Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Talks, Tears and More Travels

I spent most of today at the Vice-Chancellor's Colloquium for Teaching and Learning. Presentations to the university's teaching award winners (my Grimshaw award is gorgeous: the colour and luminosity of a bottle of Bombay Sapphire); short presentations from the award-winners; and from teams of people who've taught the university's new multi-disciplinary breadth subjects; and a panel of a journalist, school principal and the CEO and founder of seek.com.

It was a most passionate day all round. The unofficial theme was passion in teaching and in one's choice of vocation.

We were welcomed to country by Auntie Diane of the Wurundjeri people, who called on the land to bless us from the tips of the trees down to the earth on which we stood. The Vice-Chancellor presented her with a big bouquet of flowers as a thank-you. She turned away from the audience and whispered at some length in his ear. He told us later during one of the photo-shoots that she had said her husband died six years ago, and that since then, no one had brought her flowers. And then burst into tears.

When Glyn spoke, the text of his talking (not a prepared speech) was flashed above him through Live Remote Captioning. A scary thing, to think that one's speaking could be transcribed and transmitted so quickly (and really pretty accurately), for the hearing impaired. Testimonials from profoundly deaf students reinforced how marvellous this would be. Imagine the tedium of attending lectures and watching while your assistant took notes? And what a difference this would make.

Matthew Brett then spoke about this invention, and about his motivation for devising this technology. Both his parents are profoundly deaf, and he grew up with Auslan (sign language) as his first; and English as his second language. Because their educational and employment opportunities were so limited, he grew up in difficult circumstances, able to afford only two textbooks over the course of five years' study. He choked up a bit as he was speaking; and I think we all did, too.

The other ALTC winner, Catherine Bennett, told me over morning tea that she too was the first member of her family to go to university, and that her own parents, now deceased, would have been so proud of her today. This day was really for them, she said.

When it was my turn, I wanted to speak about the experience of being a medievalist in a country that does not always value the study of the past. I also tried to talk about the problem of mentoring when university policies and practices don't always fit the career trajectories of students who have babies through their PhDs, who are caring for aged or sick parents and can't travel overseas, or who are working on major research monographs that are poorly rewarded in the "points" system that is now driving our policies for promoting and even retaining staff.

I don't think my talk would have been very popular with some folk, but enough people came to talk to me afterwards in agreement (and not just from the humanities) to make me feel that there is a considerable tide of resistance to recent developments.

I also talked about this blog, and the experience of writing through breast cancer; and then over lunch found out about a number of other women with breast cancer; or men whose partners had also gone through its rigours.

All this emotion was draining. But also makes me think that once I've finished with some of the current projects, it's time to think more carefully about the literature of affect.

Last night Ruth Evans gave a wonderful talk to the Medieval Round Table about Chaucer's affective understanding of memory: it'll be a great starting-point.

Now, time to pack and finish my talk for Hobart. I arrive at my B&B after 11.00 tonight; and they are going to leave the key by the front door. Fantastic!

3 comments:

Jenny said...

I'm sorry we didn't see you in your new dress from Lupa today! It looks gorgeous....

Your presentation was wonderful.

Stephanie Trigg said...

Thanks, Jenny; glad you enjoyed it. Actually, I was going to wear the dress, but then I thought they might use photos from Canberra as backdrop, and didn't want to appear in the same dress. Pathetic! You may be sure I'm packing it for Hobart...

frog said...

I enjoyed your presentation, too, and was glad you spoke so passionately about the humanities.