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Posted on Monday 20 April 2009 at 7:06 pm

Weekend Retrospective and Year Outlook

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I have a nice transition linking the two, but really this post is about a couple of completely unrelated things. First up is a summary of what I did this weekend, which was lovely by the way. That is followed by news I should have posted over a week ago about what I'll be doing for my grad school stipend next year.

This weekend I went up to the Baltimore/DC area to visit my friend Julia (littlepixiechic) again (I love Julia). I got stuck in traffic on the way up there (I hate I-95), but other than that the weekend was fantastic. We went to a Roller Derby on Saturday evening. I'd never been to a roller derby before and spent the first 45 minutes or so trying to figure out the rules. After I had the basics down, I got a bit bored for a while, but then it got really exciting. The winner of the game we were watching was going on to the championship game so the fans of each team were energetic at first, then one team pulled pretty far ahead and things died down. The team that was behind miraculously caught up in the last five minutes or so and everyone was going crazy. The game ended in a tie, which they said had never happened in that league before, so they held one tie breaker round. That ended in a tie as well so it took a second tie breaker before they had a winner. Everyone was going crazy and I got the feeling that for hardcore roller derby fans this was the kind of game one would be talking about for years to come.

On Sunday, Julia and I met up with my friend Andrew who rode into DC with someone else on Saturday for a completely unrelated reason. The three of us went to the DC zoo for a few hours and had a blast. Most of the animals were vey cooperative and playing around or posing for pictures quite nicely. The lion, a male, even roared for a bit while we were looking at him which impressed me since I'd never heard a lion roar before (on TV excluded anyway). Andrew most wanted to see the pandas, which we finally managed despite them being the least cooperative of all the animals there. Andrew had said something on Friday evening when we were making plans about never having seen a panda in captivity before and then clarified that he'd never seen one period, which prompted much teasing about him encountering wild pandas in the woods of Virginia or Kentucky. I'm not sure what Julia liked the best. You'll have to ask her. EDIT: Julia has helpfully commented that the adorable sea lion training was her favorite part.

After the zoo, Andrew and I made our way back to Williamsburg in time to return the tux Andrew had rented for the thing he went to in DC on Saturday night. The return trip featured a bit of a traffic delay, but it was nothing compared to the jam on the way up. We even had time to stop at a Chipotle for dinner, which made us both extremely happy. We love Chipotle and often lament the lack of one in the Williamsburg area (there are rumors that one will soon be coming to the 'burg!).

While I was hanging with Julia this weekend, I mentioned something about my funding for the upcoming year and her confusion on the matter reminded me that I haven't posted anything about it. Y'all might remember from back in January that I had to put together a crazy application package because my funding from the school next year requires that I work for the school but there were multiple options. Unfortunately I got my least favorite one of the options. I will be a TA for the second half of the Global History class, which goes from 1500 to the present. On the plus side, I will have the fall semester off and this is the only work package that gives you a semester off. On the negative side, I will have the fall semester off and I feel like all this completely unstructured time is not actually helping me be productive, I will have a ton of work to do for this class in the spring and will have no time to work on my dissertation based on the experiences of previous people, and I am completely unqualified for this job.

In terms of the work load, the class works much like the blow up for which I TAed my first semester in Williamsburg. The professor will lecture on Mondays and Wednesdays and then the students have small discussion groups on Fridays. There are usually 10 to 12 students in each discussion group and the TAs lead the students in talking about that week's readings. The TAs are also responsible for all the grading for their students. When I did this before, there were 5 TAs and each one was responsible for two sections, about 24 students. The grading was three tests and a paper from each student. For this Global History class, there are only two TAs and each one has four discussion sections with around 50 students total. The grading is several short papers, weekly journal entries, tests, longer papers, etc. Basically, you are prepping for discussions or grading all the time. Goody.

