Anyway, the Africa class. I think I'm going to have fun with the subject matter anyway. I spent the week giving some general background on this enormous continent, trying to get the students to understand just how big it really is. I find this graphic just astonishing.
That's the USA, China, Spain, France, Benelux, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, all of Eastern Europe, India, Japan AND the UK... and there's still space left - Africa is bigger than all those places combined. The students were thunderstruck. We looked at various map projections, which then opened up some really good discussions on preconceptions, agendas, motives, ways of dominance. And most of the students participated in exploring their own responses. Teachable moments, strung together like lustrous pearls. In the first week.
The medieval Europe class is very small, and all female. We're going to follow their lead(s) and interests, and I'm hoping it turns into a challenging and fruitful class. I'm trying this time/space approach as I'm sick to death of trying to cover masses of ideas and concepts over the entire globe. So when we talked about peasants, we used the medieval European peasant experience as various responses to the collapse of any kind of law/state system. Our beginning question was 'why do peasants live on the edge of starvation?' and went from there. That gave us some great lead-ins to other stuff: attitudes to change, communal values, land tenure, gender roles, role of religion. Since most only had a pop culture understanding of peasants (dirty, ignorant and cloddish), we came a long way in a few hours. We talked of conceptions of time and space, and freaked out about how constructed our world really is. (I love watching them face a realization that most of what they've been taught is constructed vs 'fact.')
So it was, overall, a good week. Yes, the routine bits of chairdom were icky. But so far, my attitude is less angst-y and more 'not my problem' than it was the last time I had the job. I have more confidence, and the light at the end of the tunnel: 1578 days until I retire. Four years, 3 months and 27 days. I find that quite liberating and frightening at the same time. So much I want to do before then; and a niggling fear that somebody will t-bone me on the road and I'll be so badly injured that all my plans will vanish into nothing. That's the current catastrophic scenario, after it almost happened last week. Made a left and suddenly there's this monster SUV - black, running after dark with no lights - that appears from nowhere, just off my left bumper. Scared the hell out of me. My friend, sitting in the passenger seat, would have had an SUV in her lap - she said she hadn't seen it either. Just thinking about it gives me the willies.
The Search continues - 50 apps since the first of December, and we've narrowed it down to our top 5, with apps still coming in. Very strong candidates, and I want to hire two of them, not just one. If the two papitas would go part time - they can still teach their pet surveys - we could have a full time line and hire not one but two supremely qualified assist profs on t-t jobs that would set up the department for the next 20 years. TWO for the single search, and we'd not have to do another search or worry about how we'll meet demand for years. I made that point in the meeting (not them going into semi-retirement, but about hiring two and what it would do for us) and met with zero interest. Dammit. Made the same pitch to the deans; no response at all from them. Sigh. Hate to let these candidates go; they are amazing. I'd be happy with any two of the five!
I hope that your week has been lovely, and that if you get Monday off (we do) that you spend it the way you like and want to. I'm going to!