Category Archives: teaching


Advice to a Student Who Didn’t Like His First Year of College

Dear —–,

Thanks for your note today; your mom told me you’d be writing to me to get some advice about how to make your second year at college better than your first.

Let’s begin: The best way to get off to a good start with your professors is to call them “Professor,” and, if they’re women, not “Miss” or “Mrs.”; “Ms.” is preferable to either of those, but I’d stick with “Professor” since you know the person whose advice you’re asking happens to be one of those.

It’s also good to spell that perso…


20 Funny: The August Version (Part 2)

11. “Have you ever wondered about the stupidity of the term ‘o’clock’?  Americans have happily incorporated into our everyday speech a term that makes us sound like leprechauns.” Gene Weingarten, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for The Washington Post, from The Hypochondriac’s Guide to Life. And Death.

12. Voice-mail prompt: “After the tone please leave your I.Q. or your blood pressure, whichever is higher.” Lewis Frumkes, author of How To Raise Your I.Q. by Eating Gifted Children.

13. On health f…


20 Funny: The August Version (Part 1)

George Carlin (HBO photo by Paul Schiraldi on New York Times site. Click to get to source page.)

1-3. “Regardless of what other people say, my tendency to overreact and lose all perspective makes me a theatrically interesting person”; “Because I unfairly demand too much of myself, today I will allow myself to act in distinctly untrustworthy and irresponsible ways”; “I take pride in the fact that my personal power comes from my innate sense of insecurity.”

–Ann Thornhill and Sarah Wells, from Tod…


Good MOOC’s, Bad MOOC’s

So I just finished a brief radio appearance (CBC) on the subject of Massive Open, Online Courses (MOOCs). The main guest was George Siemens who, with Stephen Downes, helped pioneer these courses in Canada. Even though all of the press coverage has gone to the competing Stanford edu-preneurs behind Coursera and Udacity, Siemens and Downes have done much of the most important work, theoretical and practical, distinguishing between good and bad MOOC’s.

At the heart of the work of Siemens and Downes…


2 Lessons From the Penn State Scandal

Last week, Judge Louis Freeh, a former director of the FBI, released a copiously detailed, lengthy report about Penn State’s role in Gerald Sandusky’s sexual abuse of boys on campus.  The report notes that there was a “total disregard” for the young boys who were the sexually abused victims of Gerald Sandusky—the former coach.  According to Freeh, the most senior members of the university’s governing structure, “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children f…


6 Things Your Dissertation Director Wishes You Knew

(photo by Drew Coffman via Flickr/CC)

1. Only you can figure out how to manage your personal and emotional life; as advisers we can listen, challenge comfort, and offer guidance. The guidance we can offer most effectively is of the professional sort.

You must handle your domestic conflicts in the appropriate arena while keeping a check on how they affect your productivity.  Please don’t ask us to assist you with anything apart from your work too often, too regularly, or with too much of an empha…


My Husband on Emma Stone’s Bed in ‘Spider-Man’

Let me clarify that: my husband’s book–Poetry, An Introduction (fifth edition), published by Bedford/St. Martins–appears briefly but decidedly  in the scene where Spider-Man first shows up at her bedroom window. As the good high school student Stone plays, she has a couple of books displayed prominently on the bedspread and TA-DA! Michael’s is one of them.

I was delighted by the prospect of seeing this shot the moment a friend from marketing told us about it; I dragged us both to an early show. …


When Teaching Goes Well, Life Is Good

Dear PK,

Your letter about how amazing it was to talk with your graduate student–the one who really GOT what you were saying and changed the direction of her plans–and then asked me why I recognized earlier in life the pleasures that teaching provides made me incredibly happy.

I’m not saying that only because it’s incredibly generous to me. You’ve always been that. But I’m saying it because you helped to remind me why teaching–good teaching– matters.

Coming to the profession as someone who has a…


Top 20 Smart & Witty Lines for July 2012

1. “I have never allowed my schooling to interfere with my education.” Mark Twain

2. “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”  Mark Twain

3. “I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.” Gilda Radner

4. . “Why are they called illegal immigrants? They’re undocumented workers. If someone broke into my house and vacuumed my rug, I might be puzzled. But mad?” Wanda Sykes

5. “Laughter rises out of tragedy, when you need it the most, and rewards you for …


On This Rock

Cary Nelson

Cary Nelson completes his third consecutive term as AAUP president next week. No one serving in that role has accomplished so much with so little against a mountain of obstacles that would have sent weaker personalities scurrying back to their carrels and laboratory benches. During his tenure, he averted near-certain financial collapse, calmed near-annual rebellions from the union affiliates, appeased traditionalists, weathered the unionization of the staff, oversaw the departure of …


Dear Chronicle: Did I Need to Know Other Professors’ Salaries?

