Classically Inclined

July 22, 2021

Some suggestions for an office mental health first aid kit

Filed under: Teaching — lizgloyn @ 5:21 pm
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A few days ago on Twitter, I asked what people would want to have in their offices as a mental health first aid kit – or, to put it another way, what people would have wanted their lecturers to have available in their offices if things got just that bit too much. There were so many great suggestions that I thought it would be a good idea to collate them all in one place so other people can get some inspiration!

What I’m envisaging here is some kind of box or basket, within easy reach of people who come into the office; I found myself thinking that you would probably want to split it into sections marked ‘please take’ and ‘please use’, as you would probably not want some of these things to go walkabout, but others would be there precisely for people to use.

Two quick caveats. First, this is in no way meant to substitute for properly funded and resourced mental health care services at universities, or to put pressure on academic staff to provide sole care for these issues. That said, we are often the first point of contact, either as lecturers or personal tutors, and being prepared for making that first encounter as supportive and positive as possible can’t hurt. Second, this is a comprehensive list of all the suggestions made in response to my thread, and does not imply that any member of staff should feel obliged to provide every single one of these items. This goes double for precarious colleagues, particularly given the financial costs associated with making sure you are prepared in this way. You know your own students best; the point of this post is to provide some ideas that might resonate with you, and for people to pick and choose what works best for their individual context.

With that out of the way, here we go…

Practical things

  • Tampons and pads
  • Blister plasters
  • Extra face masks
  • Hand sanitizer or wipes
  • Lavender or other soothing things to smell
  • Essential oil roll-ons for wrists
  • Rescue remedy
  • Tissues, both in a box and in take-away packs
  • A mirror, for tidying up after tears
  • Sunglasses
  • Ear plugs

Several people mentioned painkillers; I’ve not included these as I know that there is some complicated legal stuff around supplying painkillers to students or colleagues, and so I am erring on the side of caution by not recommending that these items are formally included in a kit.

Food and drink

  • Granola or cereal bars
  • Rice crisps
  • Chocolate
  • Trail mix
  • Lollipops
  • Long-lasting fruit like apples
  • Mini-packs of dried fruit
  • Vegan lollies or biscuits
  • Fruit chews
  • Nice biscuits
  • Glucose tablets
  • Calming herbal tea bags
  • Hot chocolate
  • Coffee
  • A kettle and spare mugs
  • Water and spare glasses
  • Mini water bottles

Comfort items

  • Blanket
  • Pillow or cushion
  • Comfy chair
  • A hot water bottle
  • Fidget toys
  • A teddy or cuddly toy
  • A bubble pop toy
  • A squeezy stress toy or stress ball
  • Adult colouring book and felt tip pens
  • Happy/cheerful stickers
  • Affirmation cards
  • Mindfulness cards
  • Gratitude cards
  • Postcards
  • Mini-pots of bubble bath
  • Sample or mini size lip balm and moisturiser
  • A sleep mask and a sign saying “I need a bit of quiet” if you have an appropriate space for students to get some peace

Resources

Other helpful things

People made various suggestions about other useful but intangible things people might offer as support, which I am listing here.

  • Offer to write a referral to the student to Counselling directly, copying them in
  • Offer useful reminders that studying is hard, but they have got this far, and have achieved huge amounts
  • Reminders that rest is essential
  • A supportive, non-judgemental ear
  • Cultivate relationships with the support staff who know people, to make accessing support easier

Thank you!

With thanks for suggestions to Sara Barker, Stephanie Lawton, Emma Sheppard, Wheeled Classicist, Kate Ferry-Swainson, Sarah Martin, Ellie Mackin Roberts, Ruth Cruickshank, Helen Lovatt, Sarah Porter, Alice Rae, Kelli Conley, Gabe Moshenska, Cora Beth Knowles, Isabella Streffen, Aven McMaster, Sophie Agrell, Elspeth, Penny Goodman, Clare Clarke, Stephe Harrop, Jane Draycott, Alexandra, Joy Evans, Heather Self, A, Magdalena Öhrman, Alice Little, Miriam. Marchella Ward and the Royal Holloway Library! Apologies to anyone I’ve missed – it was a busy thread. I gloss over the fact that the vast majority of people who joined in with this discussion are women or non-binary, and what that might say about the dynamics of care in academia.

