved in the production of a journal. I don’t regret making that contribution, I’m proud of it, but my thesis did suffer. Badly. And then illness struck. And for a while, everything went completely pear-shaped.

Now I wonder if all this talk about not constantly seeking the reassurance that blogging can provide (although it doesn’t always deliver), is because I’ve taken on teaching and its associated and frequent rewards this semester? I fear it is.

I really enjoyed not teaching last year. Instead, I worked on my doctorate and earned some extra money doing a series of research assistant contracts. It was when I accepted that first offer of RA work that I came up with a kind vague vision of a career trajectory that I have come to refer to as THE FUTURE. Up to that point, I’d had minimal RA experience, and I’ve since kept saying yes to contracts as a way of securing THE FUTURE.

In the second semester of last year, I was serendipitously offered some marking in a subject that was part of a degree devoted to television. I jumped at the chance. Here, television would not be an afterthought to film, as in 10 weeks on film and, oh yeah, here’s a couple of hours to look at television. Again, I thought of THE FUTURE. It’s unlikely I’d get a job at the university where I’m doing my degree, but if I acquitted myself elsewhere and built good networks and amenable working relationships, then perhaps I’d be in good stead should any employment opportunities arise. That plan seems to have worked because now I’m tutoring in another subject that’s part of the aforementioned degree.

Now it turns out that the RA work has led to another opportunity to work on THE FUTURE. I find myself having been recommended to take a class of honours and new postgraduate students in the vagaries of research methods. As soon as I was offered the class, as well as a couple of lectures, I couldn’t help but think of all those ridiculous advertisements for Level B academic positions that ask newly minted doctors to have experience teaching honours and masters students. I was, of course, scared to death about my ability to impart anything of any use to anyone about qualitative research, but then THE FUTURE loomed: I could put this on my CV; it’s a rare opportunity, I will be able to apply for those advertised positions etc.

I took my first tutorial last night, and it turns out I do know stuff, which is a good thing because everyone was looking at me, and stopping me for further advice after class, as if I do. It was rewarding, I was completely abuzz afterwards.

What does this mean for my own thesis? Will it prove to be one of those lovely but lethal distractions I was warned about so long ago now? In my most affirmative frame of mind I tell myself that being an academic will be about juggling my own research with teaching and other responsibilities, so I need to acclimatise myself; if I can’t manage this then how will I manage an academic career anyway? In my worst moments I wonder if I’m not just enjoying the flattery, the stoking of my annoyingly fragile self at the expense of the most important task at hand?

Right, it’s time to get back to my thesis. Pretend I’m in the SAS. Get to it, soldier.


Ariel said...

Interesting post. I can identify with what you're saying. As someone who frequently changes jobs (bad me), I wonder if part of it is that I love the adrenaline and reward of getting a new position and the recognition one gets in the opening phases of a new job when one succeeds at it. (And yes, I am trying my darndest to reform. It's a bad motivation.) It's a tough one. I think the best thing for the craving for backpats is to recognise it and work around it. That said, recognition is nice.

Sounds like you are having a rewarding experience - enjoy it. There are many fine postgrad students and PhD candidates who are poor teachers. Teaching is a skill, so congrats on being good at it!

Kirsty said...

Well, I don't know that I'm necessarily good at teaching, Ariel, but I do want to be, so I keep trying.

About the recognition/rewards thing, yeah, I'm also in two minds about it, because everyone needs some kind of validation--how awful would it be to live entirely without such nice fuzzy things? I suppose it's not so good though when you can't do anything if you're not rewarded.

This is where chocolate and shopping come in--perfect for the rewarding of one's self on a job well done.

genevieve said...

I sometimes wonder if the validation thing is an essential part of getting motivated to write, and then to keep getting up again to write some more. Every piece is different, like a new job in a way. Perhaps we're made like this for a reason???
Is that the QUT television degree you are teaching, Kirsty? I read about it in Screen Ed or Metro last year - sounded terrific. Go get those jobs, you good thing.

Kirsty said...

Thanks, Genevieve.