This week’s images:
Just your average sidewalk on campus here. The campus sits on the side of what amounts to a mountain (more of a large foothill by US standards though).
Soccer practice on the field, which is in the middle of campus. And, yes, they do call it soccer here. I made the mistake of assuming they called it football like in the UK and was promptly corrected: “Only the snobbish Brits call it football.” (Greeks here are not at all happy about Brexit by the way).
So I have now been through two full weeks of classes and one major historical event.
The DEREE Classroom. The classroom experience here is actually not all that different from Northwest. Students show up late, do not read the syllabus, have their cell phones out, etc. However, they do appear for the most part to be more engaged. I have a class of 19 in Western Civ I this semester. And of those 19, I would say a good half actively ask questions and provide responses. Granted, this could be an anomaly here and could simply be the particular group of students that I have.
The students here do not typically use laptops to take notes so I have been told. I asked some colleagues because none of my students do, which surprised me. It raises an interesting question for me about Northwest since we provide laptops. What if the reason that NWMSU students take notes on the laptops is because they are provided in the first place? Would we still see as many students taking notes electronically, if we did not provide laptops? While at NW, I did not typically see that many students using a non-university issued computer, but that may be because I tend to stay in the Valk bubble. It’s just a question and by no means a condemnation of the policy because, for me, the benefits of students having a laptop outside the classroom far exceeds any criticisms or I may have about the policy or about in-class electronic note-taking.
I’ve had enough conversations with various faculty here to know that they are experiencing some of the same challenges that we in the states do. One in particular struck me: faculty have to pay for their own printing costs. Yes, you read that right. Faculty here have to put out their own $$ to print/copy their exams, handouts, etc. Boy, was that an eye-opener. I will concede that the class sizes here are nowhere near as large as some of ours can get. I think the largest is 60, but I will have to double check on that. Here, faculty are required to consider an eBook before a print text and if they reject the eBook, they have to have solid pedagogical grounds (which from what I gather is a great deal of work to show). All faculty here are also required to serve on their version of Faculty Senate–all faculty not just elected representatives from departments. So, my dear colleagues experiencing massive budgetary constraints at Northwest, be grateful.
I will be experiencing my first full faculty meeting this week, which I am not required to attend. My colleague here, Liz, says it will simply be the faculty nodding and smiling at the administration and then complaining (I had to clean up her language here) on the way back to their various offices. But, in an effort to experience everything possible here, I am going.
Food For Thought. DEREE, the school I’m at here in Athens, has an interesting scheduling system that generates quite a bit of student and faculty engagement. They have what is known as Activity Hour which is actually 2 hours every day, from 1:30-3:30 where no classes or office hours are scheduled. Instead, the university uses the time for interesting lectures (kind of like our Distinguished Lecture Series) as well as departmental meetings and faculty development. In fact, I am going to a lecture on diversity, equity, and inclusion practices in the classroom next week. There is another speaker, the Greek ambassador to Israel, coming soon to talk about the state of politics in the Middle East. From what I can tell, there are on average, about 10-20 special events like this a week and they are highly attended. I went to one on Bronze Age Hellenic pottery this week that easily had about 50-60 people there–both students and faculty and even a few community members.
I’m interested in what my colleagues, administrators, and students think of this. So if you have a though, shoot me an email or post a comment. Something like this at NW would not necessarily need to be two hours or even every day as it is here, but it is thought-provoking since every fall we parcel out time solely for University Seminar. Thus, we already have a mechanism that has blocked off time.
Major Historical Event. I do not plan to get too partisan on here as it really is not the place. But in this one instance, it is relevant to my experience abroad. I attended the Women’s March on Washington-Athens last Saturday as so many did around the world. There were not as many people there as other places but there were about a thousand, I would guess, of all ages, gender identities, ethnicities, etc.. There were the usual speeches and some glorious signs, the subjects of which ranged from general human rights to women’s rights to immigration rights (a big deal in Greece right now since they are absorbing a good many Syrian refugees). There was a point when I realized that the march was perhaps not appropriately named; though, I do realize the origins of the whole thing stemmed from the women’s movement. (I would post pictures but my camera on my phone went wacky, so my apologies.) The march, for me, was not about the current US President at all. Instead, for me, it was about camaraderie and hope. The men and the women in attendance told stories of oppression which elicited sadness, despair. These were particularly heartbreaking because of the current economic struggles here. I would tell you a few but I don’t think I could get through it emotionally to type it right now as it is still a bit raw, but maybe when I get back home I can share. There were also those that reminded us that the fact that so many showed up–in Athens and around the globe–meant that we were not alone in that oppression. There was a particular moment that stuck with me and it was a moment in silence with only the sounds of traffic passing by. At sunset-already glorious with the Parthenon lit up in the distance–everyone raised their cellphones (and for some their cigarette lighters) skyward, each individual cellphone light merging with the ones around it creating a glow. It was symbolic. It was beautiful. It was light victorious over darkness. It was hope.