Perhaps there should be a period in the year which is officially known as Dissertation Season. In the last couple of weeks much of the conversation around Chaplaincy House has been about putting the finishing touches to the most major piece of work most undergraduates have ever produced. Well done to everyone who has passed through the rigours involved and submitted their dissertation!
The other day I happened to read this:
It’s said that in traditional Jewish society, a child, when he was six or seven years old, was carried to the schoolroom for the first time by a Rabbi, where he received a clean slate on which the letters of the Hebrew alphabet had been written in honey. Licking off the slate while reciting the name of each letter, the child was in that way made to think of his studies as sweet and desirable. (Cott, 2013, p.50)
Education, learning and training involves a lot of hard work. If you want to play a musical instrument, you need to practise scales until you are utterly fed up with them; learning a language entails hours of tedium going over vocabulary lists again and again until you find yourself reciting them in your sleep; writing a dissertation means getting to grips with the (sometimes seemingly utterly pedantic) minutiae of referencing in APA (unless, for reasons beyond me, you happen to be in the Department of English or Law), but …. (of course you knew I was heading for a ‘but’!) …
… but education should have an element of sweetness, desirability, joy, excitement and pleasure. There should be a rewarding sense of achievement in learning something or doing something new simply ‘because it’s there’. The University’s Foundational Values tell us:
we find joy in discovery;
we take pleasure in invention;
we celebrate human creativity;
and we seek wisdom, embracing it wherever we find it.
Hopefully we really do! Hopefully those of you who have just submitted a dissertation can see beyond the hard work and experience a real satisfaction in completing a worthwhile piece of work. Remember: it really is OK to get excited about your work! It has been rewarding to hear the genuine enthusiasm with which some people have talked about their dissertations recently. Thanks to those of you who have let me read your work; you have produced some great scholarship. Well done!
… and, just to show that the ability to navigate APA is a very useful life-skill, I have referenced formally the above quote about honey and now add a bibliography in case you wish to read it in context:
Cott, J. (2013). Dinner with Lenny. Oxford, UK: Oxford University.