An international team at work, at work…

I’ve been doing some research recently in the Literature genre and was able to get the research paper published in a prestigious journal. It’s actually a part of our obligation towards academia to be doing research, and to do publications and presentations attributable to ourselves and our institutions, so it has positive benefits for ourselves,
the faculty, and in my case, the University of Nizwa.
All across the Sultanate, my academic colleagues are doing the same thing, and though it might sound easy, in fact writing up a piece of research is the easy part.
The delicacy is not even in saying what you want, or finding other academics who will agree with you, and support your research. Neither is it an issue finding other research that disagrees with you, so that you can respond to their findings, and in doing so prove your research as robust.
Nor is it a challenge typing up ten or fifteen thousand words, even though I am a binary digital typist. No, that doesn’t mean I have some complex new machine to do my typing at a hundred miles per hour, no, it means that with very minor exceptions I am a one fingered typist, well one in each hand. It’s my index finger or nothing. 1 or 0. Binary and digital, but it’s not even that.
Finding the time to do research is an extreme challenge, as all teachers and lecturers, and the occasional parent and student will understand. Teaching or lecturing, it’s not enough to know your subject, or daily topic. Educational accreditation, as much as good teaching practice, dictate that you must not only be prepared for each and every lecture or lesson, but to document so. But we deal with it!
You must write up what you will do, how you will do it, how you will check that the students have understood, and what method of revision you will use, for each and every lesson. Taking attendance, checking or marking homework, uploading attendance to the academic platform, all of these things require excellent time management, and pedagogical management, and we do all of those.
Then there are the other obligations. Maintaining hard and soft copies of continuous assessment, creating and producing meaningful handouts, providing learning support to one’s own students, providing academic support for the course students one is assigned as an academic adviser, and advising students assigned to you as graduate project advisees. Ma’a mushkila.
We meet to discuss exam questions, and as part of a course section, will produce exams and then go and invigilate those exams, but obviously not those of our own students, and that’s okay.
No. None of those tasks, which give lie to the community held perception that teachers get their money too easy, are at the end of the day, barriers to doing quality academic research.
It’s also not about making time for family, who, let’s face it, don’t wait for us to get home from work saying, “Hi dear. Phew what a day I’ve had, and I’ve bought some work home, and after dinner I might have a look at my research for a while.” No, they don’t deserve that. They deserve our love and companionship, not just to be in the same room!
But, the worst part is trying to maintain a train of thought, a line of thinking about a topic that you know will make a difference to your research. Hundreds or thousands of times I have been on the edge of ‘understanding,’ something that’s been nagging
at me, and in the face of the assault on my senses of my work, I lose that gossamer thin tangible thread. It is so frustrating!
We take comfort that, as Albert Szent-Gyogyi wrote, “Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought,” and hope that we can, think it!

Ray Petersen
petersen_ray@hotmail.com