It's hard to believe that another year on HOL is almost at an end and I'm about to enter my final year as a student. I've taken some wonderful classes again this year and am super grateful to all the Professors and students teachers who took the time to write the lessons, assignments, exams and projects, not to forget the time spent grading assignments, submitting house points, quills and awards and replying to messages. It really is a big job but without people who are willing to put that effort in HOL really wouldn't be the same for me.
As usual, I left a massive chunk of work until the very last minute and ran out of time to complete all of my classes. I'm not sure why I never learn because it always ends the same way for me... the classes with monthly deadlines I generally keep up with ok (bar the odd extension asked for on the last day of the month) but the classes where all work is due at the end of the year I put off too much and then struggle to get things finished. This year it was the Auror Training class that fell victim to my procrastination - a really interesting looking class that I just left too late to really do my best in the assignments so in the end I thought it better to submit no work and try it again in the future. Annoyingly that's a potential 300 points that I've thrown away but at least I haven't totally wasted an awesome class (assuming it is back of course!).
My other four classes I managed to earn a quill in, although I didn't submit the final extra credit assignments for two of them. A couple of years ago this would have driven me crazy in my obsession for points, but once you fail your first class (or fail to get 300 points for the first time) you tend to get a little more relaxed about not being perfect in every class you do. And I must say that although this attitude doesn't necessarily help my points haul increase each year, it does help me to keep my stress levels down a little. The last thing I want to do is be worrying about HOL-work, which is meant to be my hobby, when I have a mountain of RL work-work to be getting on with. It also means that I'm a little more understanding with people who take my own HOL classes who send in work late (with or without extensions), drop out of the class part way through or don't submit enough work to earn a quill. And I enjoy HOL classes a lot more when I approach them in a more relaxed manner.
To everyone planning classes ready for next year, thank you! It's not easy and takes a whole heap of your time but they are appreciated and without classes HOL just wouldn't be the same for me. I look forward to seeing what you come up with and am just as excited as always to look at the classes list next term to plan what I'll take. My seventh year will be the last I can earn points for Slytherin house and I want to make it count. Hey, I'll even do that sixth O.W.L. so I can attempt my N.E.W.T.s and graduate.
Have a great holiday and I'll see you next year!
I've definitely had a slightly rocky relationship with the O.W.L.s so far, generally falling a little to the hate side of the love-hate continuum. Last year I managed to complete three out of the six O.W.L.s offered in the Autumn Term, so earnt myself a quill. I had planned it all out so I could earn four quills for the O.W.L.s over a two year period; I thought I was pretty clever. But, as the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Last Spring was the busiest I have been in a very long time and I didn't manage to keep up with my normal HOL workload, let alone attempt any of the O.W.L.s.
As the term went on, I kept telling myself it was okay as I still had five, then four, then three to go, but in the end I didn't get round to doing any of them. As I moved into my sixth year and still had nine O.W.L.s to complete, my plan seemed pretty terrible. Of course, when I'd done the first three, I'd chosen three that interested me the most, leaving the three subjects with the most essays or the subject content that I just couldn't bring myself to care about. I thought I was getting somewhere with the Arithmancy O.W.L. (a subject that actually did interest somewhat), but then the deadline came and went with the unfinished assignment still sitting on the computer. Well, there was no point doing the other two O.W.L.s that term if I wasn't going to get a quill for them, so I put them aside until the Spring.
And when the Spring Term comes along, I am faced with six O.W.L.s to complete, each looking like a mountain to climb and little old me is stuck at the bottom. I knew I had to get started on them quickly, but also knew it was wise to wait for the message to arrive telling me the first one was complete and ready to do. With a little apprehension, I clicked on the link to the O.W.L.s class and sighed, just a little, when I saw that the first O.W.L. I would be attempting in over a year would be Divination, a subject that I, like Professor McGonagall, feel is more than a little woolly and not really proper magic. I wasn't looking forward to attempting it, but I knew that I had to get back on the horse and this was the time to do it.