As to my qualification, as I explained to the department in my application letter, I have a decent grounding in European history through the Reformation and Renaissance and I can do US colonial history and Latin American colonial history but I know nothing about Asian or African history for any era. Since the class is 1500 to the present, I'll be OK on the non Asian and African stuff through about 1800, but I'm completely screwed on Asian and African stuff and basically everything after 1800. Of course, this is an American history PhD program, so everyone is basically unqualified for this position, but I am actually the least qualified of everyone, in my opinion. A couple of years ago, there was a Global History grad class taught by one of the professors that now teaches this new undergrad Global History class. The final project in the grad class was to write a syllabus for a Global History class and those projects were used in the creation of this undergrad class. Every single person in my year took that grad class on Global History except me. How did I end up stuck with this job!? Admittedly there are two of us who will be doing it, so one guy who did take the class got stuck with me, but all three of the other people should have been selected for this ahead of me. *sigh*

I'm pretty sure there was something else I haven't posted about and meant to, but it escapes me at the moment. When I remember, y'all will be the first people to know. If I ever remember.


Ms. J to the Diva
jadeddiva at 12:50 am on 21 April 2009 (UTC) (Link)
Oh man, sucks about the funding. That's how I felt when I was hired to teach seventh grade social studies, which is Asia and Africa. "I'm a post-Civil War American women & gender historian with an emphasis on the US South and you're making me teach this?" But once I got into it, I've really enjoyed it so far. So it hopefully won't be too bad - good luck!
bratty_jedi at 1:57 am on 21 April 2009 (UTC) (Link)
When I got stuck teaching the second half of the survey I felt out of my league and I muddled through. I'm sure I'll pull it off again. I might hit you up for some advice on the whole Americanist suddenly teaching Asia and Africa angle though.
littlepixiechic at 1:08 am on 21 April 2009 (UTC) (Link)
The lion roaring was definitely awesome. But I think my favorite part was seeing the sea lion training. The sea lion who kept running around to both trainers trying to get fish from both of them was super cute. It really was too bad the pandas didn't cooperate better, but hopefully Andrew got some good "pandas in captivity" pictures :)
bratty_jedi at 1:44 am on 21 April 2009 (UTC) (Link)
The sea lions were very cool. That one (Callie, maybe?) certainly had a mind of her own.

I think Andrew said he mostly got pictures of panda butt, but he was still excited.
Wild Magelet
wildmagelet at 5:03 am on 21 April 2009 (UTC) (Link)
I thought momentarily that you went to a roller derby for the first time and...rollered? Derbied?

Um. 'Skated' was probably the word I was looking for there.

I was extremely impressed, heh. :)

I agree, that does suck about the funding. If you can get a scholarship in NZ, they're great, for which I've been very thankful. Unfortunately, as I'm about to discover, once they run out, that's it, and you're back to the loans.

Do you receive a wage for the work, or is it a set amount of funding, for which you have to complete a certain number of hours work for the university?
bratty_jedi at 1:22 pm on 21 April 2009 (UTC) (Link)
LOL. I can't even begin to imagine me in a roller derby. That would be hilarious!

The funding here is a set stipend. Everyone in the PhD program gets the same amount as a regular paycheck during the academic year. Starting this summer there is optional funding available during the summer. Your first year-and-a-half in the program, you take three classes a semester and TA for one class a semester in exchange for your money. You then have one semester in which you do nothing but study for and take your comprehensive exams. Your third year, you have one semester off to do noting but work on your dissertation and one semester in which you teach your own class. Your fourth year, you have he entire year off to work on your dissertation. Your fifth and final year on funding, you do one of a number of things. Most people work in the History Writing Resource Center at least one of the two semesters where they have appointments helping undergrads write papers. Each person in the center has to be there I think 15 hours a week, but much of the time you don't have an appointment and can sit in there working on your own research. People also might teach their own class or, as in my class, TA for the Global History class. For the new summer funding, you and your advisor have to sign a form saying what your study plans are for the summer and that you promise to dedicate 10 of the 15 works of the summer to working on that full time without any other employment. It really is a very generous system, even if it doesn't last long enough for anyone to realistically finish a dissertation.

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