Dear Chronicle Editors:

I’m writing to you not as a member of Brainstorm, but as a one of the many poltroonish souls seduced into clicking onto the piece titled “What Professors Make.” We are legion; even though we might not have the guts to go find out what our individual colleagues are actually pulling in, despite the fact that at public institutions–such as UConn, where I teach–the information is readily available.

Anyways, everyone knows what professors make. Professors make trouble!

(Get i…


Summer Reading 2012

Grades are in; graduation photographs are posted on Facebook. Amanda Tinder Smith, erstwhile graduate candidate, is now Amanda Tinder Smith, Ph.D.–and will be starting work as a faculty member at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in the fall. Sam Ferrigno, B.A., has an internship at Yale University Press, where he’ll get to know Niamh Cunningham, who not only works at YUP but has completed the first year of her M.A. program in English at Yale. Next fall Lisa D is starting her M.F.A. at Colu…


Elizabeth Warren, Scott Brown, and Race-Card Politics

This week Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown tossed race in the fire of his heated re-election bid against Harvard Law Professor, Elizabeth Warren.  At issue is Elizabeth Warren’s voluntary listing as a “minority” in the American Association of Law Schools’ directory, which reports how law professors self-identify (by race and gender).  For a decade (1986-1996), Warren listed herself as Native American rather than white and felt justified, and in her words, “proud” in doing so because of her grea…


Loud Girl Talking

This is what one of my students wrote about me and I have decided that it’s how I want to be known for the rest of my life:

“You are the loudest teacher I have ever had. It’s not only your voice that’s loud, although nobody would ever call you a ‘low-talker,’ but everything about you is loud. The way you dress, the way you express your ideas about the books we’re reading, and the way you call on us to make sure we make our own ideas are heard is inescapable. We learned within the first two weeks…


The Biggest Student Uprising You’ve Never Heard Of

250,000 students pack the streets in largest demo in Quebec history

A guest post by Lilian Radovac. (BTW, SoCal readers may want to know that Marc is speaking at UC-Irvine a 4 p.m. 4/23 on New Media/New Protests.)

On an unseasonably warm day in late March, a quarter of a million postsecondary students and their supporters gathered in the streets of Montreal to protest against the Liberal government’s plan to raise tuition fees by 75% over five years.  As the crowd marched in seemingly endless w…


Celebration of Life, Loss of Innocence, and ‘Out of Africa’

In my upper-division literature classes, we always end up talking about those astonishing moments when characters understand that their fates are indeed in their own hands, and we also end up spending lots of time discussing those equally shattering moments when characters lose their innocence. Sometimes these moments coincide in a narrative–or in a life. Often they do not.

Greta Scheibel, who graduated from UConn a few years ago, joined the Peace Corps, and is now Executive Director of United P…


Robots Are Grading Your Papers!

"Insufficient number of supporting examples. C-minus. Meep." (Photo by Flickr/CC user geishaboy500)

A just-released report confirms earlier studies showing that machines score many short essays about the same as human graders. Once again, panic ensues: We can’t let robots grade our students’ writing! That would be so, uh, mechanical. Admittedly, this panic isn’t about Scantron grading of multiple-choice tests, but an ideological, market- and foundation-driven effort to automate assessment of tha…


Dear President Herbst: Here’s What This UConn Professor Did Today

A little ceiling leak's gonna slow things down? Nah. (Photo by Sam Ferrigno)

UConn President Susan Herbst’s recent article in the Huffington Post defending the role of full-time scholars and teachers was encouraging to those of us who work at the place where she’s the new  boss. Herbst seems like she’s doing a good job: The last time she met me she remembered my name. Pretty much that’s all it takes to be my best friend.

Apart from spending too much time–as does everyone else–talking about sport…


Bad Movies Week, Cont.: 5 Reasons I Also Hated ‘Titanic’

(If you haven’t seen the film, this version will give you the executive summary.)

Of course I discussed The Hunger Games in my classes this week, comparing it in its loathsomeness to Titanic. “You didn’t even like Titanic?!” yelled one outraged young woman from the back of the room. “How is that possible? Don’t you have any guilty pleasures?”

Let me explain my problems with Titanic, which just happened to be playing right next to The Hunger Games when I went to the multiplex last weekend thereb…


A Dartmouth ’79 Discusses That ‘Rolling Stone’ Article About Hazing

When I wrote my book about what it was like to be a student at Dartmouth—Babes in Boyland: A Personal History of Coeducation in the Ivy League—I wrote it from the perspective of someone who was an outsider: as a working class, Italian-French-Canadian kid whose parents had not graduated from high school and who had no idea what she was getting herself into when she signed up to start college in Hanover, NH. Recently out in paperback, Babes has done pretty well for a woman’s memoir, received surpr…