Procrastinating blues and Historian skills

(A cross-post from my Medium site posted last May 25, 2018)

Image via Evernote Twitter (by Gemma Correll)

If one were to follow Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega’s post about focusing on two main things as a daily agenda, I should be working on my L.E.T. review presentation and my Chinese mestizos paper which is due next week - I mean the draft.

Instead, I am surfing through Calls for Papers for 2019 and 2020 and reading posts on historical writing on the American Historical Association (AHA) website.

In a post written by Jean Jules Jusserand, he describes History as . . .

“History is not simply an art, nor simply a science; as the accompanying papers well show, it participates in the nature of both. In the hunt for facts and the ascertaining of truth, the historian must be as conscientious as the scientist. In the presentation, he must be an artist, a true one,. . .”

Reading the AHA posts reminded me of three former professors of mine from U.P. (University of the Philippines). I remember one of them telling me that if I decide to be a historian or a History professor, I would have to develop the skills of teaching, research, and writing.

According to Dr. Teodoro, one can be a good historian (publishing and doing research) but not necessarily a good teacher or one who can impart his knowledge well in the classroom. He told us that we must aim to develop our teaching, research and writing skills. As a history major, it is important to improve one’s public speaking skills so that when we read papers, we do it eloquently complete with proper cadence and rhythm. I still recall his words more than a decade after he told us that.

Another area he told us to work on was the rigor in historical research. He was the professor who would declare in the loudest of voices, “Rigor, rigor, rigor! Your papers must have rigor.” Today, I still hear those words whenever I am rereading my papers in grad school before sending them off to my professors. For him, history majors must be rigorous and founded on sound historical methodology. Truth be told, I still find some of my papers wanting on rigor whenever I go over them.

"Food and..." conference, March 2018

Attending a conference last March reminded me of sir Teodoro’s words. The papers that were read by some graduate students who were Ph.D. candidates reminded me of the rigor and style he once admonished us to follow. It probably is inappropriate to call a paper “beautiful” but one paper that was read was so beautifully written and read that it did not need a PowerPoint presentation. I enjoyed listening to the presenter’s rhythm and cadence while reading her paper. One could practically imagine the context of the paper while listening to her read it.

I want to develop that skill. That was one of my goals after my March trip. Develop my skills in writing and research so that my papers have rigor, are clearly written and interesting when read and listened to. That explains why I am back to writing on this site. I want to collect my drafts in one place and get back to them when I have the downtime to do so.

Another skill I saw during that conference was the teaching side. One of the presenters was an awardee for excellent teaching. The university where he is enrolled in for his graduate studies gave him the award for developing a course based on his dissertation. It was a class that focused on the history of baseball in the United States.
Working on my Chinese mestizos paper seems to have gotten me nostalgic. I am remembering the words of three of my professors today: Dr. Teodoro, Dr. Guerrero, and Dr. Veneracion.

Ma’am Mila Guerrero was the professor who kept reminding us about the need for us to write essays with smooth transitions and clear topic sentences. Today, some Twitter academics say that academic writing is challenging for graduate students because they are not formally taught to write and write well but I look back to my professors in UP and I am grateful that, alongside the content, they would give us snippets of writing and research advice.

Dr. Veneracion was a professor of mine who taught the Philippine Revolution class in grad school (the Katipunan phase). In that course, he required us to read William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” before we started doing our research project looking for Katipuneros’ descendants. I loved reading Zinsser. He was an advocate of writing simply, using simple words and reducing clutter when writing. I am still guilty of clutter when writing. I still reread Zinsser in between doing research and reading for my research projects. His writing tips are timeless and helpful for graduate students and academics.

With that said, I got to get back to working on my L.E.T. review presentation. Sometimes, I still find it a challenge to shift between modes - that of being a researcher, a teacher, and a graduate student. Then there’s the pressure from within of doing well in all these areas. As my mom chided me the other day, “Tsi, kalma lang (Relax). Take it easy. You’re the girl who’s in a hurry to do everything you missed in the last five years. You only have 24 hours in a day.” 🙂

*First posted last May 25, 2018 on my Medium site