The Chastising Professor

The Chastising Professor

Earlier today, I read a mini-rant by a professor I don’t know, who was fuming over students who don’t do their homework. She wrote that, having been educated to PhD level herself at the University of Hard-Assery, she didn’t tolerate slackerdom in her classrooms. As a student, she had once had a professor pitch a fit that involved throwing and kicking things in his fury over student unpreparedness, and she had taken away from that incident a healthy respect for…

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Darwin and Eliot and History*

Darwin and Eliot and History*

My very smart academic friend, Sam Cohen, recently wrote at length about the difficulties of planning a course based on a particular historical moment in terms of the philosophical problems of making fiction stand for history. At least, that’s how I’m choosing to paraphrase a key point implicit in his great discussion of three things he wishes someone had told him a long time ago when he first started studying literature. In lieu of filling his comments section with a…

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Of Academic Idealism

Of Academic Idealism

I want my students to be brilliant. I want them to make observations I haven’t thought of, and write sentences that make me smile just because they are so articulate, and draw connections that illuminate literary history. And in between those flashes of brilliance, I want them to be competent. And in the lulls between competence, I want them to be hard-working and recognize that there is always room for improvement. And when they are too busy to be hard-working…

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In defense of making students study things they don’t always want to

In defense of making students study things they don’t always want to

I will be the first to admit that the student-as-consumer model of education that is touted by some university administrators drives me batty. This is not to suggest that I think that the needs and goals of students ought to be irrelevant to how we plan our classes or what we teach. Far from it. However, the model as it is propagated by much of the admin-speak that seeks to optimize university educations and lure students in often implies that…

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Pencils in the Lunchroom

Pencils in the Lunchroom

As my students are composing literacy autobiographies, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own early relationships to reading, writing, books, poetry, words. I don’t remember a time when I couldn’t read, though obviously there was one. This may be because I learned to read fairly early (which I did) but also because I am too old to remember that far back (which I am). In any case, some of my earliest memories of literacy are of doing writing worksheets…

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Experiment

Experiment

For the first time, I have asked my Senior Seminar students to use a blogging platform for part of their course requirements. I have always relied on a portfolio of response papers for their more informal engagement with the ideas in the readings. But those papers increasingly seem to me to be stilted and far less imaginative than the best discussions we have in class. So I thought perhaps a genre that is more familiar (“what is a response paper,…

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