It’s such a great feeling when you’re giving a lecture and you feel like the class is following along with what you are saying. And it is an even better feeling when you set an in-class task and the energy shifts just enough to perceive that something different is happening. This week I gave a lecture all about the concept of ‘place’ within human geography. It was a whistle-stop tour as I only had an hour to do this. However, in the second half of the class, I set a mini-essay. 15 minutes to independently answer the question “critically evaluate the assertion that ‘human geography is about maps'”. I let everyone know that I would also be taking part (and I’ve shared with them my answer!). We had a quick discussion about what it means to ‘critically evaluate’ and we were off. The room fell very silent, there was some shifting in seats. But what I’ve had a chance to read through in the last couple of days has shown me that the mixed methods I’ve been using over the last few weeks are working – we work in groups, we work alone, we present to the group, we listen and answer before class. It was week 4 of term – and everyone in the class produced at least half a page of well-argued text. Congratulations to our geography freshers!
So that was Monday. Tuesday was rather less productive. I created a to-do list hurrah! But I let a lot of little things distract my plans. I started work on something for my next lecture (I knew this was a mistake, but I kept with it). I also had a few admin bits and pieces that needed ironing out too. But the good news is the list spurred me on and so today (Friday) I managed to get back on track. Sometimes just creating the list is a good step.
Wednesday involved a few hours in the library. Bliss. The library has recently been renovated and the space on floor 5 is gorgeous. Big tables – lovely chairs with leather seat covers – and the walls of glass just make it so bright. This was followed in the afternoon by our teaching enhancement group meeting – we talked dissertations and possible first year field trips – interesting stuff. I then had a meeting with my departmental mentor.
Thursday was fun! I started the day with a coffee with the University’s Head of Grounds and the Deputy Head of Grounds. We met via Twitter – and decided to meet in person to talk trees and tree health. When I was in Australia I spent some time talking to the head of grounds at the University of Wollongong. We looked at trees on campus – in a rainforest! The Gong’s head of grounds attended my department seminar where I spoke about how we are possibly in a mutual relationship of care with trees. We care for trees and they in turn care for us. It was the latter element that requires further thought of course, but he immediately agreed with this sentiment. He had worked with trees his whole life and explained how he felt they were talking to us too – take this example on the Wollongong campus – it has grown away from the building – there is plenty to learn about our dialogue with trees. This also signals to some fascinating work by Michelle Bastian and others on More than human participation – see their project on trees also.
At lunchtime we had our research group meeting, followed by our departmental seminar. We heard from my good colleague Steve Musson about some work he has been doing in Bracknell about social housing. Interesting the conversation focussed predominantly on houses – and it was fascinating to hear what constitutes a decent house – but there was little talk of ‘home’. I felt that the work by human geographers, social anthropologists and others on ‘accommodating’ might be useful here too.
I also had a cuppa with my Athena SWAN buddy. We were discussing a blog we are about to launch. SAGE(S) Advice. It’s all about gender and careers in fieldwork disciplines, mainly ours – archaeology, geography and environmental science. I finished the day with a catch-up with friends from across the campus that I met via the Springboard programme for women’s development. I would thoroughly recommend this course to any woman who feels they have a decision or change to make. It provides space and time to think.
Today – well – was supposed to be the real highlight. Actually there have been quite a few highlights this week. But today was the opening of the Science Museum’s NEW Information Age gallery. In place for the next 20 years.
But the trains were delayed. Yes, and despite leaving at 8am, I didn’t make it to South Kensington for 10am. This was so disappointing. You’ll remember I did a project on a telephone switchboard in Enfield and trying to find the women who worked on the switchboard before it closed in 1960. I gathered a number of oral histories and the switchboard is now on permanent display in the new gallery. Apparently the Queen who opened the gallery took a look at the switchboard and perhaps heard a story or two. Fortunately I am following #smInfoAge with interest to see what I am missing. I’ll write about the gallery when I make it there!
Tomorrow? It’s the Open Day.