Life in the margins

For one crowded hour
You were the only one in the room
– Augie March

I’m sitting in a plane winding my way back home after 9 days in the UK for work. I’m reading and providing feedback and editing suggestions to the first 3 chapters of my sister’s masters thesis. Here in this flying bird I am utterly absorbed in the act of reading, thinking, critiquing and questioning. I put music on and Augie March’s ‘One crowded hour’ begins to play. As I listen I have a bodily, visceral response to the music and the lyrics. I am momentarily distracted from the task of reading the chapters and I make a conversational note in the margin telling my sister this – sharing this snapshot of something from the world outside her thesis – speaking to her as a reader while responding as a reader of her work. I’m instantly captured by this thought, by what it is that goes on in the margins.

What can I learn about myself and my pedagogies of supervision by examining the margins and my annotations? I hadn’t explicitly considered this before- I’d responded to work as an academic reader by making notes, questions, comments, but I begin to wonder what knowledge I can generate for myself through examining the nature of my annotations. It seems to me that what I do in the margins is tacit and taken for granted and I wonder what I would find if I turn a lens on myself. I’m interested this as I’m putting together a self-study project that explores my pedagogy as a supervisor and this gives me an idea for the project. I wonder if my notes and annotations have a particular focus? Do I devote more time and attention to issues of grammar? To the mechanics of language? Or am I more interested in theory? In conceptual ideas? On the articulation of the methodology? Do my annotations shift and morph in focus through different chapters of the thesis?

What is it that I am seeking to do through these annotations? Am I (simply) giving feedback? Pointing the way forward? Trying to foster deeper thought from my students? Tying to encourage them to think about some of the conventions of academic discourse and ways they can enter the conversation?
For one not so crowded hour on this plane, the work is the only one in the room. I’m focused on it and all of what it says. But in undertaking this focus and engaging in life and annotations in the margins– what do I convey about myself and my pedagogy of supervision? It’s time to find out.


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