April 24, 2021

Reflections On A Year Of Pandemic Teaching

Filed under: Teaching — lizgloyn @ 6:35 pm
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We have come to the end of our teaching for the academic year, although there’s still plenty to do in the term ahead in terms of student support and assessment. (I seem to be spending an extraordinary amount of time explaining how our extenuating circumstances process works at the moment, reflecting not only the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our students, but an awful lot of Life that they’ve also been dealing with at the same time.) At the start of the year, I wrote about how the first week of teaching fully on-line had gone; now we have had a whole year, I wanted to capture some things I’ve learned from the process overall.

(more…)

October 3, 2020

One week down…

Filed under: Teaching — lizgloyn @ 4:02 pm
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I’ve just finished my first week of teaching completely on-line in the new exciting world of COVID-proofed education. Most of my colleagues have been experimenting with the exciting world of HyFlex delivery, where half the class attend in person and half beam in through MS Teams; while there are a couple of rooms where the technology isn’t working at all well, most colleagues seem to have found that it’s all worked a lot better than we feared. For reasons which were entirely predictable, I’m teaching entirely on-line for at least the first half of this term, and I anticipate that being extended to the second half at the very least; as such I’ve been doing a lot of reading and training on the best way to run a fully on-line class. Someone over the summer asked me how much time I thought I’d spent on this; I then guesstimated I’d spent about 40 hours on professional development stuff, and that’s only gone up. (My employer has been running a considerable amount of training, some of which has been catching up with things by the skin of their teeth as IT functionality is implemented, but there’s been a sincere and coordinated effort to provide something. Plus I’ve been spending a lot of time on Futurelearn.)

So this week, reality hit – the first week of teaching. Was it all going to work?

Do you know, it actually wasn’t bad. There were bumps and lumps, of course. Neville Morley has been documenting his particular set of trials and challenges over on his blog, which I’d been watching with some trepidation since one of the things he had noticed was that students were being reluctant to get stuck into the bulletin board aspects of the course. My experience has been very different, but I think I have a very different group of students which also makes a difference to the kind of engagement they’re willing to have. My advanced language course is full of second and third years who came up together from Latin Language & Reading last year, and so are well over the ‘but what if I make a mistake in front of these people?’ stage; some students hadn’t engaged at the time of writing, but there was enough of a lively debate for me to feel they were cracking on.

My other course, Contemporary Approaches in Latin Literature, was a bit more of a worry. Nothing. Crickets on the bulletin board. Why, I wondered, why are they being so quiet when I know from correspondence they’re keen and they’ve introduced themselves on the student introduction forum? All became clear when I got an e-mail on Friday asking why it wasn’t possible to post to the forum. Here’s a picture with the link to press! I blithely replied. We don’t have that link, they counted. Bother and blast, I said, undoing the setting which was meant to stop my colleagues’ inboxes being inundated with thousands of Moodle notifications. We’ll try again next week, but at least it’s a technical hitch which we know about now and the students will let me know if it repeats itself.

On Friday, I had three face-to-face seminars over Teams. Would it work? Would the students turn up? Would they end up in the right meeting? Would anyone press The Forbidden Button and start a parallel meeting? Would I manage to beam in the intercollegiate students who haven’t yet got registered on college systems for the MA seminar? Well, I guess it helps that I’m dealing with a small number of students, because not only did they all end up in the right place, they all managed splendidly. I had three hours of really good discussion-based teaching, including getting my Contemporary Approaches students to separate out into six separate break-out groups without getting lost there or on the way back. I know that coming on Friday, I may have benefited from mistakes earlier in the week – but, do you know, we had a great set of conversations, some really good insight building on the work earlier in the week, and it was as good as being back in the classroom. Yes, there’s work to be done on getting used to the asynchronous work they have to do and I want to do some tweaking for some tools – but, actually, I’m really pleased.

