Kristin and Haley’s Discussion on Poe’s “The Raven”

I gave my literature students 30 minutes to come up with a 3-minute podcast in which they demonstrated their ability to have an evidence-based disagreement over The Raven. In the past, at this point in the semester I simply had students record themselves reading a poem, but I decided to get more ambitious this time. While all students turned in a great product, and most students loved the challenge, there…


Practicing Intellectual, Evidence-based Disagreement

This is what a busy literature seminar on evidence-based disagreement looks like. I’ve asked the students to pair up to create a 2-3-minute podcast that demonstrates they can participate in a respectful, evidence-based disagreement over Poe’s “The Raven.” I asked each student to introduce the other student’s position, and to do so respectfully, without caricaturing or demeaning the ignorant or evil jerks whose opinions or values or life experiences dare…


STEM Education Is Vital–But Not at the Expense of the Humanities

Promoting science and technology education to the exclusion of the humanities may seem like a good idea, but it is deeply misguided. Scientific American has always been an ardent supporter of teaching STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But studying the interaction of genes or engaging in a graduate-level project to develop software for self-driving cars should not edge out majoring in the classics or art history. The need to…


A Dance Mom Gets Schooled by a Ballet Mistress Who Can Write

Avoid trying to publicly shame a ballet mistress who can write.

This morning, someone pseudonymously spammed the parent email list at my daughter’s ballet school, with a scolding complaint about a delayed cast list. It read, in part: “We pay our fees on time…. We received the email to donate to the school’s fundraiser this week on time. But no cast List. This is a teachable moment to demonstrate that being on time, especially when a promise is involved, is important.”

The school’s response, posted about a half hour later, ended thus: “Emailing using an address we can not identify and failing to sign your email shows a lack of conviction. Failing to understand that it is a relatively easy thing to discover your identity through your IP address is another indication that your action was not thought through. If the lessons you wanted to teach here were your own ignorance, arrogance and cowardice, you’ve succeeded.”

The whole response is worth a sincere, rousing “slow clap”.


“What Teachers Make” Sequence of Assignments

Every year I rewatch Taylor Mali’s passionate defense of “What Teachers Make.” As part of a sequence of assignments designed to help students write a more engaging personal literacy narrative, I use Mali’s speech. Yes, it’s my job to teach composition, but composition is a term that applies to music, photography, choreography, athletics, etc. Students already have an intuitive sense of what makes a good Vine, what makes a good…