It only dawned on me last week as I attended the Examiners’ meeting and the last Department meeting of the academic year: I’ve just completed (?survived) 20 years of HE teaching! Happy Anniversary to me!

For the first 8 years I was a Lecturer in Archaeology across 3 different UK institutions. Then I was promoted and for 3 years I had the title of Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, a role I maintained when I joined my current institution: the University of Chester.

Then, reflecting both my teaching and research achievements, 9 years ago I was appointed to a newly created professorial chair in archaeology (Chester’s first) with the title of Professor of Archaeology.

Despite increased seniority and a total of  3-and-a-half years of research leave during this 20 years (most of it at Chester), I have continued to be an active teacher of undergraduates, Masters students, and supervising MPhil/PhD researchers, including the distinctive MA Archaeology of Death and Memory over the last 7 years.

Looking back over the years, there have been low points and high points and many ridiculous points. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and experience as a teacher. I’d also like to think I’ve entertained and educated some of my students too! Indeed, I’ve taught a wide range of subjects over these years, including:

  • archaeological theory and the history of archaeology;
  • archaeological methods and techniques,
  • world archaeology,
  • material culture analysis,
  • the illicit trade in antiquities,
  • public archaeology;
  • heritage management and  interpretation;
  • the archaeology of medieval monasteries;
  • medieval Britain;
  • Anglo-Saxon England;
  • Viking Scandinavia;
  • mortuary archaeology;
  • landscape archaeology;
  • the contemporary past;
  • the archaeology of memory;
  • various archaeology field schools;
  • supervised numerous undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations;
  • supervised multiple MPhil and PhD students to completion.

A quick glance at my CV reminds me that, over these 20 years, I’ve delivered 100%/50% or significant smaller fractions of no less than 121 undergraduate and postgraduate modules!  That’s quite a lot, and I suspect more than some professors will get to do by the time they reach retirement.

I honestly don’t know how many students I’ve taught, but a lot!

This might seem an intolerably self-congratulatory post. Still, I can say is that the job is challenging and diverse, time-consuming and stressful, and it hasn’t gotten any easier over the years. I’m aware of the many obnoxious and destructive dimensions of the academic workplace for individuals’ physical and mental health, and I cannot pretend I haven’t been affected at various points, and with fluctuating levels of support from institutions and colleagues.

Still, I still like many aspects of the job. In particular, I have enjoyed teaching students a rich range of content linked to my research expertise. It’s been particularly enriching in my first and current jobs to teach students from a wide range of backgrounds and abilities, and seeing them develop their subject-specific knowledge and skills, as well as broader transferable skills and abilities during their programmes of study. I don’t hear from most of my students, but I know some are now lecturers in archaeology too!

So before I muster the morale to deal with the impending admin and teaching preparation for my 21st academic year in UK HE, and the many challenges it will undoubtedly bring, I’m going to have a beer to celebrate!

And as I posted this, rumours in the media report that Blackadder Season 5 might be in the works, and Blackadder might be a University lecturer. I wonder if he’ll be an archaeologist?