26 May 2010

Instead of complaining, let's call this....venting

Yesterday, there was a "revision session" in preparation for exams which are in 25 days (not like anyone is counting or worried about not being ready). The revisions session covered useful topics like, "How many words should I write on each essay?" (In order to understand the blatant absurdity of this question, you should know that the essays are hand-written. If you are going to spend even one minute of the 60 minutes per essay that you are allotted doing a word-count, you should probably reconsider your strategy.) Strangely enough, this question is apparently not unique to our program. A friend told me that a student asked the same thing in her revision session and that when the professor wouldn't give an answer, the student countered with, "Well, how many pages then?" The professor THEN proceeded to describe the approximate size of the pages, the different uses of the margins as well as variable hand-writing styles to provide an approximate page range. It sounds like a significant chunk of the rest of the review session was dedicated to poorly-disguised versions of "Will you tell me which questions are going to be on the exam?" Which were probably phrased as "What would be an example of something like (fill in the blank)?" These poorly-veiled inquiries were universally unsuccessful.

Other notable revelations from this meeting include the revelation that the examiners "do not care what we think"; my supervisor has graciously been impressing this upon me for the duration of the year, so I am ahead of the game here. (I think he thought this is something that I would really struggle with as an American--and he said as much. However, he is in luck, because I was, in fact, relieved to know that my absence of opinions--or thinking for that matter--would not be an obstacle to my success in the course. Whew.)

However, the most simultaneously encouraging and discouraging moment of the meeting had to be when the course director (and just to clarify, course director in England does mean the same thing as in the US--the person IN CHARGE OF the course/department) confessed that, "(He wasn't) sure that he could pass our exam." (Insert, headscratch/eye-bulge here).

Let's say that's true.

1. Why would you share that?! (Both from the perspective of you maintaining some level of authority/self-respect as well as that being completely exasperatingly frustrating to us.)

2. Don't you think that is a problem on some level? On the one hand, are you asking too much of master's students if you couldn't do this yourself? Or maybe, on the other hand, are you admitting that what we are learning is just not useful if you don't need it to do your job.

3. Furthermore, YOU TAUGHT 50% OF THE COURSE CONTENT!!!! (I don't even think I need to describe why this is problematic and disturbing).

In other news, maybe he is just not a good speller. I can see how that could be a problem since you have to cite all of the sources that you use from memory (just author and year--if you use the page number, the examiners will look it up, so you are discouraged from doing that). Let's just say that I am really regretting using Chile, India, and Sweden for some of my country examples. That decision has introduced the following authors into this weeks' spelling list: Hsieh, Urquiola, Tschannen-Moran (so you COULDN'T have just taken your husband's last name?!), and my personal favorites Srivasta, Mehrotra, and PANCHAMUKHI. Oh, blessings. I am going to have to watch Akeelah and the Bee as inspiration for this exam.

Ok, I think I am done. Thanks for listening.

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