Classically Inclined

March 11, 2016

Future Plans

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 8:24 am
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As some of you may recall, my contract at Royal Holloway was for a three year post, scheduled to end this August. I’m delighted to be able to let you know that I have now been offered and have accepted a permenant post in the department of Classics here.

The process of getting to this stage has been a bit Byzantine and complicated, so I shan’t bore you with it, but I’m delighted. As regular readers and Twitter followers may have gathered, I enjoy teaching the students who come to us very much; I have the opportunity to teach across a range of subjects in my research area, including the languages; and I feel like I fit well with my colleagues in both research interests and general temperament. Given some conversations going on elsewhere about the pressures on female academics with children, I should also say that I feel I’m in a department which is very sympathetic to those pressures and the needs of academic parents – on the announcement of my pregnancy, I had two professors and a lecturer (all male) crowded in my office with congratulations and tales of their own children as tinies, which I treasure as a rare and precious thing (though it shouldn’t be).

As this news came in the middle of term, and we’re still not out of the teaching woods, I will be honest that the long-term effects of this still haven’t quite sunk in. The most obvious of those is that according to RHUL’s sabbatical policy, I am entitled to a sabbatical, which I’ll be taking in the autumn term – the sabbatical was confirmed a few days before the paperwork dealing with the contract change was sorted, which was mildly amusing! Of course, in the longer term this means there are all sorts of options open for collaborations with colleagues, getting the Monster Project up and running, and developing some more courses that really draw on and advance my research interests. But for now, I’ll settle for getting through term without the worry of watching the job adverts.

September 11, 2013

Syllabi-wrangling at Royal Holloway

I haven’t talked about what I am going to be teaching at Royal Holloway yet, and now seems as good a time as any to do so. The biggest difference in my teaching load will be that most of my courses this year are language-based. I will be taking Intermediate Latin, Latin Language and Reading (essentially upper intermediate Latin, or the A-level group), and Greek Author (or advanced Greek, for which I have chosen Euripides). In the spring, I’ll be offering a first year lecture course option on the literature of the early Roman empire, which basically means I get to teach my favourite boys with all the gory bits, but that’s not my current priority.

Having three language courses means I actually need to think a bit about my language teaching pedagogy. My teaching of language at Birmingham was not where I worked on my innovation – that happened in other courses, and language was about getting on with it effectively and efficiently. However, having this much language teaching means I can pay some attention to what I’m doing and why I’m doing it a little bit more. It also means that some of the techniques I’ve used before will have to go on hold – I don’t think the CIQ is appropriate for anything I’m teaching this year, for example, although if the registration for the lecture course ends up being about 20 students I’ll reconsider. One minute papers are definitely making an appearance for the two Latin classes; although this will be first time I’ve used them systematically in a language context, they should help in identifying points of grammar which need more attention. Learning logs and blog posts are, sadly, going on hold because they don’t really have a role in what I’m doing – I might try to get back to using discussion boards for the Roman literature lecture, and I will be having small group discussion in the Greek Author class, but because there are only six students taking it the blog format seems a bit overly cumbersome. I’m going to keep on asking students to facilitate discussion and to report back on secondary literature, but in a more classroom-based way – the focus is, after all, meant to be on translating the Greek.

I’m also going to have to think what, if anything, I want to do with Twitter. I still want to use it as an informal channel of communication – in fact, I have included my Twitter handle as well as my e-mail address in the information I’ve posted on my office door. But I don’t know how to use it effectively as part of my language teaching. My new colleague Sigrun Wagner suggested using it to see which student could generate the best tweet to explain a Latin word or concept, but that might involve more students being signed up to the platform than is likely, and I don’t want it to be exclusionary. I also don’t feel these classes give me the forum I had in the first year projects at Birmingham to make having a Twitter account to track the week’s classically-related news part of the course activities.  

What all of this made me realise was that I haven’t really got as good a range of techniques to draw on when teaching language as I do when teaching non-language material – so it’s time for a refresh. I have a couple of strategies in place for handling this, not least of which is the small treasure-trove of language books that I’ve collected over the years and which are now coming into their own for offering examples, helping to build up exercise handouts and so on. However, my biggest investment will be in my own copy of When Dead Tongues Speak, an APA-sponsored volume on language teaching strategies at the university level. I started reading a copy at Birmingham but moving got in the way; however, it looked useful enough to invest in my own copy, and I’m hoping to find suggestions of various new and alternative techniques to use in the classroom. I’m also going to put a bit of time in to looking over Teaching Classical Languages to see if anything there might be of use. These are mainly American resources, but that seems to be where things are published and I’m not aware of a university-level equivalent in the UK. If anyone is aware of something similar in the UK context, do let me know – the more I can read and think about what I do in the classroom, the better chance I have of making sure that I have ways of getting through to every student, not just those who get on with my tried and tested methods.

June 18, 2013

Plans for next year and beyond

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 9:27 am
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As it’s now up on the website, I guess I can make the announcement – from the start of September, I will be joining the Department of Classics at Royal Holloway on a three year lectureship.

I’ve known about this for a while now and have been passing on the news to people in person, but for various reasons I wanted to wait for something more official before telling the internet. Obviously, I’m delighted. As anyone who has been following the job market knows, a three year job at the moment is an amazing break (and I have to admit that it’s only really just sinking in!). London is a brilliant place for me for personal as well as professional reasons; one of the things I am most looking forward to, if I’m honest, is the novelty of living with my husband. (Radical, I know.) The department at Royal Holloway, despite its well-publicised peril a few years ago, is full of interesting people working on interesting things, and I’m looking forward to getting to know them better in both teaching and research.

I will be sorry to leave my colleagues at Birmingham. Despite recent upheavals, they have been unfailingly generous and kind to me, particularly given that I’ve been on a Teaching Fellowship (and thus on a two-legged academic contract). They’ve been great to work with, and have put up with all sorts of things from me, most recently wandering around asking ‘what do you think the connection is between classics and spiritualism?’ and making loud verbal expressions of frustration at unhelpful secondary literature. However, I will be there until the end of August, so I have a while yet to enjoy their company.

I’ll blog some more about the teaching I will be doing at Royal Holloway later in the summer, but for now, it’s back to the research grindstone…

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