Friday, 30 July 2010

I can't get no-o, mo-ti-va-tion

Something has happened this week to really perk up my enthusiasm.  I, being quite a cheeky chancer at times, emailed a link to my blog off to the powers-that-bee who run the OU's Student Community website Platform in the hope that it would maybe work it's way into some miniscule small print in some deep dark corner of the site.  Next thing I know I get an email from the lovely Robyn asking if I'd be willing to let posts from the blog be lifted and used in the Student Blog section of the website.

Stunned.  <--- me!

So the first section went live on the website yesterday and I'm absolutely thrilled.  However...  There is one small matter which concerns me and I feel requires clarification...

On Platform's homepage there's currently a little scrolling banner on which my photo pops up, and next to it is the header "My name's Carrie and I'm addicted to education".

Hmmm...  Well...  This is true and it's not.  It's true that I absolutely thrive on the thought of learning more and going as far as I can go and getting my dream job and all that, but I don't find it an easy journey.  I struggle with motivation constantly and have to force myself to get my books out and concentrate on my studies.  On weeknights I get home from work at 5:05pm, my better half gets home at about 7:00pm, this gives me almost 2 hours of completely free time during which I could cram some study in which would keep me perfectly up to date with my work and allow me to carry on with the rest of my free time entirely as I please.

But like the man from that annoying Nationwide advert says, it doesn't work like that.  I get distracted by everything; the internet, the dog, the tv, anything shiny that catches my eye, basically anything which isn't an OU book (although I have been known to get distracted by OLD course books for whatever reason...).  I find it so difficult to actually get the book out, put a highlighter in one hand, pencil in the other and actually read.  It's not because I don't WANT to study, I do, I absolutely do, I just find it so hard to get going.  Usually once I'm in the flow and as long as I'm understanding the material I'm fine, but getting going is a chore which I make efforts to avoid at my peril.

That's one of the reasons I started this blog actually; to try and motivate me and help me figure out where my weak spots are so I can act upon them.  Motivation seems to come from strange places though.  For some reason unbeknownst to sanity I watched Legally Blonde at the weekend (for those who know me, I ain't really a chick-flick kinda gaal, I'm more a horror, blood, guts, gore, psychological-thriller fan, or usually anything foreign too), and it really motivated me to finish my TMA, seeing the girl in the film trying to prove to everyone that she COULD do it, she COULD graduate from Harvard Law really gave me a boost and I blitzed the rest of my TMA with ease.  Whether I get a good score is another matter but it gave me the motivation to crack on and get it submitted.

Of course that's just a film (and the fact that I went straight on to order LB2 is insignificant *ahem*, still hasn't turned up, dammit), but there are things which happen in real life which motivate me too; Robyn being my booster button this time around.  The enthusiasm I got back from her was absolutely fantastic and to know that someone had read my blog with any degree of interest really perked me up and made me think "hell yeah, I can do this!"

So I dedicate this latest bout of renewed vigour to Robyn, heartfelt thanks m'dear x

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

I HAD thought of a title for this post...

I am frequently perturbed at the outstanding ability of my brain to um...  Dang.  What was I going to say again?  Oh yeah, forget things.  I'm not talking major things, but I can be asked to do something in the morning and unless I write it down in my pocket-policeman-notebook I'm likely to forget about it.  This does not bode well for my rapidly approaching (October 15th) Philosophy exam as I'll have to memorise dozens of philosophers, theories, quotes, arguments etc.  I've done some online tests which claim I have the brain of a 30 year old (you don't say?!) so that's not the problem, so what can be the cause of my poor memory?

Well having done a bit of research I've ruled out the following potential causes:
  1. ADHD.  I researched this for one of my college courses, definitely not the cause.
  2. Stress.  Definitely not the cause, I'm more of a get-it-off-your-chest-straight-away-and-move-on kinda gaal, never one to fester over things.
  3. Smoking.  Apparently smoking indirectly reduces oxygen flow to the brain which can affect memory.  I've never even TRIED smoking.
  4. Poor sleep habits.  My mother used to say I could fall asleep on a clothes line, I usually get 8 hours a night, rarely wake up through the night and drink decaf tea most of the time.
  5. Atrophy.  Well I'm assuming this can be ruled out, I use my brain quite a bit...
Since I can't figure out what the CAUSE is, I shall consider it inconsequential, maybe it's just one of those things.