I also met all my dissertation students this week, and they’re as bubbly as ever, full of excitement and enthusiasm for the eclectic area of the subject they’ve identified as their focus for the next six months. The glory of the dissertation supervision is that I can give each student full focus just as well on a virtual meeting as I can in a classroom, and indeed the year before I started going on sabbatical I’d started doing Skype supervisions to make use of my non-campus days rather than cram everything into three days already overfull as it was. I love starting them off, and this year was no exception.

I know that not everywhere is having such a smooth ride. I know that the level of support being provided to colleagues across the sector is wildly variable (and that’s putting it mildly). I know professional service colleagues who are being required to be on campus are having a completely different experience. But for this very small corner of the world, and my contribution to the degrees of a small number of students – actually, it’s going alright. Thank goodness something is.

August 17, 2020

Fitting the pieces together

Filed under: Teaching — lizgloyn @ 4:37 pm
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Like everyone else who will be teaching in the autumn, I am currently wrestling with how to move my teaching on-line and what the new world will look like. I think I’ve spent at least 40 hours on professional development over the last few months, what with getting up to speed on best practice for on-line learning and doing my best to respond responsibly to the Black Lives Matter protests and the increasing urgency of the need to decolonise academia in general and my classroom specifically (of which more in a different post). My current job is looking at my Moodles for the autumn and working out how best to apply them. My current brain-fog is sitting around the question of what a syllabus is actually for in a world of electronic teaching resources.

I would be the first person to confess that my use of Moodle over the years has been as a resource-dump rather than as a dynamic teaching tool. This isn’t surprising – Moodle didn’t exist when I did my undergraduate degree, and my introduction to it was much more as a repository than anything else. I was a bit more adventurous with using bulletin boards and so on for assignments when I was teaching as a PhD student, because of the more flexible assessment structure in US universities; when I got back to the UK, that flexibility went, and so did my use of Moodle for that sort of thing. (Because if there’s no grade, the students won’t do it – right?)

Fast-forward to now, a Certain Number of years on, and I am very behind on what can be done in Moodle these days, not to mention having had absolutely no training on digital pedagogy since whatever courses it was I took as a graduate student. Teaching digitally is a pedagogical specialism which can’t just be picked up; while I’ve had some excellent support from my institution for it, I’ve also put work into thinking about how best to organise a Moodle page, what the best way to structure on-line activities is, and multiple things of that nature.

One of the things I now find myself battling with, though, is what on earth a syllabus document is actually for.

In the old world (she types nostalgically), my syllabus was a comprehensive, one-stop shop for the course. It had general policy information, a schedule of classes, and then class-by-class prep work for each class so students could consult the file and have instant knowledge about what they were supposed to be doing. (Let us leave aside how often this happened for the moment, that was the point of the syllabus.) The syllabus also included bibliography, both for individual classes and for the course as a whole.

Fast-forward to the New Normal. Now, I have to have all my asynchronous activities and pre-seminar work clearly set up on Moodle for each week of teaching, so students can navigate through each week’s content independently, with only a small portion of overall learning activity being face-to-face and synchronous. My reading lists are all in our TALIS reading system, with a plug-in which lets me include a link directly in Moodle so students can click and find what they need. But I still need to have a syllabus document on my Moodle because… I still need a syllabus document. But why?

In fairness, I can see the point of having a syllabus which has some general information in it and a full schedule of the year’s learning, in a rather general sort of way, particularly since the Moodle page is not going to be built for the whole year by the start of term. (If I can get five weeks of activity built before term starts, I’ll be counting that as a victory.) But do I really need to duplicate my reading list? Do I need to have the full ‘what we’re doing each week’ seminar details when there’s going to be far more supported detail and activity on Moodle than there has been in any past year?

I suspect I would feel very differently about this question if I were not in an open-ended post, not least to make things easier when moving between institutions and having a core document with all my information handy. But as someone with institutional security (today’s governmental U-turn on A-level results not withstanding), that doesn’t feel as important now; Moodle will roll over next year, and I’ll be there to use it, so I’m pretty sure I will benefit from my work.

