(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 for their popularity are varied and, in some cases, mysterious. No matter. If you’re new to the blog, or haven’t been able to keep up, they give some indication of what’s been going on around here. If you like what you discover, please subscribe! (Look to your right. See the button that says “Sign Me Up!”? Click it, and away you go.)
1. Fail Better
This post was chosen as a “Freshly Pressed” cover story by WordPress, which guaranteed that it would get tonnes of hits (over 11 000) and comments (245 at last count – about 15 of them are my replies, but I soon ran out of steam.) In this little anecdote, I explore a problem – my students are so afraid to fail that they won’t even try – through the lens of some recent research – Paul Tough’s NYT Magazine article on “What if the Secret to Success is Failure?” The results are inconclusive but gratifying. All in all, it was a good week.
2. Should We Bid Farewell to the Academic Paper?
Another “Freshly Pressed” pick. This one received almost 9 000 hits and 177 extremely interesting and thoughtful comments. It’s a response to an article by Virginia Heffernan on Cathy N. Davidson’s book Now You See It. Davidson’s book proposes, among other things, that the academic paper has had its day and needs to make way for more current tech-friendly forms. I, and the commenters, are not so sure.
This post is a response to a reader’s plea for advice. Nick’s not sure college is the place for him, but he can’t see his parents agreeing to any other path. I can’t solve his problem for him, but I have some suggestions, as do readers. His original query, and a lot of interesting reader responses, appear here.
4. The Five Best Podcasts in the World
In May, these were my top five, and I still love them all, although “The Age of Persuasion” is now defunct (but was replaced on Saturday by Terry O’Reilly’s highly anticipated followup, “Under the Influence.”) If I wrote this post now, I might rearrange these and introduce a couple of new favourites, including “On the Media” and “Planet Money.” If you have a favourite podcast, please visit the post and leave a link in the comments.
5. What Do Students Think Should Change About School?
I got so many responses to this open call that I followed it with a full week of guest spots: five posts from students explaining how school could be better. You will find most of those responses in the comments section of this post, along with lots of other interesting ideas on how to improve the education system.
6. “Either You Can Be a Teacher or You Can Be the Plagiarism Police”
Ah, plagiarism: the inexhaustible inspiration for teacher rants everywhere. Here, I discuss an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education, in which Rob Jenkins explains that we need to just chill out.
7. Character = Behaviour: A Lesson Plan
This extremely successful lesson, in which students write reference letters for fictional characters and, at the same time, learn a bit about how their own behaviours reflect on their characters, is just now coming home to roost. This winter, I am receiving an unprecedented (i.e. crushing) number of reference letter requests from students who clearly took this lesson to heart.
8. Life and Death and Anthologies
The stats for this post took a couple of random spikes, and I’m not sure why. I like it a lot, but it’s just a quiet little meditation on the joys of anthologies and of travel, and on the links between the two. In particular, it describes my experience of reading an anthology of Irish short fiction while travelling through Ireland. It seems to have resonated with some people. Perhaps it will for you.
9. Why Do I Have to Learn This?
We don’t always take this question seriously. Louis Menand says we should. I agree.
10. What Young Adults Should Read
After a Wall Street Journal essay made some indignant pronouncements about the trash that young people are reading these days, and after everyone got all upset about it, I threw in my two cents. This post makes special reference to the thoughts and writings of Linda Holmes, blogger at NPR’s “Monkey See” pop culture blog, host of NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour,” and person I most want to be when I grow up (granted, she’s probably younger than me, but I still have a long way to go.)
And, just because I loved it:
Bonus Post: Rolling In the Girls’ Room
I walked into the women’s washroom outside my office. I discovered three students, two of them male, sitting on the counter, rolling joints. This post transcribes a Facebook conversation with my friends and colleagues, in which my response to this event is analyzed, critiqued, and mostly (but not entirely) supported.
Resolutions for 2012:
- Continue to post on Mondays and Thursdays. Posts will, if all goes well, appear around 9 a.m., although dissemination to Facebook, OpenSalon etc. may be slightly delayed, as I am teaching early classes. If you want to be sure to know about posts the moment they go up, please make use of the “Sign Me Up!” button at the top of the right-hand margin to receive email notifications for every post.
- Tweet more! I am lazy Twitterer. However, I find all sorts of cool stuff that I don’t have time to blog about but should really share with you all. So now I will. Again, there is a button to the right that will allow you to follow me at @siobhancurious. Follow me!
- Be present, be present, be present.
Do you have a favourite post that you read here this year, and that I haven’t mentioned above? Do you have blogging or teaching resolutions that you’d like to share? Please leave a comment. I always love hearing from you.
Thursday’s post: my favourite reading experiences of 2011.
And finally: Happy New Year, everyone!
Image by Maxime Perron Caissy