MELS Bells! – Embracing and overcoming the feeling of not doing enough!

Bitmoji ImageSo I had done it! Thrown myself in at the deep end and off I went to the first session of my Strathclyde Doctorate – MELS – Methods of Enquiry, Literature and Scholarship.

COVID 19 has created some pretty weird scenarios for us all to cope with in the world. Normally, I would jump on a train and head off into Glasgow to a random room on campus and be met with those comforting nods of other students before we would collaborate and support one another face to face. There was a sense of actual human connection. And here I was, in my own office, making sure that my lighting was okay, before logging in and seeing some anxious faces waiting to see what was in store for us. It just wasn’t the same.

Imposter syndrome immediately set in. Simple things such as people job titles… headteachers, quality improvement officers, those working for universities, SQA, Education Scotland. I was intimidated. I was nervous. I didn’t think I had it in me. To an extent, I still don’t.

One of my big problems during my masters was keeping up with the reading and pre-tasks. I felt like a charlatan at sessions as I cobbled my way though with some awkward silences and thinking on the spot. I was determined that this time was going to be different. I would keep up to date and do all of the pre-tasks. And I did…and I still felt it wasn’t enough.

Now I have to be clear…. the community of #StrathEdD is an amazing support network. I have more WhatsApp groups than I have ever had…. A StrathEdD one, A tutor group one, a leadership one so far! And there is always the Twitter community with so many experienced ears and hands to listen and type words of encouragement and support.

However….it does have a down side. There were so many of fellow students posting their reading, their quotes from journals, their book collections. I felt an extreme plummet of my morale. How were these amazing people finding the time? I knew some of them were in high pressured jobs, had families and were still finding time to post their progress when, some weeks, I was not finding time to do anything.

I started a new role last January. I went from leading a maths team of 4 to leading a faculty of 15. I love my new school, I love the aspirations we have, the values we believe in and the effort we go to for our young people. I am fully committed to my job. I am committed to my team. I owe it to them to lead by example, give it my time and effort for the benefit of the team, the pupils we serve and the school as a whole.

Another big part of my life is exercise. I understand the importance of keeping fit and healthy not only for my physical wellbeing but also my mental wellbeing (plus it allows me the odd beer or three!). And so I will work until 1800, get home and get dinner and next days lunch organised by 1900, exercising around 2000 and then finally sitting down around 2100. I didn’t (and still don’t) have the time or effort on a nightly basis to make a good go of uni work.

But that’s what it takes…time and effort. And I was not finding the balance. Weekends would come and I would sometimes make a dent but there was still the twitter feeds, the WhatsApp groups, the intellectual conversations all indirectly telling me in my head that I wasn’t doing enough to keep up.

And so here I am, at the start of my Christmas break, with two weeks in front of me with minimal social contact planned and I have made a realisation…this is my journey. No-one else’s. Mine.

At the start of this course, Prof. Kate Wall described two different types of student…those who do little and often and those bingers who will do lots in a short space of time. I have made my peace with being a binger. I make no apology for this. I need the space away from work to concentrate on my doctoral studies. I will always do little bits when I can during term time but I know that I have time. I have this break. I have the Easter break and I need to concentrate on my journey and not the journey of others.

I have taken on a massive commitment. I have fast tracked my credits and doing two doctoral modules in a year with three writing years as a minimum. A four year doctorate was one of the enticements that brought me to Strathclyde. I worry I have made the wrong decision. I have contemplated going and doing the Masters modules just so that I can get more practice at the critical reading, the analysis, the academic writing. Again, I have realised after the first half year that this is my journey and it may take me longer than this. I have realised that this isn’t failure. This isn’t a bad thing. This might have to be what works for me.

And this is one of the reasons that this blog exists. I need to be able to make myself accountable. I need the space to express myself and express that it is okay to not be like everyone else. Potentially no one will read this. I’m okay with this. It’s out there to help others if they feel it helps but it is designed for me. I have targets for this holiday. I want to read more around my subject. I want to get the schematic set out for my 6000 word systematic literature review. I want to get my research question honed and my searches done. However, I have realised that I will not finish it but I have time. I have Easter. I know this is my journey. I am a binger and I will do this…regardless of how long it takes me.

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