Oddly for the O.W.L. exams, this one started with a fill in the blanks section, which I was very relieved to see. It was like a nice easy starter, drawing me in and telling me it was going to be okay. (This may seem dramatic, but the O.W.L.s really are that scary!) I breezed through that and then put the O.W.L. away for a couple of weeks, confident that I would complete it later. But come deadline day, with a few hours to go until the work is due, I hadn't done any more on the assignment. A little annoyed with myself I set to work, reading the lesson fully (which actually was really interesting) and checking through the essay questions that I still had to complete. It took me a couple of hours to finish, but in the end I was really pleased with the work I had submitted. I felt a real sense of achievement and that I had actually learnt something while I was researching my answers. You could say that I had a bit of a "eureka" moment and fell a little bit in love with these scary, horrible exams. There's still a long way to go for me and the O.W.L.s, but I'm back on the right track and I'm sure I'm going to get a quill for them this term. I just wish I had already started the Herbology assignment that's due at the end of March... I guess I'll never learn!
I have to admit I've been far from studious the past few months. I was going to interview some Professors for this column and I never even got around to deciding who I would ask, let alone thinking up some questions to send to them. The homework that I usually complete early in the month has been piling up and my list of assignments that need doing has gotten longer and longer. I had to ask for extensions on several of my classes last month and I've still made no headway in completing that overdue work. Sadly, it's not even at the top of my to-do list and those who usually see me around HOL regularly will have noticed that I've not been around nearly as much recently. It's no shame to admit that sometimes we all have moments when the thought of all the things we have to do get too much for us and we need some help to get things back on track. So, with that in mind, my column this month is all about getting organised on HOL and should help you to get the most points in the time you have available.
1. Start a to-do list
Make a quick list of the things that need to be done and when they need to be completed by. Don't worry about putting every single thing down as a long list will be daunting and you'll probably get overwhelmed all over again. Also, don't waste too much time on your list as this is time that could be better spent actually doing things. Just get down the essentials and then start ticking tasks off the list. I sometimes find it helps to put things on the list that you know you can do very quickly as it will help you to feel better and really does kick start your progress. If there's nothing you can do quickly, "write to-do list" is something you can cross off immediately.
2. Look at the points
This column is largely about the classes and my point-earning obsession on HOL, so it should come as no surprise that this is a big thing for me when it comes to prioritising my tasks. If something can be done relatively quickly and is worth 30 points, then it makes sense to do that over a more time-consuming task worth 10 points. Of course, in an ideal world where you've got infinite time, you would do everything and get the perfect 300 points in each of your classes. But if your life has gone as crazy as mine, you might need to skip the lengthy term project and try instead to get a perfect score on all your assignments. (If I was taking my own advice I probably should have skipped writing this column for this issue, but I just couldn't resist and I type quite quickly!)
3. Do you really need all those beans?
I've always been the sort of person who tries to be involved with everything, but this term I've had to cut back on some of the tasks I would usually have committed myself to on HOL. Beans are great, but an activity that takes up valuable point-earning time and only rewards with beans isn't a good use of my time when I'm falling behind. I have sadly had to pass up a few activities this term which looked like great fun so I could have a breather and not go crazy trying to do too much. I've also had to come to terms with the fact that I might be missing something fantastic and make myself okay with this. It's easier said than done, but has helped to keep me a little saner than I would otherwise have been.
4. Is there anything you can leave until later?
If you've asked for an extension already you probably should get that work completed, but maybe you can request a short extension on the next assignment that is due. Clearly as the term progresses it's not ideal to ask for an extension each month, but if it's the difference between doing the work (and earning the points) and not then I'm sure your Professors will understand. Be brave with your decisions and don't worry if you can't do everything straight away.
5. Set yourself deadlines
Knowing what you're going to do each week or day can help you to feel much more organised and dread the work a lot less. If you know you have something in real life to do in an evening, then it's probably not a good idea to plan a HOL lesson to complete on the same night. However, if you know you have a day or two completely clear to catch up on the wonderful things that have been going on around the site, you should plan to complete a few more of the tasks on your to-do list at the same time. Again, don't try to do to much all at once or you are in danger of things piling up on your list again when you can't complete what you've planned to do. Try to be realistic in what you will have time to do each day until you are at a point where you feel back on track and ready to look ahead.
