Two years ago, on 14 December 2014, the teaching innovation group I belonged to, “Between the Lines: Comprehensive Reading of Literary Texts in a Foreign Language” (coordinated by Andrew Monnickendam, and financed by Catalan agency AGAUR), held a one-day seminar to discuss how to teach Literature students about the function of the narrator. You may read the ensuing publication, also called Between the Lines, at http://betweenthelinespublication.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/reading-between-the-lines.pdf. I myself presented a paper called “Contrasting Genres: Dickens, Engels and the Workhouse (Narrating and Reporting in Fiction and Non-Fiction)”, which is included in the volume.
In the post corresponding to 16 December 2012, “Learning from Teaching about Teaching, with Students’ Help”, I mentioned that about 80 people, counting students and Literature teachers from diverse universities attended the event. A conclusion I reached was that “we need to establish some kind of annual meeting” to discuss teaching methodologies, hopefully also including students. Well, it’s taken longer than I expected then, but the first meeting of this kind took place last Friday 28, and promises to become a feature of our Departmental calendar.
Opening up spaces for teachers to meet and discuss what they do in the classroom is no easy matter. I saw on that day of 2012 that it brings many benefits, as we are profoundly talk-starved also in this sense and not just concerning our research and intellectual life in general.
Using as quite a weak excuse that the celebration of the one-day seminar was one of the tasks I wanted to accomplished before my time as BA Coordinator is up next January 2015, I invited last September my Department colleagues to join what I called the one-day TELLC (Teaching English Language, Literature and Culture) workshop, and hoped would become a new yearly meeting and publication. I called the conference “Matching Assessment and Competences”, thinking of the oncoming degree teaching assessment exercise (I mean to validate the BA for another six years, not for research). Also of each teacher’s individual classroom activities assessment by the national and regional agencies.
Before sending the ‘cfp’ I checked with two other colleagues whether the idea made sense, for one thing I was absolutely certain of was that I wanted to gather together Language and Literature teachers. My idea was to invite all members of the Department to contribute papers on their teaching practice and then organise the seminar by year in the BA, rather than by speciality. Another key idea was that contributions would be jargon-free and very much focused on actual practice, descriptive rather than argumentative if so wished. Bibliography was not compulsory, either.
To be completely honest, part of me expected the ‘cfp’ to be unsuccessful, so as to be able to claim that at least that I’d tried but gloriously failed. Everyone is awfully over-worked, and so am I… Suddenly, taking on the responsibility of setting up something new just seemed too much but, well, stubborn is one thing I certainly am. I received proposals for 7 papers in total and made a feeble attempt to give in, which was soon stopped by the enthusiasts who had submitted an abstract. The point they made was that TELLC had to start and I had to set the ball rolling. And so I did.
In the end, two prospective contributors dropped out, and I was left with 6 papers, which were more than enough to fill a busy morning from 10:00 to almost 15:00. There were about 15 of us and, from the many congratulations I received (thanks!, thanks!), it became quite apparent that the meeting next year will be bigger. Yes, I’m in again!! Besides, it’ll be easy to remember as it’ll coincide with Black Friday, now suddenly a date on everyone’s mind.
The papers presented were lively and communicative. They not only transmitted information but also opened up debate in all cases and, what is more important, inspired new ideas for cross-collaboration between Language and Literature. The Syllabus may be published online but we simply do not read what our neighbour is doing, which is why hearing said neighbour describe his or her practice is often quite a nice surprise.
Next year, as I say, I’ll try again and will perhaps also invite students, as we did two years ago. Also, if we have resources for at least a cup of coffee, I’ll extend the cfp to colleagues in other English Departments in Catalunya. Eight years ago, in 2006, I organised the “I Trobada Internuniversitària d’Estudis Anglesos a Catalunya” (continued by one more meeting in 2007 at Universitat Rovira i Virgili), but the crisis destroyed the resources and the motivation to continue it. Perhaps the pedagogical focus will help put us back on our feet again…
I need to address now the colleagues who did not attend TELLC last Friday to ask them, please, to make room for the meeting next year. And I mean particularly the full-time colleagues, as I understand very well that part-time teachers have too many difficulties to integrate new activities in their ultra-busy schedule (though some did contribute, for which they get my warmest thanks). I think that the time spared to discuss what we do in class proved to be very fruitful, indeed much more than attending the bureaucratic meetings we all must attend now and then. And, well, I also had to put off for another day many tasks, like finishing an overdue article or preparing lectures.
Thanks, thanks, thanks to those of you who insisted that TELLC went ahead. I’m counting on you for next year and to publicise among our colleagues the results. Let’s see if this way we can be a little bit less talk-starved.
Comments are very welcome! (Thanks!) Just remember that I check them for spam; it might take a few days for yours to be available. Follow on Twitter the blog updates: @SaraMartinUAB. Visit my web http://gent.uab.cat/saramartinalegre/