Round-Up: Back to School

“Back to school” hits different when you’re a final year grad student…

Black woman with curly hair, dark glasses, and gold upside down U earrings wearing a black turtleneck and black cardigan. Looking at shelves full of books. Computer screen in the background.

Did you know that a common side-effect of being a PhD candidate is time blindness?

Okay, I don’t know that for sure, but I have been in this boat for a while. When you’re not teaching or taking classes, the days and weeks really start to blur together. Is it Monday? Thursday? Sunday?

The only way I keep track these days is by scheduling meetings, planning events, or being reminded that a new episode of a TV show I’m watching is on.

Usually, not knowing what day of the week it is isn’t that big of a problem. All I really need to know is whether it’s a weekday or the weekend, so I can decide whether I should be working or not.

Occasionally, I find it important to be aware of the beginning and end of the academic term. As a graduate student this helps me determine how frequently I should be in contact with my advisor and committee (more during the academic year, less in the summer). Right now, it’s also useful for deciding when to schedule my thesis defense (y i k e s).

As the person who’s running this blog, knowing when classes start is important for deciding when to get this post out.

After a nearly four-month break, I thought this was an easy way to get back into blogging.

If something feels super overwhelming, break it into small, easy steps. First step to reviving the blog? Make a round-up (or two, or three).

This month’s theme is back-to-school.

As it turns out, I’ve written a lot about pedagogy. So, I figured I’d put all those posts in one place, for folks who want to check them out before term starts.

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Treat Yo’ Self: Athens, Greece 2022

If you’re an archaeologist, the fact that you spend your summers working in a foreign country has probably often been (mis)interpreted as a leisurely vacation.

Don’t get me wrong – working in Greece for four to eight weeks of the year *is* something I am privileged to be able to experience. But it’s still work. And working five or six days a week in the heat of the day takes its toll, mentally and physically, after a while.

Many people have already recognized this, and schedule in a vacation at some point during their trip. I, on the other hand, have been coming to Greece for six summers and have not once taken any time to myself.

This year, however, I had a little extra time in Athens and thought, “Hey, what the hell? No time like the present.”

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Get Rid of Writer’s Block Once and For All

The worst advice I’ve ever been given to beat writer’s block can be summed up in two words: just start. Let me tell you why that advice sucks.

First, there is nothing more terrifying than a blinking cursor on a blank page combined with high expectations.

Do you have a million ideas and no idea which one to choose?

Do you have a quickly approaching deadline?

Are you a perfectionist?

Whatever form your high expectations take, being told to just start is a recipe for disaster. Staring at a blank page is the surest way for me to do just about anything else instead.

Writer's block affects all of us

Second, when someone tells you to just start, they rarely if ever tell you where to start. Put another way, they never tell you what to start with. It’s like giving you a box of furniture parts and some tools, but no instruction manual.

There are two ways to approach this situation.

You might abandon the task entirely, which is entirely fair. They put you in an impossible situation!

Alternatively, you might break down and choose a place to start that looks straightforward enough. But it would be a lot easier if you had a piece of paper that enumerated each of the steps for you.

For most of us, the stakes are too high to go with the first option, so we figure out where to start eventually.

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Notes from AIA-SCS 2022

Last year I summarized the highs (and lows) of the annual joint meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) and the Society for Classical Studies (SCS). I figured, why not do it again?

The 2022 AIA-SCS conference was virtual again this year.

I don’t think anyone would be surprised to find out that this year’s meeting did not proceed without incident. 

Most egregious, I think, was when it was brought to everyone’s attention that the title of one paper was both inappropriate and wholly unprofessional in its exposure and trivializing of a student’s mental health issues. The matter was seemingly quickly resolved, with a change in the paper’s title and an apology issued by the presenter.

I think the issue raises three larger problems, however:

  1. Why would anyone think that such an approach would be appropriate?
  2. How the heck did a paper with such a title and premise get accepted in the first place?
  3. When will our relationships with our students be such that making light of serious issues in conference papers and on social media becomes far less commonplace?

I’m not going to go into any of these points, but they’re just things that have been on my mind since it blew up on Twitter.

Instead, this post will focus more on the highlights of the conference for me. It will also include a list of sessions that I wish I’d had the time or energy to attend while the conference was happening.

Honestly, I don’t know what’s more exhausting: physically running between rooms in a conference hall or the mental effort it takes to shift from Zoom session to Zoom session. Right now, I’m sensing it’s the latter.

You may sense a theme in the talks and sessions that I managed to make it to (and even some of the ones I’m planning to watch later). Sorry not sorry.

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Notes from the Apotheke Turns One: Here’s What I Learned

I think we can all agree that this year was not all that much better than 2020. I don’t know if anyone expected it to be better. But I feel like the vibes were pretty much the same, even though starting this blog gave me some hope that things would change.

