I heard on a podcast, at the start of the month, that “September is the new January”, with its inherent sense of fresh start. That’s certainly the case for me, with the kids going back to school / university and a new term starting for me. The “fresh start” was also evident in the return to weekend sports’ fixtures for the kids, now that Covid-19 movement restrictions have been lifted. I took advantage of the end of movement restrictions by meeting up outdoors with friends and neighbours, and by going to the theatre. That felt really good!
I am using the September fresh start theme to focus on my physical health, such as booking much delayed health checks (hello, new glasses), or trying new gym classes.
This month, I managed to tick off many things off my list and to set others in motion. Though, unfortunately, writing fell to the wagon.
On the research front, I coded Twitter data using NVivo, and, later in the month, presented the (very) early findings of this analysis to representatives of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in London.
I also did a (very small) bit of work on the project that I am hoping to submit for research funding. I need to ramp up efforts on this, during October!
One day, I had a meeting with a colleague in Law about organising a special issue. Then, we started talking about our respective research interests, and ended up identifying a possible project around digital financial literacy. Though, as we are both very busy at the moment with the start of the new academic year, we decided to leave this on hold for the time being, and revisit it in November.
Oh, and I participated in a Creative methods workshop, delivered by Dr Helen Kara, which was very inspiring.
On the writing front… I didn’t really produce anything of substance. I discussed some ideas with a colleague. But, then, we both got side-tracked with the start of the semester, and none of us followed up on that conversation. So, I am adding this to the top of my To Do list for October. I got started on the interim report for a project. And I tried – but failed – to get an updated on a paper that I submitted 9 months ago!! Trust me, I am acutely aware of the difficulties in securing reviewers for papers – but 9 months without an update is too much, really.
Teaching has been the dominant feature this month, naturally. I organised various quizzes for my students, and set up the online exam which they are due to take in October. And I prepared three lectures and delivered 2. This year, I am teaching in a hybrid format: I teach in the classroom, but live streaming to students who can’t join the class physically. It presents some logistical challenges, such as having to stay relatively close to the desk, so that students can hear me properly. Plus, I need to keep reminding myself to draw the online students into the class. But, other than that, it is working OK. I definitely prefer this setting to teaching online, only.
Other teaching related tasks this month included dissertation support (with all the stress that comes in the final weeks before submission is due); examined 2 PhDs; wrote the annual review reports for the modules that I taught last year; finalised 6 academic misconduct investigations; wrote reference letters for former students; attended a teaching away day in the fantastic setting of Hampton Court Palace; and delivered a workshop on qualitative data analysis. One of my PhD students also had his own examination – which was nerve wrecking for both of us! But he did really well and, after an extremely rigorous examination, passed his exam, subject to minor changes.
On the admin front, I tied up some loose ends from my time as divisional leader: namely, organising contracts for teaching assistants, and entering workload information in our audit system. While this is no longer my responsibility, I felt that it would take longer for me to show my colleague how to do this than to do it myself. Plus, I remember how overwhelming these early weeks in the job can be; and this is an easy way to ease my colleague’s load a little bit. I also had a meeting with the other research lab leaders, and felt really inspired by some of their initiatives. So, I have several ideas for exciting things to do in the research lab that I am leading.
September also marked the official end of Summer, and the start of a new season. Autumn is a beautiful time of the year… but the sound and sight of geese migrating to warmer places, and the reduced daylight due to the Earth’s rotation and the overcast weather, really get to me. What are your top tips to fight off “October Blues” and to enjoy this time of the year, other than being outdoors as much as I can (which I already do), and consuming pumpkin spiced late (which… no, thank you)?