Teaching is the 'dirty little secret' about Classics. Anyone who has ever been in academe or frequented academic discussion groups knows the omnipresent plaints about how teaching isn't valued when it comes to tenure committees and the like. But as most anyone who has ever donned a Classicist cap -- rogue or otherwise -- teaching is one of the greatest things about Classics. The material is inherently interesting, inherently applicable (for the most part) to some modern comparandum, and inherently prone to launch you into digressions which are of interest to both you and your students. For my lectures I always had five pages of (handwritten!) notes ... I knew that they would take roughly 40 minutes and the rest I could count on filling with whatever digression the class led me to ...
At the university level, I did most of my teaching at McMaster, with a couple of stints at Brock and Wilfrid Laurier. Most of my memories -- good and bad -- come from McMaster, where the administration was very positive and encouraging and actually gave me the freedom to develop and/or put my personal stamp on a number of courses. I did teach some of the standard Roman Civ courses ... I always loved my Ben Hur lecture in which we showed the chariot scene and compared it with images from mosaics and the like. And, of course, we made a point of pointing out where Hollywood didn't quite get it right. Students always seemed to like that sort of thing. Another 'nice' moment came during the last class of 1st year Latin (you know, the old 'those who can't do, teach' thing ... now I can do, I guess) when I decided to show some images of Roman inscriptions and as a class we worked through them. Students suddenly went from the somewhat artificial world of Wheelock's sentences to the misspelled and not-always-perfect world of 'real' Latin written by 'real' people (as opposed to some famous dead guy).
Another class taught at McMaster was actually the genesis of a feature you read here daily at rogueclassicism: This Day in Ancient History. I was teaching the second-year social history class and I wanted to emphasize the 'religiosity' of the Roman people by pointing out that on practically every day of the year there was a festival or observance of some sort going on. I'd begin each class with a bit culled from Scullard or Ovid and, as the class schedule turned out, I think there were only two days in the entire term where I didn't have something to say in this regard.
As mentioned above, the administration at Mac were very supportive and gave me quite a bit of freedom when it came to developing courses. They let me put together my "Images of Claudius" course, e.g., in which we read the I, Claudius series, then compared it to Tacitus, Suetonius, and a pile of other primary material. What was unique about this class, though, was I was allowed to put a pile of the course material on the departmental website and it was among the first (if not the first) courses at McMaster to have a 'required web component'. Given my computer obsessions, they also paid to have me trained in AutoCad with an eye to developing a course called 'AutoCad for Archaeologists', which was also a bit of an innovation at the time.
Another (good) memory of teaching came when I was in teacher's college. I was doing a practice teaching round at a school in Ancaster (and it was a great experience) and one of the Grade Eight teachers found out I had all these degrees in Classics. They were just starting a unit on Shakespeare's Tony and Cleo, and the teacher asked me if I wanted to give the students an intro to Roman life and culture -- of course I did. I yakked for close to two hours off the top of my head, just answering questions about everything they wanted to know about (most if it was about gladiators and chariot racing but they were also fascinated to learn about what kids their age would have been doing). Somewhat similarly, at the school I'm currently at, a teacher was away and there was no supply so we had to use our planning times to cover for the teacher. As it happened, the teacher was teaching the Ancient Civilization curriculum and the students were doing some math in Roman numerals. By the time I got to the class, though, most of them were finished (or close to it) so I had to fill some time. That class (which I think is this year's Grade Eights) learned all sorts of handy phrases in Latin. It was kind of fun.
That said, I can't help but relate the one bad memory I have of teaching at the university level. I was teaching a Classical Civ course at Mac (I think I was Classical Civ) and the class was in a room designed for projection. The teacher (i.e. me) had a desk and overhead projector on a stage that was roughly four feet off the ground. The desk had a sort of 'pop up' lectern built into it. A big screen loomed behind. Students sat 'theatre' style. A great room for teaching and one which I had taught many a class in. Well, class is starting, so I fire up the overhead projector ... the bulb blew. Fortunately, every projector at McMaster had a spare bulb attached to it, so I changed the bulb. The second bulb blew too. Okay, no problem, we'll just have to improvise tonight ladies and gentlemen. I put the lectern up and start lecturing. About five minutes in, the lectern collapses and nearly emasculates me in the process. To make matters worse, the momentum of the lectern slamming down caused the whole desk to flip right off the stage and land just a few feet from quite a few startled folks in the front row. As a group we decided the gods didn't want us to lecture that night, so we all went for coffee instead.
Despite this, I think that teaching Classics was possibly the most rewarding/fulfilling thing I've ever done. It is one of the things I miss most about academe. I honestly don't think there are other subjects at the university level which offer the *teacher* so many opportunities to learn themselves and digress where necessary (as opposed to say, 'teaching the party line' or whatever).