Fellows: on the front line

September 5, 2003

Pat Leon asks a winner of one of this year's national teaching fellowships how she manages.

Name: Barbara Graziosi.

Age: 31.

Job: Lecturer in classics.

Salary: £24,121

Qualifications: BA in literae humaniores; MSt in Greek literature (Oxford); PhD in classics (Cambridge)

Experience: After my PhD I was a research fellow at New College, Oxford, where I taught five or six tutorials per week and had a pastoral role. I worked as a lecturer at the University of Reading, before joining the classics department at Durham University in 2001. New lecturer programmes are useful, especially in encouraging contacts between colleagues but I suspect no one has assessed their impact on the lecturers' time (and morale).

Hours spent teaching: Seven to ten per week. Occasionally I feel like Winnie-the-Pooh, banging my head on the next lecture without much time to consider the module or mode of teaching.

Hours on red tape: About five hours per week. We are redesigning all our degree programmes and that takes time. I plan to develop a series of weekend courses on Greek mythology and other "ancient" subjects for the wider public, and involve students in running those courses. This project is part of my National Teaching Fellowship Award. It will involve quite a bit of administration.

Hours on research: During term, about four or five per week. During vacation, about 40-50. Outside Oxbridge, vacations are too short to allow proper research projects to develop, so it is important to keep things simmering during term.

Teaching bugbear: Seeing teaching and research as mutually exclusive. I often use seminars and lectures to test out ideas. This helps me to clarify arguments and make sure I can express them clearly, and helps students to realise that they have a contribution to make.

How would you solve it? Try to connect: talk to students about research, talk to colleagues about teaching. Challenge the assumption that only "good students" can follow current research: discussing things with average students, or with people from the wider community, is possible and helpful to both lecturer and student. An emphasis on student-centred teaching helps to focus on the students' perspective. Yet students also benefit from an awareness of the lecturer's perspective: it helps them to avoid making unreasonable demands, and also to realise what contribution they can make to the intellectual life of their institution.

Teaching tips: Teach things that interest you and be ready to discuss why they do. It is important to cultivate the "feel-good factor" in our profession, and to be upfront with students about the demands of our job.

Outside interests: Music, hiking, swimming, dancing, reading, cinema, cooking and chatting with friends. I have a one-year-old daughter, though, so not much time.

Career high points: I am happy with my first book, Inventing Homer. I tried so hard to make it engaging, and it was not easy, also because English is not my first language. Recently, I was awarded a Durham Excellence in Teaching Award and a National Teaching Fellowship.

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