My solution at this point is to keep the first parts of the syllabus as they are, but to delete the detailed ‘what we are doing in each seminar’ bit – that’s going to be replicated on Moodle each week, with more interactive content, and I don’t see what the value of having a partial summary in a Word document students probably won’t pay a lot of attention to. I can also download my Moodle page as a PDF to keep a record of this year’s structure if I think that will be helpful (which it probably will be).

I suppose I’m sharing this because it’s an example of one of the small things I’m running up against in preparing for teaching next year which feels pretty straightforward in terms of making a decision but actually reveals an awful lot about some underlying assumptions about how teaching works  and is delivered. Sometimes that means asking whether what you’ve been doing… just because you’ve always been doing it is actually the best thing to do. In an ideal world, I wouldn’t be re-examining my teaching under these circumstances, but I do hope that there will be some long-term benefits that come out of it in terms of better practice around the digital environment. Although frankly, given from where I started, isn’t going to be too difficult.

May 24, 2019

A general update

Filed under: Research,Teaching — lizgloyn @ 9:28 am
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Most of the posts on here recently have been in support of teachers and students working on the Love and Relationships option for the OCR Classical Civilization A-level – there’s more of that to come (and do get in touch if you have any suggestions for topics to cover!), but I thought I’d take a moment to write a bit about what else is going on.

We are in the middle of marking mayhem here – I’m working through my first year Roman Literature exam scripts, with the promise of my Latin Language & Reading exams dropping into my lap this afternoon, with everything needing to be marked and moderated by Thursday. It’s a tight turn-around, but doable if nothing else gets done. It’s been quite a good year for teaching – I want to write in more detail about my Contemporary Approaches to Latin Literature course, but for now, I’ve had bright and engaged students in all my courses who have pushed me to do better. One thing that I did notice is that there is a world of difference between teaching my first year Roman literature survey to students in the first term, as I did this year, and the second term, as I usually do. I usually meet the first years once they’ve worked out how assignments work, how to follow the style guide (more or less). how to navigate the library catalogue and JSTOR. This year, I met them when they had none of that experience, and I had to do a bit of rapid adjustment to give them the support they needed. It’s a really obvious thing, I know, but I’ve never caught this course in the autumn before, and it caught me a bit off balance.

I’ve really enjoyed the texts I’ve been teaching to the Latin Language & Literature students – Seneca’s De Brevitate Vitae and Plautus’ Amphitruo, both of which have done interesting things for my understanding of those particular texts and for my Latin grammar. I last taught Latin L&R in my first year at Royal Holloway, with the De Brevitate Vitae as a set text, and there was something quite gratifying about coming back to it and realising how much better my Latin has got over the intervening years. Now, of course, I have to make sure that I don’t assume my students know Thing X because Everybody Knows Thing X when actually I know Thing X because I’ve been handling Latin for mumble years.

In terms of research, the main crunch this year has been the Monster book – now with the proper and exciting title of Tracking Monsters in Popular Culture (available for pre-order now…). The turn-around on this has been much faster than I anticipated – I submitted a full manuscript at the end of July, and expected reader comments back in December; they arrived in October/early November, which meant the date for delivering the final manuscript was the end of February, not after Easter… I worked hectically to meet this deadline, more for myself than for anything else, but it did mean essentially doing eight weeks’ worth of hours in six weeks after Christmas. The book went into production – and the proofs arrived with a two week turnaround deadline just as my dissertations needed marking and the Women’s Classical Committee UK AGM needed planning and attending! Those have gone back now, but I think it’s safe to say that the monstrosity inside this book has leaked out into the production process.

In terms of other research, I’m in a slightly odd position of having been absolutely rigorous about blocking out a research day during term, but now doing no research at all. Part of that is to keep on top of marking mayhem, and part of it is that I need a bit of peace and quiet to jump-start working on the next projects. On the plus side, I will be on research sabbatical in the autumn and the spring, which means no teaching or administration. The plan is to get started on the second Seneca book, which will look at the family ethics of his tragedies, along with turning a couple of conference papers which also look at drama into proper publications, but that’s a bit intellectual shift from monsters. So the current plan is to clear the decks of admin and marking (hopefully by next week!) and then focus on getting back into Latin literature gear.

