A real live lecturer - Livre d'Or

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A real live lecturer
Thursday, 30 October 2003 at 11:50 pm
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Today was my lecturing debut. I taught a class to an audience who had paid money to learn from me, and I'm going to get paid for it like a proper grown-up lecturer.

OK, so it wasn't even slightly in my field, but still. It was in fact a lecture on Judaism as part of a series of adult education evening classes on world religions, organized as extramural teaching by the university. All in all, it was a lot of fun, though it didn't go at all as I'd expected.

The truth is I was quite underprepared for the talk; I ended up writing it in a couple of evenings this week. With a lot of lovely support and encouragement and extremely useful criticism from EM by IM. I very, very much appreciate her contribution. Anyway, so I had this framework, based on a rather babyish comparative religions booklet from the Scottish Interfaith Council (who stil don't have a respectable website). And I'd tried to massage it into something actually relevant, while making sure to keep a coherent structure.

What actually happened was that I gave the introduction, paused to collect my thoughts and then got pounced on with questions which didn't let up until long after the allotted time for the lecture. I think in many ways this is a good thing; people learnt what they wanted to know, rather than what I wanted to say. But I'm a little concerned that their impressions will be a bit muddled, I didn't have a chance to express things in logical order. And much as I like public speaking, being bombarded with questions by twenty-five people over the course of nearly two hours was quite an intense experience. I think the thing about presenting Judaism is that a lot of people are aware of it, and have some ideas (some false, some more-or-less true) about what Judaism is about, so they feel confident to ask questions.

Anyway, I'm going to record some of the questions here; may tidy this up at some point, but I want to get things down while they're fresh in my mind. Predictable questions: How can you go about calling yourselves the 'Chosen People'? What's the position of women in Judaism? Is Judaism a race or a religion? I gave pretty fence-sitting answers to most of those, trying to strike a balance between toeing the 'party line' and presenting my own personal view of Judaism and dispelling negative stereotypes.

Rather sweet questions about clarifying the meaning of random Hebrew and jargon words that people have come across; a very bizarre selection, from useful words like kosher, Talmud, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, and so on, to completely random words like sabra and Kenesset, to awkward words like goyim and Ike. And the discussion got heavily sidetracked into linguistics (not that I even slightly encouraged this, oh no, of course not!) I ended up explaining the relationship between modern and classical Hebrew, the concept of a 'revived' language, the origins and development of Yiddish, the historical position of Aramaic, and a bunch of other similar things.

Some questions that were blatantly about people pursuing their own agenda: Why do Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah? Why bother with all this tradition and religion stuff anyway, all it does is divide people, why can't you just treat people decently and stop all these religious wars etc etc? I dealt with those fairly perfunctorily. And some frankly bizarre questions: To what extent is Islam based on Judaism? (hello? how am I supposed to know that?!) How do Jews interpret this NT passage? Can you recommend me a reasonable, balanced and accessible book on the history of the Middle East conflict? Lots and lots of variations on 'What is the Jewish view on the afterlife?', despite my saying repeatedly that it's not something that Jews bother about very much, plus there isn't anything like a consensus.

And random questions: Who are those funny guys with black hats and sidecurls that you see on planes swaying and babbling away? What's your favourite passage of the Bible? How can I present Judaism so that it will sound appealing to teenagers? How did Cain and Seth manage to find wives and become the ancestors of humanity? Is there a spiritual reason for separating meat and milk?

The handout is up on my webpage if anyone's interested. I'm afraid it's in Word format; geeks, don't shoot me yet, I plan to make it HTML at some point, I did it that way because I was writing it in a hurry. I also want to improve the content, particularly to incorporate some of EM's criticisms as well as the questions that people asked this evening. Anyway, this is the structure that I really didn't get through, due to being derailed with questions

I'm really very pleased with how this lecture went, actually. I think people enjoyed themselves, and learnt something, and I came across reasonably well. Wow.

Moooood: accomplisheddidactic
Tuuuuune: The Cure: Friday I'm in Love
Discussion: 6 contributions | Contribute something
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Date:October 31st, 2003 12:05 am (UTC)
15 minutes after journal entry
It sounds fantastic, I'm so proud of you!

And thank you for a fascinating evening discussing it all; looking forward to seeing the final notes.

love EM
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Date:October 31st, 2003 12:12 am (UTC)
22 minutes after journal entry
It sounds like you handled a difficult (or, as you so modestly put it, "intense") situation with your usual competence and flair. Congratulations!
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(no subject) - compilerbitch (10/31/03 12:06 pm)
lethargic_man: default
Date:October 31st, 2003 02:28 pm (UTC)
14 hours after journal entry, 03:28 pm (lethargic_man's time)

Re: A real live lecturer

Well done!
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lisekit: kitten
Date:October 31st, 2003 06:56 pm (UTC)
19 hours after journal entry
I think it's often really useful to have the flexibility to be able to throw a prepared structure out the window if necessary.
Yeah, I know I would say that, but I think sometimes the most useful and creative discussions come when you hurl the lesson plan aside and get on with what your students need to know, as you say, and you can get on with what you think it's most important to get across.
Congrats! All sounds very good and interesting.
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livredor: default
Date:November 2nd, 2003 10:44 pm (UTC)
2 days after journal entry, 11:44 pm (livredor's time)


Thanks to everyone who made all these supportive comments. *warm and fuzzy*

The following is extracted from an email from one of the students. Talk about gratifying!

would just like to thank you for your extremely well presented -
succinct yet comprehensive - talk on Judaism last night. And you
handled the questions - both the tricky and the completely inane -
very well.
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