As always, however, many people have tried to look on the bright side of things.

They’ve sought the light in the almost overwhelming darkness.

I think in particular of one thread going around last week that asked people to share their 3 biggest accomplishments of the year:

A lot of people made light of this – and that’s understandable. Sometimes the only way to get through the hard things is to find a way to laugh about it.

But I think it’s good to stop sometimes and really appreciate the wins, no matter how big or small.

I struggle with doing this myself, and thought that a little celebratory post was in order here. And what, exactly, am I celebrating?

The one year anniversary of this little blog.

If you listened to the podcast episode I was featured on last week, then you’ll know that I started Notes from the Apotheke exactly one year ago.

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The Introvert’s Guide to Conference Presentations (Hidden Curriculum #8)

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had technical difficulties while giving a presentation.

How about if you’ve ever been given the five-minute warning from a session presider? Or if you’ve ever been asked a question in the Q&A that you didn’t have the answer to?

The unfortunate reality is that the possibilities for things to go wrong during a conference presentation are endless. I’m sure any seasoned veteran can confirm that they’ve experienced at least one or two over the years. I’ve been there, too. You know what we all have in common?

We got through it. And you will too. Your chances of getting through it are exponentially better if you do the following seven things.

Me giving a presentation at a small graduate conference in March 2019
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I Was on a Podcast! (+ 3 Tips For First-Time Podcast Guests)

Say “I” if you hate the sound of your own voice.

Usually, I would be right there with you.

After giving myself a solid pep talk, I finally sat down and listened to the latest episode of Proofing and Lies – featuring me – and guess what? I loved it!

It felt almost like reliving the whole experience of being interviewed all over again.

In the episode I talk about my dissertation research on pottery and drinking in ancient Greece, my experiences doing archaeological fieldwork, and why I started this blog.

If these are topics you want to hear more about, check out the episode!

If I’m being totally honest, being invited to give an interview for a podcast was both exciting and totally scary for me.

As I mention in the interview, I’m a pretty big introvert. On top of that, I usually avoid talking about my work like the plague.

I was nervous up until about ten minutes before the interview.

But I was calmed by two things. First, the fact that it really was just like a conversation (and the host was super nice). Second, remembering all of the advice I received when I asked folks on Twitter to help me out.

Here are the three pieces of advice that helped me the most:

This one was SO helpful.

Not just for trying to anticipate what topics would come up, but also for making sure I had some relevant examples on hand when they did.

I did ask about editing ahead of time, but in the end I don’t think anything (or very much besides an extra long pause I took when I needed to think) was edited out.

It honestly didn’t even occur to me to ask in the moment.

But this is definitely something worth keeping in mind!

I had water by me, even though I only took one sip the entire conversation.

I don’t know if I remembered to smile while I was speaking, but I was doing a lot of gesticulation (because that’s just what happens when I get excited). Close enough?

Proofing and Lies

Proofing and Lies is a podcast hosted by Elle Rochford and Andrew Schriver. In each episode the co-hosts talk about current events and take on a new baking project.

Want to check out the episode I’m featured in? It’s currently available on both Apple and Spotify!

Latest Posts

Abstract Writing (Hidden Curriculum #7)

For those of you who are new here, the hidden curriculum includes a set of things we’re expected to know how to do, from attending a conference for the first time to applying for funding to going on the job market, without actually being taught them. This month I’m talking about how to write an abstract.

One thing that I actually was taught to do that would benefit me academically is writing abstracts. Moreover, I was taught, as part of a graduate seminar on Ancient Medicine in Winter 2018, how to write an abstract before writing the paper.

Up until that point, I had only ever been confident in my ability to write abstracts based on papers I’d already written, and I’m sure most people can relate. Submitting an abstract based on a paper you haven’t written yet is scary

On the one hand, this nebulous idea that’s floating around in your head has to be coherent enough to be accepted. 

On the other hand, if it does get accepted, you’ve actually got to do the work, write the paper, and present it. Woof.

As it turns out, that lesson was extremely useful as I did go on to submit the abstract to CAMWS in 2019 and it was accepted. In the end, however, I decided to withdraw from the conference when the pandemic hit and everything went online.

Since then, I have become more and more comfortable with writing abstracts based on ideas rather than full-blown research papers and happen to be in the midst of writing one now. So, I thought it would be a good time to share what I’ve learned from the process as part of the hidden curriculum series. 

Writing an abstract doesn't have to be scary
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The Power of ‘I Don’t Know’

A few months ago, I described what scholars of the ancient world needed to sacrifice to make the field more inclusive and equitable. One of those things was feeling the need to be an expert in everything.

It’s not easy for any of us to admit when we don’t know the answer to something. Part of this hesitation, I think, stems from the high-pressure, high-stakes structure of our graduate education. 

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