So against my usual preachings, rather than treating the cause I'll have to settle for treating the symptom.  Back to Google I go in search of memory improvement tips.  And here's another nice bullet point action list for you to feast upon:
  1. Brain training.  I'm not talking Mr Wackysheemas brain training on the DS, there's evidence that it doesn't work anyway.  I'm talking neurobic exercise.
  2. More physical exercise.  Harks back to my last post about a healthy body meaning a healthy mind, but it counts for memory too - increased oxygen to the brain, and a reduction in the likelihood of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease which cause memory loss.
  3. Nutrition.  As well as the obvious healthy food, supplements might be worth a try.  My better half swears by glucosamine sulphate & cod liver oil to help strengthen his old sports-injured knee so why wouldn't they help strengthen the grey matter?
  4. Improve sleep.  Okay okay, I know I said there's nothing wrong with my sleep patterns, but just because I sleep for 8 hours a night, that doesn't mean I'm getting QUALITY sleep, so I'll aim to improve my night time routine and go back to having my nightcap of a warm malted milk (malt extract and milk, none of this Ovaltine rubbish).  Mmmm.
Maybe it's because I try to concentrate on too many things at once that I inevitably end up getting distracted and forgetting one of them.  Anyhoo, The Simpsons is on and my goulash is drying out...  ;o)

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Mens sana in corpore sano

Or in other words, a healthy mind in a healthy body.
It has come (or rather, been brought) to my attention lately that I've been concentrating more on my studies and related activities and letting anything remotely active fall by the wayside.  At one point I was fairly healthy and active, I was almost 2 stone lighter than I am now and was mountain biking at least twice a week, however I haven't been mountain biking this YEAR enough times to run out of digits while counting... (which has probably contributed to the excess lbs).  Studies have shown that aerobic exercise can improve brain function which can aid concentration, retention and cognitive function in general.
Enough excuses, if a healthy body = a healthy mind then I really need to shape up.  I'm sure I can organise my studies a bit better so that I can fit some biking fun in.  If that fails I could always use the cross-trainer-come-clothes-horse which is hiding away in the spare room; 20 minutes a couple of times a week won't break the study bank surely, and I could always use that time for listening to the cd's which come with my course material.

It's imperitive that I score very well in my final undergraduate unit as this will determine my final BSc grading so by the time it starts I gotta be ship-shape.  That gives me until October to get myself in the best shape I can ready for DD305.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

I Kant write this Hume-ungous essay...

I'm busy writing a TMA for my current course which is a critical analysis of a subject which Philosophers David Hume and Immanuel Kant somewhat disagree on - the involvement of the imagination in proving the existence of the external world.  Deep eh.  Not really, Philosophy's one of those subjects which always sounds complex and involved and while I'm not saying it's easy it's not impossible either, takes a lot of concentration though.  The good thing about Philosophy is that a lot of it is down to interpretation.  Of course you have to have the skill to be able to pick holes in everyone's arguments and back up your hole-picking with evidence or solid theory but that's something the Open University course material forces you to do brilliantly.  I do love the OU (in case you hadn't guessed...).
I went to an OU Open Day a few weeks ago and spoke to one of the Postgrad tutors about entry requirements for the MSc I want to do.  My degree with be a third Philosophy and I was concerned that it wouldn't be a favourable entry route for the MSc in Social (or Psychological, haven't decided yet) Research Methods however the tutor reassured me that Philosophy is a great route in and the skills I already have in reading and critical analysis will give me a great head start as it's one of the key aspects of the first couple of postgrad units.  That put my mind massively at ease.

As an aside, I got confirmation from my boss yesterday that both of the evening classes I've done lately (British Sign Language and Mental Health Awareness) are being paid for by the company so I'll get a nice refund of my course fees to go towards my final OU unit.  I don't think I've paid full price for ANY course I've done so far, someone's always willing to make a contrubution towards my furthering education.  I happily volunteer for anything too, the more experience and skills I can gain the better.  If any of these things make me stand out just a little bit on a PhD scholarship application then it's all been worth it.