6. Learn from your mistakes and plan ahead next time
It's easy to say this, but the longer you leave things the more likely you are to fall into the dreaded spiral of not having enough time to complete your work/tasks and then they push other items further and further down your list. If you can start each month or week with a plan for what you're going to complete and by when, you're much more likely to keep on top of it all. Of course, things might crop up that disrupt your plan, but if you build in a buffer day (or two) each week, you can use these to catch up.
I hope this has helped a little and you feel a little more equipped to face the next few months of your HOL classes. I will try to take my own advice and start earning Slytherin those valuable points once again!
Here on HOL, the Autumn term is drawing to a close and it's time to start thinking about the Spring. I always love the very beginning of a term and waiting (very un-patiently) for the new class list to be published. At this point in my HOL career, I have taken 38 classes, earning 41 quills in the process and I still struggle to narrow down the list when it's first published. After all these years there are still new classes available each term along with some of the classics I've not yet taken. In my column this issue, I'm going to give a little advice on how to choose which classes to take this upcoming term, which might be useful to our newer members (or those who just really struggle to make the decisions!).
How many classes?
You can take a maximum of five classes each term (plus OWLs if you're 5th year or above), but that doesn't necessarily mean you have to take them all. If you know you will only have time to keep up with two or three classes, it might be best to just sign up for that many to begin with. If you find you're coping fine with the workload, you can always join more classes later on in the term to work up to your maximum. Of course, the more classes you take the more house points you can earn, so I would recommend all Slytherins to sign up for five classes at the beginning of the term and aim for a Quill in each.
Full Year or One Term?
It may seem like a silly question at this time of the year when we only have one term left, but you're not necessarily limited to taking the one term classes. Several Professors will accept you into their full year classes at the beginning of the Spring term, so if there's something that you regret not signing up for in September, there might still be hope for you. I recommend you send an owl to the Professor or student teacher asking if they'll allow you to join the class rather than just signing up. Be prepared for them to say no, but if you don't ask you'll never know. If you're already part way through a full year class but it's not what you expected or you're finding it too hard, you also have the option of owling the teacher and asking to be removed from it. Make sure you're sure before doing this though as it might show up as a fail on your fact sheet!
Traditional subjects or something else?
In earlier years, I would really recommend that you try to take some of the traditional Hogwarts subjects. It will make you feel more like you're actually studying magic and has the benefit that when you reach your OWLs, you'll have a bit of a basic understanding on which to support your assignments. If you're writing a journal in character or doing any roleplaying in the Dungeons, it also helps to have some actual canon classes to talk about. There are, however, plenty of classes taught on HOL which wouldn't have made it inside the walls of the real Hogwarts. These can be really interesting to take and no less valid! I recommend that if something takes your fancy by just reading the class title you should definitely take it.
Four lessons or five?
The structure of the classes on HOL can vary quite a bit and one might suit you more than the other. The two most common types of class are those with five lessons, each with homework and an extra credit assignment, and those with four lessons, probably accompanied by a term exam and/or project. More and more Professors are veering away from these norms, however, so I strongly recommend you look carefully at the class website before signing up so you know what you're letting yourself in for. If you know that writing is not your strong suit, then a project might not suit you. Conversely, if you are a creative sort, then a project might be right up your alley! Everyone is different! The world would be a pretty boring place if we all liked the same things!
Monthly or one final deadline?
This is another important thing for me when I'm choosing which classes to sign up for. I like to have a mixture of classes with a monthly deadline and those who give one deadline at the end of term. That way, if things get a little crazy, I don't have five classes that all have work due on the same day. I would recommend, however, that you don't leave the term deadline classes until the last minute to submit as this can give your Professors a lot of work to mark and you a lot to do in a short space of time. If you can take your time over the lessons and assignments, you will enjoy them more and learn more from them. For the monthly deadline classes, it's good to note whether a Professor will grant extensions and how to go about getting these, just in case things go wrong in real life and you just don't have time to get the work in on time. Remember, however, that there can be no extension for end of term deadlines as Professors need to submit their points, quills and awards before a strict deadline.
