Once More Into the Breach

Classes start on Wednesday. I start teaching again on Thursday morning and I’m sort of, almost!, ready. My Desire2Learn shell is up and running for the second-year survey on the Ancient Near East and the course outline was in our admin’s hands well before term wrapped up. Preparing the online component of the course was a chore and a half. I realize I still have one assignment folder still to create: the discussions assignment since I’m continuing last term’s successful experiment in requiring discussions in a large-scale sophomore survey. I require every student in the class of eighty to present on the daily discussion question once during the term, post a refined version of their response and then respond to at least two others. That means that some days we can have five presentations! They’re all short (I advise students not to prepare more than a page of text to guide them) but I sweeten the pot by recycling the questions for essays on the tests so students have incentive to prepare and pay attention!

I’ve also finally figured out the intractable scheduling problem for the senior seminar: in order to spend two weeks on The Alexiad, we’re covering Villehardouin and Joinville in one week. Since the latter two are only in excerpts in our course custom reader, that’s okay in my book. I’m happily anticipating finally teaching this inaugural seminar on later medieval chronicles and that means taking some time with some sources (they’ll also read all of the Gesta Tancredi and The Chronicle of Bury St. Edmunds). We’re also going to start and finish the course with women authors: Anna Komnene and Margery Kempe – that has me excited!

However, I feel a little bit whip-lashed with term starting back up again so soon. I suspect my students will feel that even more as exams were scheduled right up until the 21st or 22nd. Everyone’s going to be tired and cranky when I head back to the office. We’re entering into the long, dark, bitterly cold heart of winter that doesn’t help one iota. January term is the cruelest term from that perspective!

How is the new year treating you?



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4 responses to “Once More Into the Breach

  1. Sounds like a solid and lovely semester!

    • J Liedl

      It’s definitely nice to have only two regular classes besides the graduate reading course. Four plus (last term) was too much.

  2. mostly I feel ashamed that my limited historical training in your period means I”ve no idea about most of what you are assigning. I had precisely two courses in the period. Perhaps I’d better take your syllabus for the sen sem as a reading list :)

    • J Liedl

      Well, I’m equally at sea when we get out of my medieval/early modern European sources. I’m also dreadfully weak on Iberian history for this period: I realize that I didn’t assign even one source for that region. So there’s another area I’ll have to work on!