Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Teaching Notes 1

Further to my previous comments on beginning teaching again, I thought I might introduce a new feature here, where I give myself a little space for reflections on current courses as they progress, with the aim of sharing odd reflections, and actually writing down what often just remain strong mental notes, and looking for ways to improve my current offerings.

There were several firsts for me yesterday. One was teaching a regular course in an evening slot, a slot that at two and a half hours is a bit of a chonker. It's a course on the Life and Letters of Paul (see previous comments on Teaching Paul) and it runs from 6.15 to 8.45 pm. Another first for me is having a class of seventy. The dean here is encouraging us to raise the caps on our classes and to teach more students so I am experimenting this semester by raising the cap to seventy (from the 40/45 which is more normal here). I realize that by some standards that is still a small class, e.g. I hear that down the road Bart Ehrman has been known to have over 350 students on his Introduction to the New Testament class, but it is still more students than I have had in a regular class. I am helped by two fine teaching assistants, though, and without them I think it would be too large a load.

One of the pluses of the larger class is that I get a nicer room. In Religion, we tend to teach in the Gray Building, where we are all located, and the classrooms are adequate but not especially comfortable or well equipped. Because 70 wouldn't fit into one of the usual Gray classrooms, I have a room in Wesbtrook, which is part of the new Divinity School wing. It's a nice room with comfy seats, microphone and all mod cons. I don't normally like to use a microphone since projecting one's voice should be a basic skill for teachers, but it occurred to me that with a 150 minute class, it might be sensible for me to look after my voice.

I went down to the classroom several hours before the class started. Here's my little tip for teachers: always find your classroom long before the first class. Get used to the feel of it; work out where everything is, how everything works, where you are going to stand. And the big one: if you are going to use technology, make sure it's working long before the class begins. In Birmingham, I had given up using technology in the classroom by the end of my time there because I had so many bad experiences of equipment not arriving, not arriving on time, arriving but not working and so on. It's too stressful. Yesterday, in this new classroom, it took me a good half an hour or so to get on top of the technology too, not helped by the fact that the Divinity School classroom computers apparently have different usernames and passwords from the whole of the rest of the university, and they have no one available on tech support after five.

It was nice to be able to show a few pictures with my introductory lecture on Paul. We looked at a couple of classic pictures of Paul, I introduced them to the NT Gateway Paul pages and promised them that they would be getting updated as the course progresses, and we used several maps so that we could picture Paul's journeys, in particular through reflecting on Romans 15.15-19, and the grand sweep from Jerusalem to Illyricum. I took time to explain too that Paul would not have been at all familiar with our modern maps and would not have conceptualised the world in the same way as we do. There's a great (but little known?) article on this, including a fine discussion of Paul's use of the word κύκλῳ in Rom. 15.19 -- James M. Scott, “Paul’s ‘Imago Mundi’ and Scripture” in Otfried Hofius, et al (eds.), Evangelium - Schriftauslegung - Kirche. Festschrift für Peter Stuhlmacher (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996): 366-81).

To cope with the two and a half hour session, we took a 15-20 minute half-time break at about 7.25 pm and that gave me the chance to get something to eat. Tip for new teachers, a tip also relevant for students taking exams: EAT. It keeps your energy levels up and helps you to concentrate, especially in the evening. On this occasion, I talked for most of the session, not least because it was an introductory lecture and I wanted to sketch out some of the key issues in studying Paul, and to provide some framework for future discussions, including a bit of basic biography. In future, I am planning a first half which will predominantly be me lecturing and a second half in which we will look together at the texts and tasks of the week.

Don't do this again: slurp coffee close to a microphone. It sounds disgusting.

One great bonus came out of yesterday's class. I mentioned the TVM Peter and Paul, made in 1981 and starring Anthony Hopkins as Paul. I remember watching it and I particularly enjoyed the Antioch row between Paul and Peter. I have often thought what fun it would be to use that clip in a class, but whenever I have looked in the past, it has been unavailable. Well, two students, one during the lecture itself, kindly looked it up and discovered that it is available on Amazon. It turns out that it was released at the end of 2002 and it had bypassed me. So I ordered it last night and I am looking forward to seeing it again, for the first time in over twenty years.

One negative: I mentioned Horrell's book the other day. I had planned the syllabus around this and Sanders's Very Short Introduction. I knew that Horrell's book was out because I received my copy of the second edition back in May / June. On Thursday I received an email from Duke Text Book store letting me know that they have not been able to order it, and Amazon also show it as not yet released. Frustrating.


metalepsis said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
metalepsis said...

Amazon book is in:


Matt Page said...

FWIW, Peter and Paul is one of the films in the Top 100 Spiritual Films list produced by the Arts and Faith Community. Alas I only have it on VHS...

crystal said...

Great post - it's interesting to get a teacher's pov.