Today was my first day teaching at Augustana College. On the walk from my office in Sorensen Hall to my classroom I couldn’t help but notice the gorgeous scenery on campus with its beautiful arches and lush landscaping. I walked into the Olin Center thoroughly prepared for a productive first day but I realized that I too had made the mistake that so many new faculty make, over preparing and not getting through all of the material you had planned to cover on the first day. But despite my over preparation the first day was amazing. The students are very interested in the topic and seem genuinely excited about all we are going to learn in the course.
I teach in the Olin center in a smart classroom that looks newly renovated with a small class of about 10 students. Upon asking the students why they enrolled in the course “Archaeology and History of the African Diaspora”, it was clear that the students all come from different grade levels, majors, and also vary in their interest level. Some students were more interested in the archaeology side of the course and others are interested in the African Diaspora and history side of the course. The students also shared with me that none of them had any previous experience with archaeology or the more specialized archaeology of African heritage sites. Its very refreshing to have students who are genuinely interested in the topic without having any preconceived notions about what archaeologists do and where the course should go. Many students who have been inundated with media portrayals of archaeology become fascinated with the excitement and adventure that Hollywood sells and flock to courses like this only to be disappointed, but these students are somehow coming into the course with a heightened sense of what archaeology is all about without having had any previous training in the discipline.
I conducted a brief exercise in class with the students to allow them to learn how to separate real from pseudoarchaeology.
Student responses included
Real archaeology is
Teamwork – not a lone man digging for treasure
Studying other archaeological collections and not always digging for new artifacts
Artifacts are used for education and may not have a monetary value or be considered a rare find
Acknowledging that the artifacts are connected to real people, who may or may not still have descendants
Archaeologists don’t work in isolation in a tomb somewhere but have to engage with the public.
An archaeological site could be at any location not just in the desert or jungle as media suggests. Some sites are public sites
Judging by these responses I’m not sure if these kids were joking when they said they had no experience with archaeology or they are just that smart. Either way I’m looking forward to diving into the world of African Diaspora archaeology with my class and I am now a proud Auggie Viking :).
The day ended on a high note when I decided to go out for Chinese food and opened a fortune which made me feel pretty special. As someone who is caught in between the worlds of grad student and faculty life this message really spoke to me. Im sure the message is just a general comment that you should always be willing to learn just as much as you teach but I couldn’t help but think of my own unique situation and have hope that being caught between these two worlds will somehow make me a better teacher in the end.