“I am going to be a university teacher…”

… and no, I have actually never done that before. I mean, all by myself. Alone, in front of students.
Give me a room filled with international experts in my field, let me present my research in English, no problem. As long as there is a coffee with colleagues afterwards. This girl is in need of a daily coffeine-based nutrition.

Give me a room with approximately 15 students in Archaeology (Yes, 15. Sometimes even 20!) and let me present a whole semester course in my mother tongue on a topic I have basically studied all my academic life and deepend every single aspect during my PhD writing phase – uhm, yeah, what am I supposed to do now? Honestly, folks, I have never ever seen myself in front of a university class as a teacher.

But, and that’s a fact: Teaching is a part of research, and therefore, a part of academia. I want to stay in academia – therefore, I have to teach courses.

But, how should you be prepared for teaching a university course, fresh from years of being a student yourself? Few of us have had some sort training in educational theory during their studies, am I right? Some of us never ever thought about a theory behind education at all. There are some crash courses at my university, dealing in two days (two days!) with methods, theories and tips around the world of teaching at university. I did one of these courses – and well, it helped a bit.

So, what are my basics, where should I start?

1. The topic?
Uhm, well, something archaeological. Something, I am used to do. Oh, right, I did a thesis on iconography of deities in the Roman provinces – so: Deities and depictions of deities in the Roman provinces.

2. Progress of your students – bachelor, master, PhD?
I know that I will handle bachelor students, so, this has to be a basic course with a lot of introduction and a lot of interesting things to keep them entertained. Nothing is more excruciating than teaching boring content to bored students.

3. What type of lecture? What are my students asked to do for getting graded?
Well, most universities or faculties have their own coursebooks and definitions of the various types of lectures in them. And you can always ask – I read the introductions of the coursebook and I asked my boss-to-be about it. And I got a lot of useful hints and ressources that helped me a lot.

4. The concept? What should we talk about in class?
Deities. In the Roman provinces. Right. You have any idea how many deities there are? 😉 And provinces? So, good news: There is a lot to talk about! Bad news: There is a lot to talk about!
So, I have to narrow it down, to pick a focus – in my case the Roman provinces of today’s Austria, Germany and France, just to get some variety but still a connected and broad image of my topic.

5. Facing the crowd.
Actually, I am used to talk in front of people and I have written about this sometimes still exiting task in my post on conferencing (click here to read). I know that I have to be prepared. They do not know me and I do not know them – we will work together a whole semester, so there is a lot of time spent together on the material. I remember what it was like to be a student – well, of course I do, I am just trying to finish my PhD, meaning I am still “in the system”.

6. Facing COVID-19 and the lockdown…
Well, didn’t see that one coming. But: there are a lot of varieties on virtual campuses and various methods on how to work on a new topic, how to read and talk about research papers in class and so on. This is another pile of hard work I have to face right now. And yes, it is somehow a little bit frightening, but I cannot control these things, therefore, I have to cope with them. I will share my experiences with online teaching, though.

So, this is my compilation of important steps to take for a teaching career – for now. Stay healthy, everyone! Take care, stay at home, we can do this and keep on moving!

All the best,

Astrid


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