For some people this won't matter in anyway, but for others this will have a big impact on your enjoyment of a class. If you've done a class in a previous term where you liked the style, it's usually a good idea to look to see what else that Professor is offering as chances are you'll like that too. Alternatively, you may like to get points regularly throughout a term and might get frustrated waiting for everything to be submitted later on, as some Professors tend to do. Thinking back to classes you've taken before, looking on the class forums and asking around might point you in the direction of a Professor whose style works for you. In addition, some Professors may put all the lessons up at the beginning of term and accept early work where as others will only release lessons at the start of the month they are due. Again this is a personal preference and might have an effect on whether you decide to take a certain class or not.
It is worth mentioning that each Professor sets their own Quill requirements and these can vary quite a lot depending on who is teaching the class. As a minimum you are usually expected to score 150 points, but for some Professors it is more important that you submit their exam or that you send in work for every lesson. If you miss one you might not lose many points, but it might cost you the Quill. All information should be on the class website, usually on a syllabus or FAQ page, so look carefully for this and make a note of it somewhere, so you know what you're aiming for in each class.
I hope you're all looking forward to the new term as much as I am and will take some amazing classes. For those of you teaching for the first time on HOL (and to those experienced old pros), good luck! I hope your students are hard working and that your passion for the subject you are teaching shines through. I'll try to interview some Professors, student teachers and class assistants for my next column to see how the term is progressing. See you then!
Many of you will know that the thing I love most about HOL is the classes. I love that there are so many wonderful people who give up their time to write imaginative lessons and assignments and that they stick around to grade work and issue points, quills and awards. In previous issues of the SerpenTimes, I’ve written about some of my favourite ever classes (one of which I was lucky enough to be able to bring back thanks to the kindness of its creator, Dean Fuaddy) and, since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about what others love about the classes here on HOL and whether a certain Professor makes a class extra special.
NOTE: None of the comments in this article are used with the approval of their authors, but I figured since they’d put them in the Dungeons where anyone could steal *cough* I mean see them, they wouldn’t mind them featuring in my column. Plus, I was short on time and too lazy to actually send out owls to everyone!
During our ‘Fallin’ into Autumn’ activity, Amy set a task where members of our community were asked to show some love for the people who teach on HOL. The ‘Teacher Appreciation’ thread was a lovely one to read and showed me just how appreciated the Professors and student teachers are on our site. I was so thrilled to be mentioned for my classes and I hope some of the other Professors were equally pleased with their letters of appreciation. It’s a shame that not all the Professors were able to be mentioned, with being limited to three notes per person, there just weren’t enough people in the Dungeons to cover everyone. There were many more names that I wanted to mention and I was hoping someone else would post about them so that I wouldn't feel so guilty for not doing so. Having said that, at the beginning of the thread all the love was for one person whose classes are amazing and who is doing a wonderful job in Slytherin: Professor Scarlet Leslie-Lewis. Kim’s note was short and sweet with her opening sentence saying everything she needed: “I appreciate you.” Tarma was appreciative of all the puzzles that Scarlet manages to put into her lessons and February loved how “positive and encouraging” Scarlet is as well as how great her classes are.
Scarlet herself was quick to share the appreciation. As well as celebrating some of the great Ravenclaw Professors (Prof. Rhiannon Llewellyn, Prof. Mark Mandrake and Prof. Cassandra Lobiesk), she showed some love for Slytherin’s own Professor Cody Lewis. Now we all know that Scarlet is a little biased when it comes to talking about Cody, but her praise is entirely justified. Since taking charge in the dungeons Cody has wreaked some havoc (apparently I’m not awesome…), but, according to Scarlet, his Quidditch Chronicles class reflects the passion he has for the subject. I personally am not a Quidditch fan, but even I was tempted to take it, so it must be good!
Some of the other wonderful Professors who are worthy of our admiration and appreciation are:
If you want more information about why all these Professors are amazing and deserve your appreciation, be sure to check out the thread. If you’re looking for some super awesome classes to take in the future but just don’t know which ones to take, I asked people to tell me their favourite classes during our summer Pool Party. A lot of the same names cropped up again, but there were also some other classes that even I, an ancient 5th year student, didn’t know about! I recommend you have a look at our favourite ever classes and have a think about your own personal favourites. Are there any that you’d love to come back? Is there anything you can do to help that happen? Or are there any wonderful ideas that you’ve had that we just haven’t seen on HOL before (or at least in a long time)? Now’s the time to start writing a class – maybe the next time we show appreciation for our teachers, your name will be on the list!