Preparation is Everything.

There will be some travelling going on this year, something I will detail in a future post. What I can reveal already is that one of these trips will take me to Ireland again, but not on my own: I will teach one of my Bachelor courses in Limerick this summer, taking 17 students from our uni with me.

The course is designed to start here and then conclude in Ireland; after the first lessons, I was getting a bit worried about the bunch of students I had picked to come along, as they were rather quiet during the lessons. Very quiet. So to get to know each other a bit better and see whether they were actually able to relax (and hence survive in Ireland), I took them out to my local for a Guinness or two.

I shouldn’t have worried: We spent 5 hours at The James, emptying their supply of ciders (I am not kidding) and entertaining all the other guests with our stories. After a quick stop at a kebab shop with six of them, I decided to call it a day at 2.30 am, while they wandered on to a club to dance the night away.

Looks like Ireland is going to be fun after all.

Klootscheeten.

As mentioned before, I do some teaching at a company in the northwest from January to March, usually going up for a full day on Tuesday and half a day on Wednesdays. It is some nice extra cash on the side, although the fact that the finance authority taxes me heavily on the money, taking away roughly 50%, makes me sometimes wonder whether it is actually worth doing.

But then, I really like the people I teach (and I use the word “teach” in the widest sense here, as we mostly drink tea, eat sweets, and talk about our respective private lives); in the seven years I have been doing this course, a lot of them have become acquaintances, if not friends. So when it was time for the lab department to have their annual Klootscheeten (which is basically an excuse to first get drunk during a walk and then get drunk inside a party tent), it was a no-brainer for them that I was to be part of the team.

As I had to work until 2 pm, I was a bit late and hence “forced” to catch up on booze; even though they had just started the tour an hour earlier, some of the ladies were already dangerously imbalanced when I arrived. Give them a little metal ball to throw, and you have an almost deadly combination; it still surprises me nobody was seriously injured, although we came quite close once – thankfully, even after 5 beers Jan still had fast reflexes and managed to duck.

If there is one thing I can count on during these kind of parties is that after a while, men tend to flock towards me; the drunker they are, the more they seem to have the need to discuss private matters with me … including guys I have never met before. We hadn’t even reached our destination yet when a young bloke from another team started asking me whether he should continue studying or instead find a job to support his girlfriend who wanted to have a baby. Rather startled, I told him that given his age (he looked about 19 to me), they shouldn’t really aim to have a baby yet, to which he replied, “My girlfriend is 30”. And then, giving me a meaningful look, “I like older women”. Oh dear.

Whilst slowly backing away, I bumped into Daniel (one of “my” people) who wanted to discuss his relationship issues with me; after I had patched him up, Robin was going on about his relationship and whether I could help him make a decision (short answer: No.). I finally made it to the dance floor and just stayed there for the next couple of hours to be out of harm’s way, even though the music was mostly shite (something we all agreed on, and yet everybody was dancing. The miraculous powers of alcohol …).

I had booked a hotel room to be more independent when it came to partying the night away; it was a wise decision, as I was (as usual) one of the last to leave at about 3 am – but not after arranging another meet-up in about three weeks’ time.

Facilitating the Writing Process.

As part of my work contract, I am required to visit the occasional training day. Luckily, I am allowed to pick the topics of these workshops myself, so at least they are about something I am actually interested in.

So today, I spent a day in Dortmund, doing a workshop on how to facilitate the writing process for students, dealing with problems such as identifying research questions, helping students to develop their own writing style, offering the right amount of input without becoming too domineering.

The good news is that I am apparently already doing a lot of things right, at least in terms of structural and motivational support. The bad news is that there is not “one cure for all” when it comes to teaching students how to come up with research ideas, time management, and proper citations: What works for one person might have the opposite effect for another, and in the end you can only do a certain amount of “pushing” in the right direction – learning how to carry out (and communicate!) research is part of the individual academic learning curve, after all.

It still was a pretty good workshop, as it made me realise that I need to revise my presentations on research and academic writing; maybe I am assuming too much foreknowledge by students, which could be the reason why their research papers are not always up to the standards I am aiming for. But for students to understand and meet these standards, I have to explain them more thoroughly. Lesson learned.

Hamburg.

The weekend brought along a quick trip to Hamburg to see family and organise some appointments (travelling one day later than planned, as a lovely stomach bug had gotten the better of me and made me faint twice). After first stopping at Jen’s place, we made our way to the stadium to stock up on some merchandise from our favourite team, finishing the day with a little home-made food orgy.

The next day, I travelled on to my uncle and aunt; my aunt and me spent a rather lazy Saturday evening and Sunday morning watching quiz shows and biathlon respectively, while my uncle prepared some rather delicious dinner and breakfast. After 48 hours, I caught the train home, but the next trip to Hamburg is already booked.

Pipped to the Post.

It was a last minute affair: Kai had contacted me a couple of days ago, asking whether I could fill in at the Pub Quiz for two friends who were on holiday. Sure, no problem. I wasn’t aware, however, that I was quizzing with the current leaders of the local Pub Quiz League (meaning that so far, they have managed to keep another 24 teams at bay).

So whilst being crammed into the corner of the crowded Bohemé Boulette, I tried not to let the pressure get the better of me and dutifully shot out answers to the topics I was supposed to excel in (music, movies, trivia) while trying not to confuse the others too much when it came to topics I had no clue of (bird feathers, pests, African geography).

We were leading for most of the evening by about 1-2 points, but in the last round, our team suffered a bit of a blackout – we could answer some questions, but were completely stumped by others. Eventually, we lost by 0.5 points, but still managed to hold onto the top spot in the current championship. As I proved to be a valuable asset to the team (thanks to recognizing Amy Macdonald’s voice and the market value of Bastian Schweinsteiger), I was invited back for the next holiday breaks. Count me in, guys.

Sawdust.

It took me almost a year, but I finally managed to reduce my first pair of sticks to shreds. To quote Marcel (my drum instructor), “It is easy to distinguish the rock from the jazz drummer – the former looks like he has just finished his shift in a timber mill”.