Classroom as Microcosm

Siobhan Curious on Open Salon
A cri de coeur from a university economics professor, Art Carden, has been circulating lately, in which he begs students to understand that a) professors do not live to torture you, b) teachers are not punishing you because you don't know everything, and c) a bad grade does not mean that/…

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JANUARY 16, 2012 10:59AM

I Like Teaching You

Today is the first day of the new semester. I'm not exactly pumped. I've been working all weekend to find a motivator, or an inspiration, or a visualization to turn to when I feel it's all too much. What's my objective for the next fifteen weeks? What… Read full post »

JANUARY 12, 2012 8:12AM

My Top 10 Books of 2011

For English teachers, reading for pleasure can be tough.  After grading papers all day, the last thing I want to do is read more.  Also, my personal reading has become subtly oriented toward finding material for my courses; I seem to be approaching every novel and memoir through the (imagin… Read full post »

JANUARY 9, 2012 8:05AM

The Top 10 Posts of 2011

It's that time of year again.

(Actually, it's a little past that time of year - it was that time of year, oh, two weeks ago, when it was still last year.)

Nevertheless: a roundup!

Here are the posts from Classroom as Microcosm that received the most hits this year.  The reasons… Read full post »

DECEMBER 19, 2011 8:16AM

Education from the Ground Up

I have once again received a very interesting query from a reader.  The blog will be on hiatus until January 9, so you'll have lots of time to think about it and respond!  Jan Simpson would like to know: if you had to design an education system from scratch, how would you/… Read full post »

DECEMBER 16, 2011 8:44AM

Bloggers Anonymous

As is usual this time of year, I'm dealing with a trying student.  Yesterday, as a cathartic measure, I prepared a post in which I collated our email exchange since the beginning of the semester.  If you are not me, this exchange is no doubt extremely entertaining.  (If you are/… Read full post »

DECEMBER 15, 2011 8:24AM

Formatting Blues

The following conversation took place earlier this week on my personal Facebook page.

Siobhan: Open memo to a student who shall remain nameless: Going into your final paper, you had an overall average of 59.7%. Did you not feel the stakes were high enough to invest half an hour in formatting/… Read full post »

DECEMBER 12, 2011 11:02AM

More Ways to Cheat

This week, The Tenured Radical has an imaginary conversation with her imaginary college-age progeny in which she explains why he/she should not cheat in order to get through the hellish last weeks of the semester.  In the process, she directs us to some more online cheating reso/… Read full post »

DECEMBER 8, 2011 8:33AM

Unfriendly Grammar: A Reply

On Monday, I published a letter from S, who feels the urge to delete friends from her social networks when they write updates full of grammatical errors.  You had lots of interesting responses.  Here's mine.

Dear S,

I sympathize.  I really do.  But I can't commiserate

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DECEMBER 5, 2011 8:23AM

Unfriendly Grammar

The other day, I received a letter from a reader who is having an extreme emotional response to others' bad grammar.  What should she do?

Dear Auntie Siobhan,

Would you consider writing a post on the issues of being an English teacher and social media user?

When I read status

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NOVEMBER 28, 2011 9:15AM

F is for Facile

Let's say a hypothetical student submitted a hypothetical essay containing assertions similar to those below.

(The assignment is a real one: a report on a series of oral presentations in which students "sold" books to the class.  The books were assigned from a list that I created.  T… Read full post »

NOVEMBER 26, 2011 6:34AM

When In Doubt, Make a Plan

On Monday, I posted a letter I received from a reader, asking advice about whether he should stay in college.  I promised you I would post my reply today, and here it is.  I sent this response before posting his letter here, and before reading your thoughts on his situation/… Read full post »

NOVEMBER 24, 2011 8:00AM

What Will Happen If I Leave College?

Last week, I received this query from N, a college sophomore.  I will publish my reply later, but for now, I'd like to know what you think.  What should he do?

Dear Auntie Siobhan:

My senior year of high school I found myself going from a good student in AP

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1. Plagiarism

In my remedial class, we have been talking for two weeks about paraphrasing, integrating quotations, citing sources and so forth.  Nevertheless, three students have received zeroes on the first version of their final paper because of incorrect use of source material.

There a… Read full post »

NOVEMBER 23, 2011 8:44AM

When To Be Nice

Two weeks left in the semester.  I am trying not to drown.  I can't write much today, but please read this and tell me what you think: is there such a thing as too nice, especially where female academics are concerned?

Image by Chris Bowers, from the Images from #OccuRead full post »

NOVEMBER 22, 2011 7:58AM

Practical Wisdom in the Classroom



Sometimes I feel very pleased with myself.  I think I did something right last week.

A few posts ago, I wrote about a student who is facing and presenting some challenges.  I hadn't figured out what to do about him.  Then,

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NOVEMBER 21, 2011 8:28AM

The Five Purposes of Higher Education

What do you think higher education is for?

Back in September, Richard Kahlenberg gave a convocation speech in which he outlined five "Purposes of Higher Education."  I don't entirely buy them.  Kahlenberg, in his speech, is critical of the extent to which higher education/… Read full post »

NOVEMBER 7, 2011 7:52AM

Bullying: What Victims Can Do

Last week, the Atlantic published an article that takes a new perspective on the problem of bullying.  The upshot: prevention is all very well, but not enough is being done to treat victims of bullying after the fact, and such treatment might be a way to stop the bullying c/… Read full post »

NOVEMBER 3, 2011 8:34AM

Why Do I Have to Learn This?

Every so often, students ask me, "Why do we have to learn this?"

It's no use telling them that learning is a good thing, period.  They're taking seven or eight classes.  Some are doing "part-time" jobs that have them working thirty hours a week.  Making out with their boyfriends… Read full post »

OCTOBER 31, 2011 7:54AM

Life and Death and Anthologies

Anthologies are odd.  They're compiled of a lot of stuff that someone thinks we should read, and so they have little to do with the real experience of reading.  Being a "reader" is as much about wandering down the aisle of a bookstore looking for attractive covers, or downloading an/… Read full post »

OCTOBER 27, 2011 8:16AM

How Do Games Help Us Learn?

In an early post of mine, you can read about a couple of games that I have used in my classes to get students moving, talking and thinking: a getting-to-know-you game, and a grammar relay race.  A few weeks ago, a reader (OnQuicken), left a comment on that old post, asking to he/… Read full post »

OCTOBER 24, 2011 8:23AM

120 Ways to Cheat

So I came across this Wikihow site the other day.  It details 120 ways to cheat on a test.

Does this say something about:

a) kids these days?

b) human nature?

c) the inevitable descent into absolute amorality/immorality for which the internet will prove responsible?

d) a reRead full post »

OCTOBER 14, 2011 7:51AM

University Isn't Everything

This is the final post in our series "What Students Think Should Change About School."  In today's post, Ruth explains that our fixation on getting everyone to university means a poorer education for everyone.


Society has this idea that certain levels of education are necessary for a p

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It seems that there are a lot of things students would change about school if they could.  For example,  MaplesAndMerriment thinks that students need a clearer understanding of why they are in school at all.

This is Post #4 in a 5-part series on what students think should changeRead full post »

OCTOBER 12, 2011 8:30AM

Relax About My Grades, Would You?

What else should change about school as we know it?  This is Post #3 in my series on what students would change about school, if they could.

Today's post is from Katy George, who believes that we need to change our attitude toward grades.


I am currently a senior in

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