All posts by Rob Jenkins


‘Get Your Associate Degree’

Lately my college, like many other two-year schools, has been making an effort to encourage students to stay for two years and earn an associate degree before transferring. That can be a hard sell, since we’re primarily a “portal” institution, and many of our students make no bones about the fact that they want to transfer as soon as possible—in many cases, after one year. Even those who stay two years often can’t be bothered to go to the extra “trouble” of applying for graduation, despite the …


AP Literature vs. College English

I had an interesting opportunity this semester to compare students who placed out of their first college English course based on Advanced Placement scores with those who didn’t. I’d like to share that experience, along with some of my conclusions, and see what you think.

Like most colleges, mine offers two levels of first-year composition: ENGL 1101, in which students focus on the basics of college and professional writing—the writing process, sentence structure, paragraph development, organi…


Changing My Mind About CVs

In my most recent “Two-Year Track” column, “How the Job Search Differs at Community Colleges,” I stated that candidates need to tailor their cover letter for each job but can probably use the same CV. I think I’d like to modify that statement.

I based my original advice on the fact that, as a serial community-college search-committee member, I’ve reviewed thousands of CVs. Although in some ways they’re as unique as fingerprints, in other ways they’re all very similar. Honestly, I’ve seen just a…


Seriously, You Don’t Have to Be a Jerk

Never mind the headline of a recent Chronicle advice column—“Be Hard to Get Along With,” by Scott Hippensteel—which left me wondering what kind of person would be intentionally hard to get along with. (I think we all know the answer to that.)

It was the tease that caught my attention: “Growing problems of classroom decorum mean faculty members have to get tough or sacrifice learning for all students.” Really? What exactly are these “growing problems of classroom decorum”? I’ve been teaching coll…


The Problem With Bill Gates’s Vision

The Microsoft magnate-cum-philanthropist Bill Gates made waves in the community-college world a few weeks ago when he suggested that two-year colleges should use more MOOCs.

Most of us who actually teach community-college students understand that, while there may be a place for MOOCs in the curriculum, relying on them too heavily would be a mistake. (I wrote about this extensively in “A Massively Bad Idea,” and I won’t reiterate those arguments here.) But the notion of MOOCs as some sort of edu…


Editing Lessons

Talking about editing with my composition students the past couple of weeks has got me thinking about the way I edit my own writing, especially these blog posts for The Chronicle.

I know—you probably think I just dash these off without much thought, and some of my posts may have reinforced that impression. But I actually spend a great deal of time trying to get them just right. In The Chronicle, I have a very large potential audience. There’s no quicker or more thorough way to embarrass myself p…


Of White Boards and PowerPoints

This semester I have two sections of the same composition course that meet back-to-back in the same room—a room with old white boards that don’t erase very well. The other day I was writing on the board during the second of the two when a student noticed that I was tracing over the still-visible outlines of what I had written for the earlier class, and that it was basically the same thing.

“Why did you bother erasing?” he asked. “Why didn’t you just leave it up there so you don’t have to write i…


Speech in the Balance

By now we all know about the University of Kansas professor, David W. Guth, who was “placed on leave” (read: suspended) last week for a tweet deemed offensive to National Rifle Association members.

Reaction to The Chronicle’s coverage of the incident (and there was a great deal of reaction) suggests that most readers can be divided into one of four categories: those who agree with the professor’s sentiments and don’t think he should be punished; those who basically agree but believe he went too …


Teachers Who (Don’t) Write

A recent commenter on this site noted that there are two types of people who teach college composition: teachers who write and writers who teach. Diplomatically, perhaps, he or she left out a third category: people who teach writing but never, or rarely, write anything themselves.

Unfortunately, at many two-year colleges, where pressure to publish is essentially nonexistent, that last group might be the largest of the three. I know, because I was a member of it for more than a decade.

Like many …


The Recruiter’s Tale

In a recent column, I asked the question, “Who is driving the online locomotive?”—in other words, who exactly is pushing the idea of offering more and more (not to mention bigger and bigger) online classes? Because that’s certainly where higher education seems to be headed.

I concluded that the people who hire college graduates are not among the culprits, citing a recent Chronicle survey in which prospective employers reported positive impressions of all types of higher-education institutions—…