by Max Kramer
On a Saturday in late June we were delighted to welcome around 20 teachers and trainees to Cambridge for our first ever GCSE Classical Civilisation Teachers’ Study Day. The programme was designed to provide academic enrichment from scholars working at Cambridge, an opportunity to develop innovative teaching methods, and included a forum for discussion on teaching Clas Civ. We ended the day with a feedback session, which allowed participants to suggest the shape for future teachers’ days and to give us guidance on how we develop our outreach and schools’ work as a whole.
The day began with two keynote lectures. The first, from Tim Whitmarsh, our new Leventis Professor of Greek Culture, focussed on the performance practices that lie behind the Homeric poems and the way in which they relate to the pre-existing poetic tradition. Dr Ingo Gildenhard, our Schools Liaison Officer, then spoke on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, beginning with the set text and showing how it could be related to the historical and cultural issues that are so central to the Clas Civ course, and its broader influence on the development of Western Culture.
After the lectures, the participants had the choice of two workshops: one, led by Stephen Harrison, the video maker behind much of our new website, looked at how film-making could effectively convey the excitement of the Classical world. Meanwhile, Jennie Thornber, our Museum Education & Outreach Co-ordinator, led a session in our famous cast gallery on how material culture could be used in the teaching of Clas Civ.
After the workshops we gathered together again for a general discussion chaired by Dr John Taylor, former head of Classics at Tonbridge School. Three of our participants took the lead and gave mini-presentations on using Kahoot quizzes, introducing “Clas Civ for literacy” into a school, and using Ben Hur as a way of revising the GCSE topic “A day at the races”. Then we had a broader discussion about techniques for teaching and issues in examining and promoting the subject. The final feedback session showed not only the teachers’ appreciation for the day but also the range of people present. Much to our surprise and delight a good number of those attending were not yet teaching Clas Civ but wanted to introduce it to their schools in the near future. So we promised that next year’s teachers’ day would include a special workshop on introducing Clas Civ for the first time, led by someone who had gone through the process themselves. The teachers present also provided vital guidance for us in shaping our first GCSE Clas Civ & Ancient History students’ study day, which took place in September. Many thanks to the CA’s generosity in funding what we hope will become a regular feature in our Cambridge calendar! See here to find out what one of the participants thought.
Max Kramer is the Undergraduate Administrator in the Faculty of Classics at the University of Cambridge
The second CA INSET day on ‘The History of Ancient Greece and its Teaching’ will take place at Leeds on 21 November – see here for details.