All posts by Eliana Osborn


Higher Ed in Literature

Ms. Mentor does an annual roundup of academic novels, but my summer reads have produced a few interesting portraits of the higher-education world in unlikely places.

In Les Miserables, Marius attends law school. He is nearly kicked out for missing his third class period—his name, once he fails to respond during roll call, will simply be erased—until another student answers for Marius and loses his own place instead. While I’m a fan of a strict attendance policy, particularly at the community-col…


He Said He Needed an A

After showing up 1¾ hours into a two-hour class, Mr. G wanted to know about his grade.

“You’ve turned in only two small assignments, so the grade you have right now isn’t really reflective of much,” I told him. “Wait till you get your first major essay back, and then we’ll have a better idea where you stand.”

“I have to get an A in this class,” Mr. G insisted as though I hadn’t said a word. I hate to burst a bubble so early in a semester. Well, I wish that were true. I’m fine bursting obnoxious …


Out of the Shadows

For the dozen years I’ve worked at my community college, I’ve always taught at night. At first, it was because I had a full-time day job, then because I was dealing with my young children. Rob Jenkins recently wrote a post about moonlighting, which highlighted the reasons many faculty work at an additional campus, after their regular job.

This fall I’m slated to teach a daytime class. I saw an open section and jumped on the opportunity, even though as an adjunct it meant I had to give up one of …


What Could Be Better Than Swag?

A librarian friend of mine returned from BookExpo America with a dozen books for me—advance-reader copies, free, of upcoming releases. My summer has been immeasurably improved by such a delightful gift.

My husband, a secondary-school teacher, recently attended a conference about Common Core. His swag or memorabilia was a little less exciting than free books: a nifty pop-up note container with a variety of sizes of sticky notes.

I grew up in a family in which my father was a business executive. H…


Giving Second Chances at Community Colleges

In addition to my resolution to read more in my subject area in 2013, I’ve been reading more about education reform and policy. Mike Rose’s latest book, Back to School: Why Everyone Deserves a Second Chance at Education (New Press), stood out as an important text to consider. I was so taken by this thoughtful book that I reached out to Rose, a professor in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles. He was gracious enough to answer som…


What Professors Can’t Do

Student A attended class all semester, did well, engaged in discussions. Then she missed the final and the final paper. I tried to contact her to see if there was a problem but haven’t heard a word. She ended up with a D and will have to retake the course.

Student B attended class all semester too, but she never turned in a single assignment. Not one. Not a low-stakes writing assignment, not a major paper, nothing. She kept coming, sitting quietly and participating in groups in a desultory manne…


Final Workshops

As an office-less adjunct, I have traditionally shied away from one-on-one workshops about writing with my students. It takes a huge amount of time to do, especially since I and my students are generally on the campus only at night. I know the value of such personal feedback, though, so in the last two semesters I have experimented with ways to make it work.

So now we lose one week of whole-class instruction to make way for individual time with the final paper, a purple pen, and me. Instead of o…


Seeing a Dream Come True

When I was a fourth grader, wearing my kelly-green Girl Scout uniform, I got to lead the pledge of allegiance for a naturalization ceremony. I was a shy kid, in front of what seemed to be a huge room of people in an imposing building downtown. Yet I don’t remember being scared at all. I was proud to be a part of something that seemed important.

I’ve given up wearing a sash with badges of my skills, though perhaps it is a look I could bring back into fashion. I hadn’t thought of my brush with cit…


Carrots and Sticks

Ms. Mentor recently wrote about offering a class reward if, for a whole semester, no one asked a question whose answer could be found in the syllabus. A community-college accounting professor told me that she gives a giant candy bar to those few students who receive 100-percent test scores. I thought both of these ideas were fun and motivational.

I have two sons—one driven by a strong internal compass of right and wrong. He’s still young, but he doesn’t need many external rewards or punishments….


Extra-Credit Conundrum

“Consider offering extra credit for students who attend,” suggests e-mail after e-mail from various entities on campus. Senders are touting art exhibitions, philosophy debates, librarian outreach in the community, guest speakers, forums, and who knows what else.

These are great activities that would enrich my students if they attended. I hope they will do things outside of class to be part of the larger community. However, this message of extra credit is in direct opposition to the syllabus and …