There should start to be a bit more activity on this blog, not least because of the sorts of questions that research sabbaticals throw up and that are good to write out in this forum. However, the reality of the thing is that it’s always going to be an optional extra, and in crunch periods it’s one of the first things to go.

September 12, 2018

Sources for Seneca on love and desire

Filed under: Teaching — lizgloyn @ 10:56 pm
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This is the first of a series of blog posts intended to support teachers and students studying the Love and Relationships topic as part of the OCR A-level in Classical Civilization. I expect it will be updated with more sources as the blog posts progress! 

As far as Plato on love and relationships is concerned, it’s fairly straightforward to know what to read – at the very least, you have a good look at the Symposium, and that will cover quite a lot of ground. It’s a lot more difficult to know what to read as far as Seneca is concerned – he has one of the broadest and best-preserved collections of texts from the ancient world, rivaled only by Cicero in terms of the breadth of the genres that he covers. He also doesn’t have a single text devoted to love and relationships in the way that Plato does, meaning that there has to be quite a bit of selective reading done to find helpful material.

The one massive loss to this particular question is Seneca’s De Matrimonio, or On Marriage – we only have it through quotations made in an extremely polemical text by Saint Jerome, where he uses it to argue in favour of celibacy rather than marriage. (I’ve written about the textual transmission of the De Matrimonio here if you want to find out more.) While there are a small group of fragments that we think we can identify as properly Senecan, they aren’t easily accessible (yet!), and their fragmentary nature makes it difficult to understand precisely what argument Seneca’s making in the text. They do, however, provide us with a useful set of ideas to work with in parallel with Seneca’s other writing. You can find translations of the fragments in this post.

Alongside the fragments, here’s a list of some other useful passages you should know about:

On Benefits 1.1.10 and 4.33.2 – notes that we should enter marriage even though we cannot guarantee perfect outcomes.

On Benefits 2.18.1 – alludes to advice exploring the duties that spouses have to each other.

On Benefits 3.16.2-4 – expresses disgust at the rising frequency of divorce.

On Constancy 7.4 – “if a man sleeps lies with his wife as if she were someone else’s, he will be an adulterer, although she will not be an adulteress.”

Moral Epistles 9 – on the Stoic sage and self-sufficiency; explores the sage’s attitude to relationships with others in general. 9.17 in particular notes the sage’s interest in starting a family.

Moral Epistles 95.37 – example of a man who knows keeping a concubine is an insult to his wife, but does it anyway.

Moral Epistles 104.1-5 – Seneca talks about his relationship with his wife Paulina.

Moral Epistles 122.7-8 – includes men who exchange their clothing with women and submit to other men in a list of things which are against nature, along with men who build warm baths in the sea.

Moral Epistles 114.4 – a portrait of Maecenas as a husband behaving irrationally because of desire for his wife (who is criticised in the same letter).

On Providence 3.10 – another poison pen portrait of Maecenas and his relationship with his wife.

On Anger 3.36.3-4 – Seneca describes his wife’s understanding of his nightly meditation routine.

On Clemency 1.9.1-12 – an extended narrative of an incident in the relationship between Augustus and Livia which demonstrates a laudable marital dynamic.

On Consolation to Helvia 17.4 – Seneca contradicts his father’s position on whether Helvia, Seneca’s mother, should study philosophy.

Natural Questions 1.16 – gives a disapproving account of the sexual habits of Hostius Quadra, who slept with both men and women whilst surrounded by mirrors.

Phaedra – a full-length tragedy which focuses around uncontrolled incestuous desire; however, there are complications to be aware of when reading the tragedies as evidence for Seneca’s thought (blog post on this to come!).

 

Tacitus, Annals 15.63.64 – Seneca’s forced political suicide, including the role his wife played.

