Technically I’m not back at work for another week (apart from finishing dissertation supervisions). I don’t really get paid for working in September. So it’s always a little odd when I find myself sitting at my computer all day, answering emails and sorting out problems, and late into the night too. Maybe I should draw a sensible line, and refuse to respond to any emails until October. That would be an entirely reasonable thing to do.
But… I don’t really want to.
There are a lot of things about my job that are tough, and that have caused me problems over the years. But the students make it all worthwhile, as any OU tutor will tell you. So this is my absolute favourite time of year. I get to meet new people from all over the world, and sometimes I find myself back in contact with people I first met years ago, at the very beginning of their degrees. My email inbox is full of happy and excited messages from students who are dying to get started. I can’t bring myself to defer any of that – even when I know I should!
I’ve always had students in my classes from all around Europe, because the region in which I taught used to be ‘The North [of England] and Continental Europe’, so I was teaching online very early in my career, using technology which was a fair bit less intuitive and reliable than it is now. I was doing ‘hybrid’ teaching long before it had a name. But now things are even more interesting, since The Open University is casting a wider net. So this year I have students from all over the world, including the United States, Sri Lanka, Japan, India… For someone who doesn’t get much chance to travel, it’s wonderful to have the world coming to me!
I get to find out about these people: where they live, what they do, how they came to study Classics. Increasingly, too, people are talking to me about neurodiversity, because they’ve heard that I have an interest. Already this week I’ve spoken to three people who are going through the autism diagnostic process, and to others who have autistic children. And the tone of the conversations isn’t a solemn disclosure of needs: it’s an excited discussion of shared differences, and a delight in finding someone else who understands.
Also I make sure to include in my welcome letters a mention of my cats, in an entirely unsubtle attempt to solicit pet stories and pictures. I’m glad to report that this strategy continues to pay off. There have been cats, and puppies too. My inbox is a very wholesome place right now.
There are, of course, always people who don’t want to tell me about themselves. They can go through the whole year without ever sharing any details – just handing in work on time, and keeping to themselves. I’m very grateful for those people too. They’re the ones who help me hold on to my sanity, and who keep me from being completely overwhelmed. Also I understand, because that’s the sort of student I was (and still am) myself.
So even though I know that the sensible course is to try to relax in the last week before the proper work hits, I can’t make myself do it. There’s just too much fun to be had.
I’m working on various interesting projects this year, both inside and outside the OU: some related to neurodiversity, others not. It’s going to be the usual problem: too many projects, not enough time! But one thing I’m going to try to do, in these weekly posts, is to highlight different sections of this website: because quite frankly it’s such a mess that I don’t know what is on here any more! I’ll try to tidy as I go, too, but my family would tell you that I’m stunningly bad at tidying…
As I mentioned last week, I won’t be doing a proper round-up of the week’s news and blogs: other people are doing that better than I do (see particularly the daily round-up on https://rogueclassicism.com/). But every week I’ll try to draw attention to things I think people might be interested in…
Interesting things this week
From Classical Studies Support
You might want to take a look at my most popular page, which just happens to be on Horace. I think it’s most popular because it pops up high up the list on Google searches, for some reason I can’t fathom. Whatever the case, over the last couple of years this one page has been responsible for almost 50% of my website traffic!
This new weekly newsletter is well worth signing up to. Curated by an inspiring team of scholars, it focuses on areas of misunderstanding or controversy in the study of the ancient world.
Rhea Classical Reviews
This is one to bookmark. It launches next week, and looks like it could be a great space in which reviewers and authors will be able to discuss books. Lots of exciting possibilities there: and they might be looking for reviewers, too!
At Asterion this week we have several new blog posts from our neurodivergent contributors, so do take a look at our Blog section for this week’s posts and earlier posts too. We’re working on a lot of other things behind the scenes, but we’re hoping that the blog will be a reason for people to visit us regularly!
This new Classics podcast talks to Oxford classicists from around the UK, to get a regional perspective on the discipline.
The Partial Historians
If you’re an OU student just starting out on A340: The Roman Empire, this new special podcast episode from The Partial Historians on ‘The Disruption of Constantine’ could be very useful background to the final Block of the module!
The Classical Astronomer
My wonderful MA dissertation student Hilary has been blogging about her exciting research into ancient astronomy and Aristarchus. Do check out her blog!
Open University MA graduate Colin blogs here about drama, reception and many other things which might be of interest if you’re doing an OU degree.
Manchester Classical Association has an amazing line-up of public speakers over the next few months, so do check them out if you’d like to attend or join!
There are also some great online events being organised by the Baron Thyssen Centre for the Study of Ancient Material Religion which are well worth a look.
Hope you all have a lovely week!