Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Notes to self

We're gearing up for the new term here in Cambridge.  I'm on sabbatical leave this year (all year!) so it's not so bad for me.  But I've been thinking about the new students coming up and what helpful advice they might need.  I think I wish someone had explained to me how best to use a supervision and that it was perfectly OK for me to come along and try to steer the conversation how I wanted with my own questions, difficulties and the like.  I think I was far too passive and may have lost out on the opportunity to set straight things in my mind that I really didn't understand.  I had probably also fudged those things in the essay because I thought it important not to seem as if there was anything I didn't quite follow.  Now, I quite like it if a student tries really hard to sort something out, writes the best essay they can, and leaves a note at the end or puts in a footnote: 'Is this right?  I don't think I understand xxxx because if it means yyyy then surely....    Can we talk about this at the supervision?'  It makes the supervision easier, because I know what to talk about, and I can be more confident that we are actually talking about something that will help the student when they come to look again at the topic later in the year.  I suppose I still thought that the essays were submitted mostly to be graded and handed back. 

So, over to you: what do you wish you had been told (and/or took notice of) when you were a new undergraduate?


Anonymous said...

I think I'd have liked to be told that I could read outside things that were on reading lists! Admittedly, my supervisors tended towards fairly exhaustive reading lists, but I wonder what would have happened if I'd spent more time doing intellectual off-roading. Still, things turned out alright in the end.

RJR said...

1. If you're having trouble getting through all the preparation for the Insular Latin classes, the answer is not to skip the Insular Latin classes. It's better to go and get told off and feel stupid than to stay away and remain stupid. (Something I learnt pretty sharply in the form of my Prelim Insular Latin results.)

2. Better still, do the preparation for your Insular Latin classes, you slothful youth! And abandon the idea that beer will help you get through it; this is a facetious notion; the beer the monks drank is very different from the beer of today.

3. Don't be so intimidated by Cambridge, with its old buildings and wierd customs. You have as much right to be here as anyone.

4. Enjoy yourself! But do see if you can't try getting your enjoyment a bit more from the consciousness that you're being taught interesting things by some truly brilliant minds, and a bit less from the consumption of alcohol.