Generally speaking, the internet tells me that dipping my toes in the (shark infested?) waters of the academic job market this is not the best idea ever. The odds are never in your favor.
And yet, for now at least, I am doing it anyway, fully acknowledging that I’m in a privileged position to be able to go out on this particular limb. This year, several job ads requested not just the standard cover letter, CV, and list of references, but also teaching portfolios, evaluations, and sample syllabi. Preparing this last component of my applications took some time, but it was…well, actually pretty cool.* It encouraged me to reflect on my best experiences in the classroom, as both a student and an instructor, and to seek out ideas and advice for future classes. Whereas synthesizing and wrapping up the dissertation has made me excited to pursue new research, preparing course materials made me excited to pursue the teaching dimension of academic archaeology.
For the sake of collective inspiration and teaching enhancement, what were y’all’s favorite classroom experiences in archaeology? Did any whole classes stand out? Specific activities? What experiences rocked your theoretical socks off, opened your eyes to new questions (perhaps to a “grand challenge”), or best prepared you for an applied career?
From my own experience… As an undergrad at Wake Forest U, I took a four-field course called “Culture and Nature,” taught by archaeologist Paul Thacker. A few days into that semester, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. This catastrophe and the subsequent economic, social, and political fall out provided a stark example of the ways in which seemingly natural events reverberate across human societies. As the course continued, covering the origins cultural ecology, the development of the conservation movement, and a variety of other topics, we often returned to the world of current events, reflecting on how post-Katrina discourses were informed by different perspectives on the relationship between culture and nature. By linking important concepts to a story unfolding on the news, I think all of us students gained a much deeper appreciation of the issues the course aimed to cover.
So yeah. What was your favorite archaeology class, and what was so great about it? Let’s reminisce!
*When it comes to the job market, it’s folly to ignore the facts. But as long as I’m going through with it, I needed a way to prevent total paralysis induced by doom and gloom realities. Finding a silver lining in syllabus prep was my strategy.