Philosophy and Practice

Students engage most enthusiastically with history and classical literature when they are empowered to step into the role of the historian. I bring my museum experience, manuscript expertise, and comparative historical perspective to the classroom to create an inclusive and equitable learning environment for my students where they may become active investigators of ancient texts and artifacts. My students learn the business of being an ancient historian as they “excavate” the lived, human experiences of the diverse inhabitants of the ancient Mediterranean world.

Teaching Experiences

I have built over five years of experience instructing students from diverse learning backgrounds in a range of courses, preparing me to teach broadly. When I teach history my first goal is to encourage students to confront and connect with the past through primary source material. For example: with the support of a competitive fellowship, I developed and taught a hands-on, manuscripts-based practicum for the seminar “History of the Book” which introduces undergraduate students to ancient papyri, the field of manuscript studies, and the history of book-making as a technology in the ancient Mediterranean. Students learned not only how to handle and decipher ancient texts, they also stepped into the role of an ancient scribe and practiced writing on papyrus with a reed stylus. My class realized as soon as their first pen strokes touched the page and ink spilled all over their papyrus that the process of ancient book-making was no straightforward task. Through this exercise in experiential learning, students discovered firsthand the importance of even the simplest ancient writing techniques. To start with, unless one knows how to properly hold and angle a reed pen, there is no way to control its flow of ink. Through their “day in the life of an apprentice scribe” students came to appreciate the skill required by ancient book-makers, not as detached learners but as active investigators and participants.

This active learning-focused approach extends also to the broader surveys I teach. My course on Greek history, for example, implements regular student exercises in history craft. We call these “Idea Logs.” Each week students have the opportunity to write (in no more than 300 words) a focused thought-experiment (or “Log”) on a specific artifact, image, line of text, or inscription. Students embark on these brief, frequent writing assignments with the aim of (1) learning how ancient history is created by studying fragments of information and (2) learning how, as historians themselves, to generate an original idea, or beginnings of an idea, about Greek history from those fragments. Through these weekly Logs, students become “class experts” on specific historical moments and are able to contribute richly and deeply to classroom discussion. As an example, in a particular class session on Aristophanes’ Lysistrata I began discussion with an open-ended question, “How does this text portray women in antiquity?” This prompt ignited the interest of several female students who had all written several Logs through the semester on themes of gender and sexuality. These students stepped into the role of discussion leaders and guided their classmates through a conversation about the play’s historical commentary on women. Many of these students had been hesitant to talk in class at the beginning of the semester, but they now spoke with an authority they had derived from their deep immersion in the primary sources and prolonged engagement with a particular historical theme in their written Logs. They became not just learners but authors of history and teachers of their peers. As one student put it in a course evaluation, “The [Idea Logs] facilitated my learning by forcing us to engage with the course material on a personal, thoughtful level. At the end of the semester, we began classroom discussion, instead of just lectures. This allowed us to come up with our own questions and beliefs about the material and to discuss it with our classmates in-person.”

Teaching students in "History of the Book" how to transcribe a papyrus of Homer.

In addition to my experience leading large history and culture lectures and smaller, specialized seminars, I have also taught Latin for four years as instructor of record and was selected through a Provostal fellowship to design and teach an ancient Greek language seminar. As a historian, I see language as a critical element of understanding a civilization’s history and culture. Students in my language seminars are encouraged to engage deeply not just with the translation of an ancient language but with the language’s history and with the lives of the diverse and fascinating people and cultures who used the language. For example, in my Elementary Latin seminars, students have the opportunity to participate in the “Adopt a Manuscript” Project and the “Adopt a Province” Project. The first invites students to explore how the language was used and valued throughout history, how it lived and functioned (and still does) within the lifecycle of a particular Latin manuscript. The second (inspired by a Romanist mentor and colleague) prompts students to investigate the social history, geography, trade and economics, daily life, and “Romanization” of one of Rome’s provinces. These modules inspire our elementary language students to engage with Latin beyond its grammar and syntax and to enroll in further Classics courses after their language requirement is complete. Student evaluations for my language seminars reflect this inspired curiosity and engagement, and in all parameters consistently surpass college averages. More significant than statistical ratings, however, are the qualitative student reflections that indicate my teaching has engaged them, helped them learn, and ensured their future enrollment in Classics courses. For example, one of my recent Latin 101 students writes, “I'm thrilled with how much Latin I've learned this semester. Professor Freeman is a wonderful instructor. His teaching style is clear, engaging, and well organized and he does an excellent job encouraging all of the students to participate in class. His passion for the language is contagious and I'm excited to be in his class again for the second semester of elementary Latin.” Full course evaluations as well as my detailed teaching portfolio with syllabi are available upon request.

