Category Archives: Teaching


Valuing My Time

“Exciting opportunity! I mapped out some dates for writing workshops this upcoming spring semester. Please let me know if you would like to volunteer as a presenter.” I don’t blame the writing-center coordinator who sent me this optimistic message. He’s just doing his job, trying to provide learning opportunities for the students who come his way. But reading his full email left me feeling as  if a Nigerian prince were offering me a chance to make big money.

Service is an important part of acad…


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…


I Shouldn’t Have to Say It

In a developmental English class, a student said something very rude to me. I run a pretty laid-back classroom, so there are some occasions when students say things and I’m not sure if they’re rude. But I know this was meant to be rude. In her defense, I was picking on her a little. I kept asking her and her friend to answer the questions because they were the only ones chatting about the weekend and not participating in our activity. The student responded by saying, only slightly under her bre…


Move Over, Roger Federer

Daniel Hamermesh, an economics professor at the University of Texas at Austin and Royal Holloway University of London, has come up with a tantalizing idea to end the financial woes of universities and the academics who teach at them. Companies are already paying huge sums for naming rights on football stadiums and campus buildings. So why not go a step further?, he asks. “Five hundred students stare at me for 1-1/4 hours 28 times each fall semester. The university could ask me to advertise—wea…


Do You Really Want to Be the Rules Sergeant?

I just can’t resist wading into the discussion started by Anthony Aycock about classroom management and its two subsequent replies, the first by Scott Hippensteel, who advocates that faculty should “be hard to get along with,” and Rob Jenkins’s subsequent response that “you don’t have to be a jerk” to be a good professor.

I’m quite interested in teaching discussions for a variety of reasons. Before I became a full-time administrator nearly nine years ago, I was an English professor for 15 years,…


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…


Beyond the Teaching Statement

I recently traded application materials with a good friend who, like me, will re-enter the job market this fall. We read over each other’s standard cover letter, CV, etc., both to proofread and, at least in my case, to steal a glimpse at the competition. My friend is an articulate and passionate communicator, and I know her teaching to be engaging and effective. She’s the type of professor I always hoped for as a student and most respect as a colleague. I’d like to take one of her classes now.



When There’s Too Much Communication

I found myself sucked into a text conversation with a student a few days ago, a conversation that I let go on for far too long. The brief messages started casually, then grew hostile (on the student’s part, not mine), as I wasn’t willing to do what the student wanted. I should have put a stop to it after a simple exchange, but I admit to getting a bit caught up.

I’m in the middle of a semester of too much communication. I’m getting e-mails and texts from students countless times a day. There’s t…


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…


The Doogie Howser Problem

I had a delightful student last semester. Fourteen, dual-enrolled in high school and community college, smart, charming, and interesting. She wanted to be there and did everything assigned. Dream student, right?

The problem was this student’s writing. She technically completed the requirements, but something was off. Her arguments were shallow, or rather lacking depth. Shallow implies a negative, but here the issue was simply a lack of life experience. A 14-year-old doesn’t yet have a lot of per…