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 4.33 and Plutarch On common conceptions against the Stoics 1072E – on why the Stoics saying erōs isn’t irrational is a bit odd.

Musonius Rufus, discourse 4, ‘Should daughters receive the same education as sons?’ – useful background for the Stoics’ belief that both men and women had the same capacity for virtue.

August 21, 2018

Next year’s teaching: Contemporary Approaches to Latin Literature

Filed under: Teaching — lizgloyn @ 4:31 pm
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I have to say, I am getting really quite excited about my teaching for the coming academic year. I have the first year Roman Literature survey again (in the autumn this year, to avoid overload on a colleague), and I am doing Latin Language and Reading with a text I know (Seneca’s De Brevitate Vitae) and one I don’t (Plautus’ Amphitryo). But what I’m really very excited about, and getting more so the more I plan, is our new third year course, Contemporary Approaches to Latin Literature.

A little background. We have introduced this course with a lot of flexibility built into it. The idea is that any member of the Latin literature staff in the department can teach it, and can tailor it to their research expertise and interests. This is meant to be a cutting-edge, research-led, completely up to date module, that showcases the work of staff in the department but also advances our research by letting us work on this stuff with our students. The course is taught in translation, so it’s open to anyone in the department. It’s designed to be taught solo (as I’m doing this year) or as a team, depending on who’s about and how we’re feeling, and it’s the first step towards a redesign of our Latin literature provision in the department following the welcome addition of Dr. Chomse to me and Dr. Spentzou last year. Between us we make up 1.9FTE staff; we also offer some really quite butt-kicking feminist takes on Roman literature, and we wanted to find a way to make that integral to our teaching and to support our research.

Our Cunning Plan was to split Contemporary Approaches into four lenses or perspectives: feminism and intersectionality; subjectivity and space; the sublime and the monstrous; and the politics and aesthetics of the reception of classics. We each have areas of our research which can speak to each perspective, or we can share out the mini-units as we feel like it. The last perspective is also designed to be a taster of what students might do in our MRes in Classical Reception, as with such limited resources we can’t stretch to offering to a dedicated reception module (plus we all do reception as part of our research, so it makes sense to have it there). As I say, this year the module is mine, all mine; the library’s request for a reading list by the end of August means I’ve had to focus on what I want them to have on hand in terms of resources, which in turn has meant thinking about what ground I want to cover and putting together a skeleton syllabus. (Fleshing out said syllabus is on the to-do list for September.)

The really brilliant bit is that this module should let third year students engage with (shock horror) actual theory and work out how it might be a way of opening up and understanding Roman literature. I’ve already worked out that there seems to be a bit of a hole in theoretical explanations of classics and feminism from the last ten years or so – loads of people doing feminist literary interpretation, of course, but less in the way of talking about how in a way that might be accessible to an undergraduate audience. Which is interesting. Plus the fact that I’m taking us to the monster studies zone means that I’m already pushing the boundaries in a field where… not a lot of people are pushing this stuff. So I’m going to have to tell students ‘there isn’t this stuff in the library, because it hasn’t been written yet, because I am in the middle of writing it’.

It has been so much fun to look at my current projects in the pipeline and work out which ones coincide best with what I’m working on and what I want students to read and how I’m going to get them talking about the underlying issues and approaches. The module is being assessed by coursework (two long essays plus a formative reflections journal assessment that, erm, I have to write guidelines for), which means there’s no teaching to the exam; I’m really hoping that will encourage students to dig into what they can do with these texts.

There are some ideas I’ve had to put to one side. Despite the fact that it would be fabulous to put Plautus’ Mostellaria and Seneca’s Thyestes next to each other to get a pair of haunted houses, I teach the Thyestes in the first year literature survey, so have had to reluctantly abandon that idea as I have enough on my hands this year without reworking that again. There are, however, enough really interesting pairings of ancient texts and modern theoretical takes that I think it’s going to be a really rewarding course, and I can’t wait to see what comes out of it. Oh, and I get to teach Hail, Caesar! (2016), so that’s a definite win.