“I'm thrilled with how much Latin I've learned this semester. Professor Freeman is a wonderful instructor. His teaching style is clear, engaging, and well organized and he does an excellent job encouraging all of the students to participate in class. His passion for the language is contagious and I'm excited to be in his class again for the second semester of elementary Latin.” 

   - recent student in Latin 101

“Could we drill vocab. for just a few more minutes?” “Are we going to practice forms today? Please?” “Next class, can we spend the whole period doing flashcards?” These are not questions we are accustomed to hearing from our students, but every day I am greeted with such requests by the learners in my language seminars. My four years of experience teaching ancient languages as primary instructor, both at the college and at all high school levels, have taught me how to engage diverse groups of students from a range of learning backgrounds in language learning. I have learned, for example, ways to “game-ify” vocabulary acquisition and the memorization of forms using digital teaching tools. My students work collaboratively to build an online lexicon of flashcards, and then I sync these flashcards with the gameshow-like study toolkit that we use each day for lively in-class review. As the quotes above reflect, students arrive to class eager play and compete. Since implementing this method, I have found that even students who feel challenged by other aspects of the language feel very confident in their vocabulary and forms. 

Further Pedagogical Training

Outside of my teaching experience, I have sought out further opportunities for pedagogical training including from my department’s pedagogy mentorship program and through the Duke Graduate School’s Certificate in College Teaching. As a member of the Certificate in College Teaching program, I have honed my pedagogical abilities through a series of semester-long graduate seminars on pedagogical topics. Both the Certificate program and our departmental pedagogy mentoring group provided the opportunity to observe class sessions taught by peers and to receive feedback from these peers on my own teaching. The chance to learn and draw from elements of my peers’ pedagogy has helped me become a more versatile, creative educator. For example, I noted when observing a colleague in Marine Biology how thoughtfully she had built space for student discussion into her lecture; she punctuated every 15-20 minutes of lecture with 5-10 minutes of open-forum discussion and Q&A. I saw how this strategy encouraged a lively, constantly-rolling classroom conversation. I began to incorporate this strategy into my own lectures and found that students who had previously been silent in class started to contribute. In fact, our mid-lecture discussions were sometimes so popular and so rich that I chose to abbreviate portions of my lecture to give students further opportunity to speak, ask questions, and teach their peers.

Digital Pedagogy

This same openness to learning, growth, and innovation as an educator proved invaluable at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the 2020-21 academic year, I served as the Digital Pedagogy Team Leader for our department’s Latin seminars. I designed online and hybrid coursework for Latin 101 & 102, including virtual teaching tools and online assessments. Our team worked on several projects, but our greatest challenge was developing a system of assessment that was both valuable and equitable to all students in a remote learning environment. Our team innovated a solution, creating a bank of timed, open-book quizzes meant to be retaken until completed perfectly. Students mastered the material by repeatedly taking quizzes until all information was thoroughly memorized. We thus replicated the rote learning experience of regular, closed-book quizzes in an online learning environment. As team leader, I researched and became fluent with the online assessment tools necessary to implement our strategy, and then I organized meetings and workshops to train my fellow instructors with these resources. In addition to being a valuable experience as a leader and mentor, this role also helped me further develop my understanding of accessible and equitable teaching. After spending an academic year trying to innovate ways to make online learning both effective and fair to all our students, I now better appreciate how an inclusive and equitable classroom must be a flexible one.

Classroom Community

As an educator, I promote an active learning environment in my classroom. As a historian, this means I work to connect students with historical, primary source material in class, in the library or museum archives, or through digital resources. I am constantly pursuing new avenues of growth as an educator so that I may more effectively empower my students to become not just learners but crafters of history.