no, not I *am* cold, although it is that too – bloomin’ freezing. at least it’s not wet (not here, anyway) and windy with it though, which is one blessing. I hate it when its like that – strong, cold winds, that drive freezing cold needles into exposed flesh, and rip windchill through your clothes.. urgh. That’s the worst for me.

No snow here, either. Yet. Just lots of evidence that Jack Frost has been dancing all over the place, making pretty patterns. Keeping a close eye on the weather forecast: at the moment, if we get any snow, it’ll be on saturday night. we’ll see.

But yes, I have a cold. miserable, manflu cold. In a bit I’m going to lie on the sofa, moan weakly, and whimper about “I want to dieeee”, and ask Michiel to wait on me hand and foot.

<wind whips past, rolling dried grasses round in a ball, like in the movies>

Yeah, i know, so NOT going to happen. Not that he wouldn’t look after me if I was seriously ill (he has in the past, he undoubtedly will again), but for a cold? nah. suck it up, keth.. its just a cold.

In terms of studying, things are going well. very well, actually. *wrinkles nose* … almost too well. I keep waiting to find my nose pressed to the floor cos I’ve fallen flat on my face. (Cynical, much?) mind you, I haven’t had my first essays back from college yet. hmmm. That might be the pratfall I’m expecting/dreading… I’ll hopefully get them back next week.

Actually… in some respects, they’re not going so well. In terms of my study – its going bonkersly well. I’m loving the subject, finding it totally absorbing. We’re in the middle of Archaic Greece at the moment in Ancient History (just got done with the Spartans – yes, the speedo wearing guys from ‘300’, who, not withstanding Hollywood’s “version” of “history”, are actually really interesting), Carbon 14 dating in the archaeology class (bit more ‘meh’, but we have to learn about the methods, so the really interesting stuff will come back with that class), and Old Kingdom Egypt (Pyramids, yes, those pyramids at Giza n all that) in Near Eastern Archaeology. We’ve a new teacher for the Egyptian stuff, who happens to be really inspiring and a great teacher and I’m really glad to have her on board. We’ve been told that as part of the course we’ve got to do an Independent Research Project, which is kind of like a mini dissertation, in a way. The intention, I suppose, is to prepare us for independent research, which we will have to do at Uni. We basically have to choose a suitable subject, to do with the course, but not on something we’ve already studied as part of the course, write an essay on it (1200 words – which isn’t that long, about 3 sides of A4), keep a diary of our work – how much research we’ve done, n so on, and then, after its all marked, give a presentation to the class on our project. I’ve come up with some ideas from all the sections of my course, although, since I know more about the Egyptians than any of the rest of the course, I’ve more ideas on that section than anywhere else, naturally. I talked with the Egyptian teacher (Debi) about this and she was really inspiring and helpful, although I’ve yet to decide what I’m going to do (I still need to discuss this with the main tutor, Kevin before making my final choice), she certainly gave me food for thought, and has offered to put me in touch with someone at Manchester University who is a world-renowned leader in her field, which I’m really excited about. The other outstanding assignment is due in for this class (although it was Kevin teaching that part of it, on “Civilisation”. Yes, the current TV series on BBC2 called “Ancient Worlds” with Richard Miles covers a lot of this assignment, at least the first two episodes! – I had to laugh at the last one, when he was talking about the Agoge (which is the Spartan method of teaching their sons to be warriors, from the age of 7 – the British Education System is based on it), he described it as “the brat camp to end all brat camps”. I have to mention this to Kevin on Monday, see what he thinks of that one…! That assignment is due just before the end of term, on 16th December, and we’ve got 2, possibly 3 assignments to do over the Christmas break, I think. No Christmas TV for me! – although I’ll make an exception for Doctor Who….)

With regard to my earlier fears about the main teacher, Kevin (this post and this post), they’ve proved completely unfounded, and were due to my paranoia and college bureaucracy more than anything. He’s actually been fantastic over the last few weeks, since we started in on the Greeks, its really come alive. I think the main problem with the first module (sources of ancient history) is that the whole subject matter is so wideranging, and he’s getting to know everyone in class, that its perhaps natural to go off the subject a lot more. He knows its a failing of his and now we’re on the Greeks, the moving off subject has cut down.. a lot, which is good. But having said that, even when he does go off subject, he’s very interesting, which is the frustrating bit. He’s one of those people who is a naturally good talker, and who you could listen to for hours, and not get bored. He’s a natural teacher too, gifted with the ability to impart his love of the subject to other people, which is so important in a teacher. I feel lucky to have him as a teacher, and really glad I stomped on my earlier paranoid feelings and focused on the course.

On the archaeology side of the course, things are also going really well. Rachel is the tutor there, and while her teaching style is very different to both Kevin’s and Debi’s, its still hugely enjoyable. I said the subject matter at the moment is a bit ‘meh’, but only because its more scientific based (which doesn’t grab me as much as the history). Its still interesting – learning about the effects and ramifications of C14 dating. We got to go to the Manchester Museum for a field trip, drawing and assessing objects in the museum, which was great (although no one who knows me will be surprised to hear that my drawing sucked!). Part of our latest assignment for Rachel involves selecting one of the objects that we looked at at the Museum and writing a report on it, with the other part involving choosing an archaeological specialist, and writing a report on them and their work (what they’ve published, what digs they’ve been on), and so on. That’s due in on 7th December and is proving to be frustrating, if only because we don’t have access to one of the primary databases for articles in the world (JSTOR), so we’re having to be creative about how we research things. ah well, its a learning curve, if nothing else, and certainly good preparation for all the research and library time we’ll have to do at University.