September 24, 2017

Teaching goals for 2017-18

Filed under: Teaching — lizgloyn @ 9:31 pm
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I wouldn’t normally blog on a Sunday night, but I am feeling quite strongly about getting a post about this year’s teaching goals up before teaching actually starts (which is tomorrow). I didn’t do a post about this sort of thing last year because I was on sabbatical in the autumn, and in the spring was thinking more about taking on a big new administrative role. This year, I’m still focusing on that administrative role and also on finishing the Monster book (quelle surprise), but there are a couple of things I want to work on.

Inclusivity and pronouns

I have finally come around to the fact that I really should, out of simple courtesy, be giving my students an opportunity to tell me what their preferred pronouns are, and be making an effort to use them. I’m teaching two classes of about a dozen students each for the whole year, plus a half-unit which looks like it’ll have most of the first year in it in the spring; with numbers that small, on language-based courses, I can’t really excuse being rude. I am also calling myself out a bit here – I have a number of genderqueer friends who prefer to use they and their rather than he/she and his/hers, but have always waffled my hands and gone ‘oh, well, my memory is like a sieve, so if I get it wrong I’m really sorry, I don’t mean to be offensive’. While I’ll give myself a pass for forgetting this sort of thing when I was a sleep-deprived mother of an under-eighteen-month-old, at this stage it’s really turned into a rather lazy ‘this is not high on my priorities’, and that’s just not on, is it? So, as part of my general attempt to pull my own socks up, I am trying to become a bit more aware and inclusive, including mentioning my own pronoun preference when I introduce myself. It’s a small thing, but it’s an important one.

Research-led teaching

I really want to get my research and my teaching matching up a bit more this year. This should partly be achieved by teaching Latin on the Edge, our Advanced Latin Author course, which is going to look at Latin texts talking about exile; I’ll write more about that course and what I want it to do in a later blog post, but what I am doing for it is putting together an entirely new commentary on Seneca’s Ad Helviam, which I want to teach and for which there is no such commentary. I’m thinking that once it’s been through testing, I’ll see whether one of the presses that publishes this sort of thing is interested, very much as a teaching support piece rather than as a deeply scholarly commentary – the ad Helviam is a splendid text, and deserves to get out more. I’m also reworking my Roman literature first year module by dumping Livy and bringing in Valerius Maximus, which means two new lectures and a new seminar to write; I want to get into Valerius but haven’t got the time, so this is a nice way to have a think about what’s been said about him and what’s not out there in the scholarship.

Student-led seminars redux

I mentioned last year that I following Ellie Mackin Roberts’ lead and putting student-led seminars into my Latin Letters course. I’ll be using them again in Latin on the Edge, for many of the same reasons and for some different ones which I shall again relate in due course. The second years on Latin Letters will be third years in Latin on the Edge, so it will be interesting to see how they react to going through the process for the second time!

Engaging students

Or, the perennial problem of getting students into my office hours. This year, I’m not doing anything particularly innovative with my teaching methods (unless you count continuing with the student-led seminars), partly because I’ve not seen anything I fancy trying, partly because of the book, and partly because I reckon I’ve got enough on my plate with the new content. So instead I want to try and deal with another aspect of my teaching responsibilities, providing one-on-one support to students who bring me their troubles in my office hour. As most teachers will tell you, despite us explaining this is what office hours are for, turn-out is remarkably low. Always. And the students who turn up are very rarely the students who we think would benefit from some one-on-one time – it’s usually those who are already high achievers but are anxious about their performance. So we can help students get over the first boundary, but we don’t get to those lower down the achievement pyramid (or whatever it’s called). My first tactic is going to be talking more explicitly about office hours more in class – there’s an assumption there that students know what this stuff is for, which is probably wrong. But then, who knows? If anyone knows any literature on this subject, or you have things that have worked, please do shout out in the comments.

