All posts by Rob Jenkins


48 First Days

Today was my first day of school—for the 48th consecutive year. I’ve been starting classes around this time every year since I first set foot in Miss Martin’s kindergarten class, back in 1966. Sometimes I feel like I just went off to school one day and never came back. I’ve been in school ever since.

There are a lot of things I love about my job, and I’m grateful to have a job that allows me to do so many of the things I love. But what I love most, I think, is the constant sense of renewal that …


What’s a Blog Post Worth?

In the age-old debate over who is the greatest 19th-century American novelist, Herman Melville or Mark Twain, my vote is for Twain. (And if you’re wondering what this has to do with blog posts, please bear with me.)

Here’s my reasoning: Even if we stipulate that Melville was an A-plus intellect and Twain was only an A-minus, the fact remains that hardly anybody ever reads Melville, whereas nearly everyone has read Twain. (I know this because I ask my literature students every semester, “How many…


Conference Guilt

Each year there are three large national gatherings for community-college professionals: the League for Innovation conference, the American Association of Community Colleges convention, and the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development conference.

As a “Two-Year Track” columnist and blogger for The Chronicle, not to mention a community-college lifer, I try to participate in those gatherings whenever possible. Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the first two on …


Common Ground on the Common Core

Any time conservatives and liberals in this country agree on anything, it’s time to stop the presses, glance heavenward to see if pigs happen to be zooming by, and check the temperature in you-know-where.

It might also be time to pay attention.

One of those rare areas of agreement between left and right these days is over the Common Core, the new set of national standards for public schools. Neither conservatives nor liberals—at least the ones I know—seem to like the idea very much.

Developed mo…


The Ethics of Overloads

My last post, on multicampus moonlighting, elicited a number of comments about a different but related topic: on-campus overloads.

Moonlighting is when a full-time faculty member at one institution teaches part time at another. An overload occurs when a full-time faculty member teaches an additional class or two on his or her own campus, usually for more money (although occasionally for other considerations, such as future release time).

I don’t know how widespread the practice of teaching overl…


Multicampus Moonlighting

Some years ago, I went to see the dean about my financial situation. “It has recently come to my attention,” I told her, “that I cannot afford all four of my children.”

I was serving as a department chair at the time, with a salary that was good but not great—basically a 10-month faculty salary pro-rated for 12 months. My wife had made it clear when we got married that, once kids came along, she intended to quit her job as a middle-school teacher to stay home and raise them, even if it meant a…


Purging My Syllabus

Not wanting to sexually harass my students, much less be labeled a sexual harasser by the Department of Education, I have decided to review my Intro to Lit syllabus and remove any reading assignments that might contain offensive material.

Not that any reasonable person would find those reading selections offensive. But the DOE has apparently decided that the “reasonable person” test no longer applies, and that any “unwelcome speech” qualifies as harassment. Since my lit students seem to find nea…


Is It the English Department’s Fault?

As I read Robert Zaretsky’s recent post, “What’s at Stake with Grade Inflation,” in which he notes how poorly his history students write, I couldn’t help but recall a confrontation I had several years ago with a business professor at the college where I was teaching at the time.

I was walking across campus one bright, sunny day (this was in Florida, where almost all the days are bright and sunny), when I saw this colleague coming toward me on the hedge-lined concrete walkway. He and I had enjoye…


The Unbearable Obnoxiousness of ‘Being’

(Blogger’s note: Regular readers should consider this the third and final installment in my brief series on using forms of “to be,” the other two being which also includes “‘To Be’ or Not ‘to Be’?” and “To Be Clear.”)

There’s a conversation I have with my first-year composition classes almost every semester, usually triggered by a student’s question about one of the many things they were warned in high school never to do in an essay: Use first-person pronouns, use second-person pronouns, begin a…


Sometimes It Is Whom You Know

Academics are notoriously bad at what other professionals call “networking.”

That’s partly because we tend to be loners and introverts by nature. The whole idea behind networking—meeting people just to say that we’ve met them, cultivating relationships based on self-interest rather than on mutual interests, making “contacts” instead of actual friends—is foreign to those of us who have spent our lives in libraries or laboratories, working alone or in small groups.

But we also fail at networking i…