Anyway.  Back to my Hume-ungous essay.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Dressing up is childs play

Okay, say in theory I complete all levels of my hedumucation with the Open University (which I'd be damned proud to say I did), this is how I'd get to dress up:

BSc.  Typical black robes, but the OU's lovely shade of blue would complement my eyes beautifully.
MSc.  Reversal of colours, best make sure I get some bonny shoes to match.
PhD.  Nice but the colours remind me a lot of my work uniform... 

Hmm...  Not bad.  I'm not usually one to get excited about clothes but on this occasion I think I'd make an exception.  £40 to hire the PhD gown or near £500 to buy it...  I'd better get saving.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

A student's lament.

Here I sit, broken hearted,
Should be halfway through my TMA by now,
But I haven't even started!

A little background...

I feel a bit of background information is in order, just to get up to speed with where I am at present.  Here's the abridged version:

In 2004 began studies with the OU.  In 2005 upon completion of 2nd unit took some time out from OU while I did a Foundation Degree paid for by my employer, came back to the OU last year.  Due to graduate with a BSc in May 2011 with a degree made up of 2 social science courses, 2 philosophy courses and credit points transferred from my FD (which was in Quantity Surveying).  Decided last year that I'd quite like to do a Masters too and started snooping around the OU Postgrad prospectus.  Decided earlier this year that I'd love to do a Doctorate too in order to get my "dream" job and started snooping around at PhD scholarships.
Upon deciding I'd like to do a PhD I put my logical cap on and worked backwards from there to figure out what I would need to do in order to get there and asked a few Dr friends for their opinions.  This is what I worked out:

  1. For my last OU unit I should do something relevant to my intended Masters.
  2. Since I'm doing all of my studying whilst still working a full time job, I won't be able to get much experience from my paid employment so I need to get it from somewhere else - voluntary work.
  3. When I enrol on a Masters degree I need to start thinking about research subjects for a PhD and so will utilise the wealth of knowledge within the OU to help me create that plan.
I've already put 1 & 2 into action.  3 will have to wait for obvious reasons of chronology.

To satisfy number 1, I have enrolled on a Social Policy course as the final unit required for my BSc Hons.  This begins in October so there's about a one week crossover where I'll be taking my Philosophy exam and starting reading for the Social Policy course.

To satisfy number 2 I have been working my socks off lately.  I have begun a 4 year post as Local Education Authority Governor of 3 schools in my community (a federated Governing body, not 3 separate schools), this has given me access to training schemes run by the local council.
I've also helped lead the regeneration of my local branch of the OU Students Association (OUSA) and subsequently been voted Chair, I'm helping with the regeneration of neighbouring branches too which will hopefully lead to the reformation of a Regional Forum which I intend to stand for Officer on too.
I've also been accepted as a Central Representative, this involves sitting as an OUSA rep on the OU's governance committees.
Lastly for now, I've joined my local Community Forum.  I've lived in this community my whole life anyway so I figured they deserve my attendance at least, I went to my first forum meeting last month and LOVED it.

There's probably a few other things I could mention too; extra night classes I've done, other voluntary things I'm involved in, but that's the main bulk of my efforts towards a Doctorate so far.  I'm not done yet though...  There's always room for something extra  ;o)

What I learned in school last week

Well not quite in school but it sounded better.
I signed myself up on a seminar which took place last Friday to do with third sector policy making.  When I was there, one of the speakers was telling a tale about a time when he was speaking to a group of NEETs (not in education, employment or training), and asking them what their dreams for the future were.  Many of them came up with fantastic and colourful descriptions of how they wanted their lives to be in the future and this speaker was very impressed with their responses.  When they'd finished telling him their dreams, he said to them "right, what have you done TODAY to help you achieve that dream?".  This struck a chord with me, I'm never going to reach my end goal unless I make steps, even tiny little ones, at any opportunity I can.

The seminar was a disappointment on the whole but at least I took that one thing away from it and it has renewed my enthusiasm.  Hey...  I started this blog didn't I?!