Cirencester College

Archaeology at Cirencester Sixth Form College

Days after handing in my Dissertation and completing my Masters in Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL in September 2013, I moved to Gloucestershire to begin a new job teaching at a sixth form college. I teach Archaeology and History A Level, and a series of modules on a Foundation Degree in Environmental Conservation and Heritage Management. Since then, life has been manic, exciting and at times nerve-racking, but also extremely good fun. This morning was a momentous moment in my journey to becoming a fully-qualified teacher, as I finished the final assignment for my PTTLS course (Preparing to Teach in the Life Long learning Sector), which I have been taking as an evening class alongside full-time teaching. This consisted of a portfolio of work evidencing preparation, delivery and evaluation of a ‘micro-teach’ session (a half hour lesson delivered to my PTLLS class mates), based around the ethics of displaying human remains in museums.

With an immense sense of relief and jubilation at handing this in, and returning all my overdue library books, I proceeded to work through my ‘teaching task list’. There are no longer any students on site – they all finished their exams a few weeks ago, but College remains open throughout the summer, and there is lots of noisy building work taking place, and ‘behind the scenes’ preparation for the year ahead. For archaeology this means a serious review of all our teaching resources and tackling the piles of paperwork, books, artefacts, replica weapons, posters, equipment, and maps that that line our shelves, fill our drawers and occasionally sprawl out across the floor. Slowly we are working out exactly what can be thrown away, what is still useful, and where it can all be systematically stored…

Archiving in process!

Archiving in process!

This week we have been working through our fantastic collection of artefacts, gathered over the year on various fieldwork projects. We have been finishing the processing and recording of finds with a band of wonderful student volunteers who have given up their holidays to come into college and help out. One student was in today, and she was working on some beautiful illustrations of a potsherd, a Roman nail, and a large quern stone.

Alice drawing the Roman quern stone.

Alice drawing the Roman quern stone.

Alice's illustrations of a potsherd and nail, with mandatory cup of tea.

Alice’s illustrations of a potsherd and nail, with mandatory cup of tea.

 

I have also been busy organising opportunities for student work placements and volunteering over the summer. I was delighted to receive an email from the local archaeology unit Cotswold Archaeology asking for a reference for one of our fine students who has been hired as a trainee archaeologist. This was very easy to complete and I enjoyed thinking back to all the great things that she has achieved in the past year, and how well she has done to secure this job.

Archaeology needs Cafeology.

Archaeology needs Cafeology.

Yesterday I visited the county archaeology office in Gloucester with my boss to show a selection of our artefacts to Kurt Adams, our local Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme. We also talked to Tim Grubb, the archaeologist in charge of the Historic Environment Record for Gloucestershire, who showed us their database and GIS mapping project. It was great to be guided through this amazing resource, and talk about how students can use it in their independent research projects. Both Tim and Kurt were generous enough to offer student work experience opportunities and I sent an email out to students yesterday to see if anyone was available and interested. Today I have been responding to lots of inquiries about these, and am really happy to see such an enthusiastic response. I am looking forward to helping students gain experience working in a professional environment and contributing to some really brilliant projects.

In the afternoon, I received an email from College reception informing me that a small package had arrived and was waiting for collection. I was delighted to open the mysterious cardboard box and find a beautiful flint handaxe, sent to me from Karl Lee as a prize for being his 900th follower on Twitter. Creating a Twitter account for Archaeology at Cirencester College (@CirenArch) has been an achievement that I am particularly proud of in my new teaching role. It has allowed me to connect with the wider archaeological community including professionals, universities, societies and museums, and find out about local, national, and international events, news and opportunities, such as the Day of Archaeology. The axehead now has pride of place on my desk and will inspire me in the new term through long days of teaching and essay marking

Beautiful handaxe knapped by Karl Lee

Beautiful handaxe knapped by Karl Lee

This afternoon has been spent editing an archaeology newsletter. This is going to be sent to current and prospective students, local schools and heritage organisations, and is a roundup of news and events that have taken place in college over the past year, including trips to Wiltshire and Denmark, a training excavation at a local Roman site, loads of fieldwork surveying and recording archaeological sites across Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, an experimental project forging a pattern-welded sword, and a visit from Fiona Coward of Bournemouth University to provide an osteoarchaeology handling session and lecture. I have asked students to write the articles and have been thrilled at their enthusiasm and commitment to contributing voluntarily. It has been really lovely to edit some fantastic articles and reflect back on what has been a bumper year, and also look ahead to lots more adventures to come!