With the new term approaching fast, it’s time for the annual review of my teaching obligations for the year, and what I’m going to be doing differently! Last year, my load was marked by a new emphasis on language teaching. This year, I’ve still got quite a bit of language teaching, but there are some other things in the mix as well which make it quite interesting. I’m teaching the Intermediate Latin course that I had last year, and the half-unit for first years on Latin literature – these are courses that should be a bit easier because of work I did last year, but I still have some plans for them. My other courses are a half-unit this term on Virgil’s Aeneid for second years; an MA-level course titled Advanced Latin; and some teaching on the core course for our MRes in Classical Reception.
I am teaching the Aeneid course for a colleague who is on leave this term, and has kindly left me her materials to use. I’m not just giving her lectures, of course, but I’m using her structure and general approach. This is a little more daring than you might imagine, as it means I am going to be eschewing Powerpoint completely. I’d tried to move to a lighter use of Powerpoint for my Roman literature half-unit last year, with an approach that focused more on the text and less on the slides – that worked quite well, so now I am going to abandon Powerpoint and move towards bullet points in front of me and a copy of Fagles’ Aeneid in my hands. This is what my colleague does and it works well, so I am going to give it a go. Then her notes/reflections on the material covered in that session can go up on Moodle, and students can have her interpretation of the poem alongside mine. I swear that most of the second years have only signed up because they know I don’t like the Aeneid and want to see what they’re going to get, but there we are. I am rather looking forward to teaching something new and so text-based, so we’ll see how it goes. One thing I do want to incorporate is some student presentations on secondary literature, but as these can only be formative and optional, I’m not too worried about them.
The MA Advanced Latin course is the equivalent of the Latin Language and Reading course I taught last year, but for MA students; I’m going to be reading Suetonius’ Life of Vespasian with them in the first term, and letting them pick some poetry the second term. The big difference for this course will be that their assessment takes place mainly through independent projects that show off their Latin – this term’s project asks them to pick a passage, produce their own translation of it, compare at least one published translation, and discuss specific segments of the Latin that pose problems for translation. It’s the first time I’ve assigned a project like that, so I’m going to enjoy supervising it over the course of the term and seeing how students develop their language skills through it. Providing my books turn up in time, of course.
The Roman literature half-unit is going to stay more or less the same in terms of assessment and so on, but I think I am going to do a bit of tweaking as far as structure and organisation goes. Some things worked brilliantly, but others were less successful – for instance, I want to rearrange how I handled Lucan. Plenty of students decided they liked him during the revision period, but there was a lot of resistance to him at the time, and I think that rearranging the material might solve that problem. I also want to think a bit about some other elements of structure and one or two of the seminars, but this is about smoothing out the rough edges I spotted the first time around.
The MRes seminar sessions are going to be really good fun. I’ve got the first introductory session, am co-teaching the session on film, and then am running a session on reception and children’s literature and reception in the archive. Both of these will draw on research things I’ve been doing over the summer, so this will be research-led teaching at its finest (or at least that’s the plan). They’re also my first really substantive Masters-level teaching, which is exciting in and of itself.
So far, as you’ll see, I’m not planning on doing anything particularly innovative with my syllabi this year… except in intermediate Latin, which I am gamifying. This won’t make a huge amount of difference to what students actually do, but it should make a difference to the framework in which they do it – but I think I will put down my thoughts about that in a separate post. What I will say is that I’m looking forward to taking this step of the language sequence again and seeing students move towards a more confident grasp of the language where they’re able to read Latin texts with some confidence.