 

April 3, 2017

Experimenting with student-led seminars

Term’s been over for a week or so now, and I’m just about catching up with myself and all the things I’d meant to do over term but didn’t get around to. And by ‘catching up’, I mean ‘making a list rather than just remembering them and occasionally flailing’. There are a number of things I could write about, but let’s start with the pedagogy, which has been one reason this term has been so busy – I’ve been running two new courses, which has been a lot of fun but a lot of work as well. I’ve also been trying out something new, since pedagogy only works if you keep it fresh and keep tweaking it to make it better, and I wanted to give up an update on the experiment.

Full credit should go at this point to the marvellous Ellie Mackin, who planted the seed for this project in my head back in the autumn term. At the start of November, she vlogged about her use of the student-led seminar format as part of her teaching, and in chatting about it, I started to get the germ of an idea. I’d come across the student-led seminar when reading around pedagogy, but to be honest it had never appealed – it always got sold as something to make learning student-centered, and I firmly believe in subject-centered learning, plus I couldn’t see how it would operate beneficially with the kinds of subjects I generally teach. However, one of my courses this spring has been our Advanced Latin Author unit, which this academic year has focused on Latin Letters, and I realised that this might be my chance.

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January 6, 2017

Looking back over 2016 and the sabbatical

Filed under: Research,Teaching — lizgloyn @ 1:34 pm
Tags: , , ,

I’ve decided that I’ve done all the admin that I want to do for today, so am going to spend the rest of my afternoon thinking about research. That means I want to review my sabbatical, and that in turns means having a look at the first part of 2016.

The spring and summer terms involved finishing off teaching Intermediate Latin and Roman Life Stories, and teaching our first year Roman literature survey again. I learned quite a lot in the process, especially about the Roman Life Stories course, which was new on the books and will need a bit of gentle modification before it gets its next run. I also proposed the two courses I will be picking up next term, and dealt with various MA and PhD supervision. I did a couple of school talks in Somerset over the Easter vacation and submitted an overdue book review. My biggest research achievement was sending the full manuscript of the Seneca book to the publishers just before Easter, marking a significant milestone in that particular intellectual journey. Oh, and of course we had the launch of the Women’s Classical Committee!

Then in the summer I got going with the Monsters project, starting with a conference paper in Warsaw in May on the Minotaur in British young adult fiction. I also gave a paper on monsters in modern classical epic films at the Celtic Classics Conference. I helped organise an event with the WCC UK on feminist pedagogy, which was very well received. I made a good start on turning the Minotaur paper into a chapter, and had a good go at planning how I was going to tackle writing the Monster book. I got started on the process of indexing the book manuscript with the invaluable assistance of one of our graduate students.

Then, during the sabbatical term, I managed the following:

  • An awful lot of core reading around monsters, monster theory and the like.
  • Two very rough chapter drafts of the Monster book and a third in progress.
  • A conference paper exploring some of the ideas for the fourth chapter.
  • Some very exciting ideas and actions about monstrous impact.
  • A very, very almost completed version of the Minotaur chapter.
  • All the paperwork, including copy-editing and proofs, around the Seneca book.
  • A full seminar paper on Seneca, fathers and rulers, which will be the basis of an article in due course.
  • A completed and submitted application for an outreach scheme.

When I finished the summer term, I had grand ideas about getting the whole book written before Christmas. This was, in retrospect, utterly implausible, but you have to start somewhere. At the beginning of September, I was aiming to get the first four chapters into draft. I’ve not managed that – but I have done some other things that weren’t in the original plan, and I’m well underway to getting more written.

In retrospect, the most valuable thing about the sabbatical term has been the time to set the stage – to spend a month reading what I picked out as ‘core reading’, get my head around the debates, articulate some of the issues I was running up against, blog and tweet about them, take my time to get organised. I now feel like I know what I want to be doing for finishing off the chapter I’m working on and starting the next ones – the project has become manageable, which it wasn’t at the start of the summer. There’s a lot still to do, of course, not least of all finding more lovely primary sources to talk about and analyse (which, to the untutored eye, may look like watching a lot of silly television). But I now feel like I’ve made a good start. Let’s hope it gives me good foundations for the work of 2017.

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