December has been a bit of a whirlwind so far. I can't believe we're already less than a week away from Christmas! Soon, I'll be going home for the holidays. But it won't be a vacation!
Thankfully, I finally finished grading all of my assigned section of the final exam for the class I was TA-ing this semester. It was interesting, and I probably know all the right answers by heart now, but it was a rough ride as well. It broke my heart to deduct points from students who had nearly perfect answers, filled with more information than necessary - showing that they did understand the material - but, unfortunately, forgot to mention one crucial aspect of the answer. For example, that a diagnostic tool in determining drug and alcohol addiction focuses on both physical and psychological factors, or that a treatment addresses attitude and behaviour. I also had to give a few "0" but for those, it really wasn't my fault... I just couldn't justify giving any points!
These second year students also had serious grammatical, sentence structure, and subject-verb agreement issues. My biggest pet peeve for this round of grading? Affect vs. effect. It's really not that hard. I mean, there's even an Oatmeal poster about it! Print it out and hang it across from your desk! There were a few other glaring errors that popped up repeatedly - surprisingly not its/it's or there/their too often - but that one was surely the most annoying one, especially considering the subject matter: The effect of drugs and alcohol and how they affect our overall health.
This afternoon, once I had handed those exams back to the professor, I felt light as a feather and free as air! But unfortunately, it's not all fun and games from here! I've got my first graduate-level paper due... whenever. Sometime before I graduate. Preferably by the end of this academic year. Surprisingly (to me), paper deadlines seem to be pretty relaxed at this level. Still, I have a very busy semester this Winter (2.5 classes + TAing a tutorial + a conference), so I'm planning on getting mine done before next semester starts. I've already compiled a list of readings relating to Michel Foucault's interpretations of power - especially in the later years - and am planning on relating that concept to athletes who tweet. Who really holds the power in that situation, I ask?
I've already done a decent amount of reading, but there's still a lot left to explore. I've indexed it all, and I, in theory, know exactly how much work I have left to do. The trouble is getting through it all. After sitting on the couch for a full day reading heavy theory and its mostly political applications rather than the sports ones I'm looking for, you tend to have a hard time focusing. Your brain gets all mumbled and jumbled and you forget what you're actually thinking about and nothing makes sense anymore. Even after a few breaks, it still feels all confused. The trick is realising that it's really not that big a deal, or that important a concept, and letting it slide through you and hoping it'll absorb through osmosis. Once you hit that wall and remember to pull back from the subject matter you're examining, it actually does start to make some kind of sense, I find. Hopefully, the notes I'm taking aren't too much copy-pasting to be particularly relevant, and re-reading them at the end of my research process will give me a good recap of the situation.
My Christmas vacation, therefore, will not be much of a vacation at all. I'll take some time to relax, take in the joys of the season and spend time with my family. But mostly, I will be sitting on the couch, reading about Foucault and power, before coming home to write my paper and handing it in a good 5 days before the Winter semester starts.
Well, that's the plan, at least.