hug a medievalist fortnight, exam revision, and annual review

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 8.45.00 PM

Things not done in the last couple of weeks:

  • finishing part 2 of the post on libraries
  • finishing the next Old Talks post
  • finishing composing final exams

Things done:

  • much marking
  • annual review stuff for my institution (selected excerpts will be on here too: it’s a really useful exercise, to remind you that you have in fact done some work this year, and that there are still things to do… and rubrics which remain mysterious…)
  • exam preparation, which is coming along albeit will as ever involve last-minute wheezing panics
  • composing and sending out revision guides to students, plus the usual pre-exam advice (I’ll post that on here too)
  • thinking and talking to other people about stuff to do for the next set of course-tweakings: colleagues, students, and someone else’s student I met today to talk about something else, but who had some really illuminating insights (on learning a different language) that I’ll be putting into practice, and thinking about further along the way
  • sitting back and enjoying final student presentations for FREN 333.

Surreptitious things done:

  • industrial espionage on other institutions c/o talking to transfer students
  • trying to sell Medieval Studies to students at our department’s DISCOVER FHIS event
  • finished watching Hemlock Grove and (UK) Being Human.
    Eye-candy delights aside, this probably does count as work, as I’ve been thinking a lot recently about humanism, humanistic education, and The Humanities. About how to combine ideas of “being humane” with post-humanism, in a feminist “and/and” way, without ending up in silliness or ludicrous fallacies or inane senseless / nonsense.
    I also had a troubling and slightly traumatic meeting (one of a series) with a student in Commerce who might or might not be human. I should add that this was not one of my “own” students in my own classes; I have several Commerce students, all of whom are fabulous, smart, sensitive, wonderful, and very definitely human.
  • reading, some of which is tangentially-related to teaching and thinking/research (speculative imaginative fictions), some of which is not (Balzac)
  • facebooking, selected highlights of which should probably appear here just for giggles. Again, some is more work-related, such as almost daily news of yet more Medieval stuff being digitised and made publicly freely available. Yay for Medievalists, the most democratic of disciplines…


(source: FREN 102)


  • your UBC student ID
  • a pen (I would recommend bringing three new ones)
  • water, if you wish
  • a spare layer of clothing in case you get cold during the exam (cardigan, hat, etc.)
  • basics such as keys, outerwear, umbrella,…


  • textbooks, notes, revision materials
  • cellphones, smartphones, tablets, laptops, headphones, and other electronic devices


This is what I usually tell students, in all classes, for exam preparation:

  1. Sleep. At least 8 hours/night, every night. Sleep plays an essential role in the consolidation of memory.
  2. Electronic visual blackout before sleep. At least an hour with no electronic light-sources (i.e. screens). This should help you to sleep. Listening to music, however: yes. Actively encouraged: especially if it’s in French! Music should also help you be happier and calmer.

  3. Eat well and regularly.

  4. Exercise. Make sure you’ve at least stretched for 5 minutes every hour. Including during exams. This keeps your core muscles working and your airways open; especially around your upper torso and shoulders. We will remind students of the passing of time during the exam, and one reason for that is to give us a reason to remind students to stretch out a bit.

  5. Cramming at the last minute is not advised, for three reasons:

(a) Most of your work is done during term, in the virtuous cycle of teaching-and-learning. This is reinforced by FREN101′s online exercises. There is little material that you can cram at the last minute, without taking drugs of a sort that also risk messing up memory. French is unlike academic areas that depend on learning facts by heart, by rote, in a mechanical robotic way.

(b) French is like most other academic subjects in that, at a university level, in order to do well you will/should also need to show evidence of reflexion, of independent thought. This entails active new thinking during the exam.

(c) French, like any language, requires regular continuous work and practice. The way it is learned is more like music than is is like other Arts/Humanities subjects. An analogy: if you had a piano recital, you wouldn’t do nothing at all and then cram 18 hours’ practice the day before.

  1. Some of the best revision you can do before tests and exams is testing yourself. One of the best tests of your knowledge is your capability to explain something to another person. As I always tell me own students / section around week 3 of class: it is worth getting into study-pairs or groups (but keep them small: 2-4 people) as soon as possible, and definitely well before the middle of the term. In my experience, many people do this anyway. Meet regularly over coffee/tea (and maybe cake, du gâteau). Quiz each other. This can be done at any time, and continues to be beneficial in the week before a final exam
  2. Make sure you know where your exam is taking place, how to get to it, and how long that will take.

  3. Make sure you know where the nearest bathroom is. Pay a visit before the exam.

  4. Arrive at your exam early (at least 20 minutes before the start), preferably including at least 10 minutes’ walking in your itinerary to get some oxygen into your brain (but not running).

  5. Don’t bring anything with you that you don’t need for the exam itself. Especially no notes, revision guides, last-minute crib-sheets, etc. They rarely help. You’re better off spending those last few minutes before the exam doing deep breathing. Some people meditate. Do whatever works for you, something calm that involves breathing slowly and deeply, good for your heart-rate as well as your blood (and brain) oxygen levels.


Your are expected to know these: it is one of your contractual responsibilities and obligations when you registered as a UBC student.




Or, hoping one has done more good than bad. Most recently, that would include managing to write something in a rubric entitled “leadership” without barfing.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 8.17.21 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 8.17.35 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 8.17.45 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 8.17.58 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 8.18.15 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 8.18.30 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 8.18.44 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 8.19.08 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 8.19.19 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 8.19.38 PM


No room on the form for:

  • Correspondence: I spend hours every day dealing with student emails, enquiries, coordinating coordination, giving advice (thanks to my kind, generous, and wise colleague MO’H for help here)
    Hours. At least 2 hours / day, every day. Seriously. Not counting the time needed to read emails and, at times, translate and interpret. Some times of year, such as around the beginning of term, this eats up my life. I’ve had 70-80 hours weeks that included 6 hours / day and counting on student emails alone.
  • Office hours
  • Extended office hours
  • Students dropping in whom I don’t actually teach but who do a course I coordinate. These are often fun interesting conversations, and a friendly chat is always a welcome break for me, but this still adds up to TIME SPENT EVERY WEEK DOING WORK.
  • Helping out TAs, often “merely” talking or emailing

Because these don’t count as actual productive work, resulting in the production of a, well, end product. Because students can’t be counted as products. Not becaue they’re human beings—what were you thinking, what an absurd and irrelevant notion—but because they can’t be counted. You know: properly, quantifiably, objectively. Furthermore, their happiness, wellbeing, emotional stability, and intellectual development certainly don’t seem to count. Or not in my job anyway. I’d love to see what the equivalent forms for people working in counselling an advising services look like. They probably have even bigger and swearier hissy fits than I do, or can even imagine.

Last but not least, online stuff coming up later this year… Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 8.20.04 PM

And another one, not on the form for obvious reasons:

  • A reading and commentary on the Project Management Body of Knowledge a.k.a the Bible of Evil.
    A very useful work for seeing how the other half (or, Adminstrative Bloat) pseudo-think; and the nearest thing we have, perhaps, to a glossary. This is a foreign language, used by aliens. There are some rather touchingly comical passages in reference to dealing with human beings resources. Whether PMBKers are inhuman or non-human must remain, of course, an unresolved question.
  • Special highlight: the bare half-page that just about refers to ethics.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.