So what is the problem, if everything is going so swimmingly well? in a nutshell.. my classmates. Frustrating isn’t the word… its not all of them, i hasten to add, just three or four, who don’t seem to be taking the class at all seriously, and who seem to think its perfectly okay to carry on side conversations while the teacher is talking. Not only is it hugely disrespectful to the teacher, its frustrating for me, because the notetakers sometimes struggle to hear what is being said over the people talking, especially when there’s one of these group sessions, and if the notetakers are struggling, then you can imagine how well I’m doing…. (aka.. NOT.) There’s other things going on as well – showing up for class late, and i’m not talking 5 minutes – its half an hour to an hour late sometimes, often without a single apology. They’ll start packing up five minutes before the class is over, when the teacher is still talking (and you can imagine how well that helps the notetakers to hear what is still being said), disappear to the toilet without even an “excuse me” and a murmured apology when they return. Often they miss class – I think there’s only me and one other guy who’s actually attended all the classes, i know the other guy has to cycle in, even with all the bad weather we’ve been having (and quite a lot of my notetakers cycle in as well), and if he can make it, surely the rest of them can? Its all just plain rude. I’m aware I sound like a right old fuddy duddy now, but it seems to me like they take education for granted, as a right, rather than as a priviledge, which is what is should be (at this level, at least). With regard to the talking, and after discussing the situation extensively with the notetakers and the various teachers involved, we agreed one prong of attack would be for me to do a little presentation on deaf awareness. That didn’t bother me – I’ve done deaf awareness training before – and together with the notetaker, who also happens to be the head of the notetaking team (and i’ll come onto the notetakers in a moment), put together some sheets with information on how to communciate with a deaf person. A few people asked questions, they seemed to take it in, then i sat down and we got on with the class. And what happened? almost straight away, the usual culprits started up again, having private conversations, shouting things out to the teacher (and often not useful questions, but ones that are *completely* off the subject!), talking over each other, all things that make it very difficult for the notetakers to hear, never mind to keep up with things.. the teachers do their best to remind them to take it one at a time, but they *are* limited as to what they can do, I know. I think… I’m afraid… its going to come down to me losing my temper and telling them a few home truths, and I’m really reluctant to do that. I’ve agreed with the notetaker to try a drip-drip effect, constantly, quietly asking people to be quiet, to take things one at a time, to see if that gets somewhere, but it does get me so angry and frustrated, especially when i see the notetakers struggling – the class is tough enough to do notes for as it is, without their thoughtlessness and immaturity making things worse.

rant over. as you can see, it makes me so very very cross… *sigh*.

On the other hand, i have nothing but praise for my notetakers. I have two for each class, i started out with one but they soon realised the subject was so heavy duty, that two were needed in order to maintain the speed of typing (they type almost every word that is said, so you can imagine how much typing there is. I get transcripts after the class and they regularly go over 30 pages of A4… this is over 4 hours of class), and to spell each other for breaks. Not only that, the classes are quite technical – lots of strange names of not only technical processes but ancient names – some of the Egyptian Pharoah names are horrible, and i’m still learning how to spell them (never mind say them!) – and there are some unpleasant Greek ones too, such as Thucydides (Greek Historian and Athenian General, wrote The Peloponnesian Wars about the wars between Athens and  Sparta in the 5th Century BC – yes, more speedo-wearing guys!). There is no WAY i would be coping as well with the course as i am now without them.

What they effectively do is almost live subtitles – there is a small delay, as was shown the other day when a teacher asked me a direct question and it was 30 seconds or so before the notetaker caught up! 30 second of “oh *bleep*, what’veidonenow” everyone looking at me! – but it enables me to take my own notes in the same way that a hearing person does in class. Although I get a transcript sent to me, which i can (and often do, to make sure i haven’t missed anything) read through after class, i make my own notes in class for two reasons. firstly: I found it keeps me engaged with the material. Not so much in Debi and Rachel’s classes, which are more interactive, but Kevin’s class is quite passive – you listen, he talks – and no matter how interesting the material, how interesting the speaker, sooner or later, in that kind of environment, your eyes start nodding (especially if you’re already tired – I’m still struggling with the 6am start). Taking notes keeps you alert, and helps to avoid that, stops the passiveness, and makes me engaged with the learning process, thinking about what’s being said, relating it to what i already know, and cementing it in my brain. I found that if i made notes after class, with the transcript, that it took me much longer than if i had made them in class, and didn’t cement into my brain nearly as well (as well as taking time away from doing other work). So the notetakers give me equal access – not only to the course content, but also in terms of TIME – i now have as much time, more or less, as a hearing person on the course, i don’t have to play catch up because of my deafness (I may have to for other things but that’s a whole other thang), and that’s an amazing thing for me. I didn’t have notetakers for my OU Course, back in ’97, and certainly not when i was at school. The Disability Discrimination Act, which has come in since I was at school and since I did my OU course, which is all about equal access, has changed so many things in educational terms, that it really is nothing short of amazing. And i’m assured that when i get to university, there’ll be similar levels of support.

[Which is partly why it makes me so mad, my classmate’s thoughtlessness. Their job is already tough enough, without… ahhhh.. not getting started on that again.]

With university applications.. well. I’ve got my five choices narrowed down. Not going to say what they are here, mostly because i don’t want to jinx anything. I’ve got my personal statement pretty nailed as well. Showed it to both Rachel and Debi, asking for feedback, and got really good feedback, so I think I’ve got it pretty good. I’ve got a meeting with Kevin on Monday afternoon to do the final stuff for the UCAS application, and I’ve paid my dues for it, so it should, I hope, go out next week. I’ve a strong application, a strong personal statement, so .. fingers crossed I get the results I want. If I do, I’ll be sure to share them here, of course… !!