Wednesday, January 28, 2015

An Evening with Miel

Last night, I and some of the volunteers from the Jerusalem Youth Chorus UK Tour went to the Album Launch of Miel de Botton's first CD, "Magnetic". 

Miel is an incredibly generous supporter of the Youth Chorus and makes all of their international touring possible. I had the pleasure of working with her and her team on the Aldwych Concert. It was really fun to sit back, not in charge of this particular show, and just enjoy watching her have so much fun!

Congrats and thanks to Miel - it was a really fun evening. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Commissioner Dinner

I had a very lovely evening out in North London last night with a group of Marshalls who were invited to one of the Commissioner's homes. 
Marshall Commissioners sit on the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission to administer the Scholarship - they get to decide on policies, work on partnerships with universities, and the like. One of them very kindly invited some of us over to meet the family (including two adorable under-fives; Becca was very happy). It was a nice chance to chat with them somewhere other than a Board Room!

Thursday, January 22, 2015


As part of my work with The Brilliant Club, I have been invited to take a course through King's College London's Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice in Higher Education. Most universities have these kinds of programmes as a fairly low-intensity teacher training programme for uni faculty. Teaching assistants in the upper years of their PhDs often enrol as part of their professional development. Teaching staff who are hired onto the uni faculty and don't have a similar qualification are required to complete the programme within their first few years of teaching. My hope is that, through the Brilliant Club, I'll manage to build up the credits to essentially be done when I graduate with my PhD. This will make me a more attractive hire for UK unis and make my first few years of teaching easier since I won't be trying to tick this off the checklist. 
This term is "Rethinking Teaching in the Context of Diversity". We are taking the concept of "diversity" widely, which I really appreciate, and all of the assignments are geared toward reflection on and brainstorming about our own teaching contexts. So I'm getting a structured way to work through the course I'm developing and how I want to tackle pedagogy in my classroom. Also a great chance to meet other PhDs and young staff from across King's. Our first in-person session was yesterday, after a fairly robust discussion on the online forum about what makes up diversity in our classrooms. We had guest speakers from the Disability Services and Equality Offices in yesterday, so some good arguments about what makes up disability, how we are required to be proactive (or not) about approaches to equality, and the like. All grand fun. 

And now, back to my solitary reading and writing. ;)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Teacher Training

I spent the weekend at Hammersmith Academy with The Brilliant Club, a non-profit working to shrink the gap between the participation rates of pupils from non-selective state and private schools at highly-selective universities. The Club trains PhD students to go into state schools and deliver uni-style tutorials to a small group of students. Pupils complete homework and a marked piece of coursework that is graded at a key stage above their current grade - I have students in Years 9&10 but will be grading them according to A-level standards. 
Given that we haven't necessarily any teaching experience, let alone with high school pupils, we get a week of pedagogy and skills. Some of us deliver pre-designed courses covering subject area skills; others develop a curriculum based on their research. I'll be teaching a course I'm creating called "Does the Telly Lie? Media and the Middle East". The course will explore biases in the media and question how society judges and receives knowledge. 
Saturday and Sunday were a fun few days of chatting with other PhD researchers from across the country (I found the Norwich crew!) and building my toolkit for teaching strategies. I'm excited to get started with my kiddos!

Live "Rambling" about the Club:

Friday, January 16, 2015

Cookie Delivery!

To celebrate turning in thirty-five single-spaced pages rambling about a literature review and analytical framework for my dissertation...I baked. Yes, really living it up, I know. But little bags of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies were created and dumped in various Marshall inboxes around London. Call me the cookie fairy?
Also on the diary from yesterday was lunch with a close mate, a couple of Skype meetings (getting ready for the AMENDS-KoƧ conference in March!), and random errands. All good and productive whilst entirely unintellectual. And we head to Norwich for meetings! :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

So many crepes...

I made crepes yesterday, and gorged myself on strawberries and Nutella whilst writing up my preliminary literature review for my PhD. 
And then, tonight's birthday gathering for a Marshall Scholar happened to take place at My Old Dutch Pancake, a sweet and savoury crepe restaurant. Oops. 
Egg, flour, and milk, anyone? They're basically the food pyramid, right? ;)

Friday, January 9, 2015

10 Downing

10 Downing Street and The White House have many similarities. Both serve as a working residence with lots of offices and stately receiving rooms below semi-private living quarters for political families. Unlike The White House (at least in its current state), though, 10 Downing is not regularly open for tours to the British public. The Marshall Scholars are incredibly blessed, then, every year, to get the opportunity to visit.

Space is limited, so roughly 30 of us go each year. The intention is that all Scholars go once during their tenure - so Scholars in their final year get first preference if they haven't yet gone, and then the rest of the spaces are filled with the young'uns. My first year I was running a conference during the trip. Last year I was living in Edinburgh and knew I would be moving to London, so it seemed silly to travel down at the Commission's expense for three hours. 

But finally...the year has come. Friday morning we all frolicked about a bit, chatting foreign policy with an official and debating the value of modern art with a member of the Front of House Team. Inside 10 Downing are a bit of moon rock, a ceremonial sword with ivory handle (oops), and a bright neon sign reading "More Passion". Also on the list of similarities with The White House: Cameron's kids have a swing set in the garden, which is clearly used. (The Obamas' is better. But don't tell them.)

As a special bonus, it was insanely gorgeous in London that morning!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Girls' Night

Playing only slightly into stereotypes, Effy and I took the chance while our best guy friend is in Morocco to go...clothes shopping.

She has a mate in town, so we took her to drinks after I fought my way through the after-work crowds on Oxford Street. It is times like this that I truly miss Norwich, where a "crowd" is considered more than 4 people in the store. But I survived, and I am now the proud owner of a pair of jogging shorts that don't fall off. Which is good, since I've taken to jumping rope in the mornings and the bouncing has proven dangerous to my previous pair of exercise bottoms...

Monday, January 5, 2015

Hello, Kelsey!

One of the benefits of living in such a large city is that a lot of folks pass through...many, many reunions become possible through the magic of Heathrow and business trips.

Hello to Kelsey, a mate from undergrad who majored in zoology and came to London to frolic in the museums and zoos. (Okay, she's actually in business meetings. But I feel like even boring corporate discussions must be kind of like frolicking when they're about zoos, for heaven's sake.)

In honour of the occasion, I pulled out my Michigan State hoodie and off we popped to Mexican with a bunch of other random Americans about London. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy New Year

All the best for meaningful and mostly positive reflections of 2014, and happy happy thoughts for the incoming 2015 to all!

I rang in the New Year in style in London, though I hadn't meant to. I was planning to stay in (I can see the fireworks from my flat, and really didn't need to go out in the throng). But a friend overbooked a really fancy tasting menu at a restaurant on the Thames, so off I went to: The food was rather delicious, and we popped outside for the midnight fireworks from the Mayor of London, which are always quite spectacular.

A wee bit of dancing, and home Becca went in order to be able to wake up reasonably and get back to work. Which I successfully did!

Also happy: Victory for MSU! My undergraduate university won their American football game in quite the dramatic way yesterday, so that was all exciting (via the glimpses I got whilst calling family and checking Facebook).

All in all, not a bad way to kick things off.

Happy New Year, everyone!!