Category Archives: Teaching

UCB Peace Signs

I encountered these peace signs unexpectedly today, as I was walking across campus.


If Reasoned Argument Occurs

Looking for ways out of this gesticulating scream fest, I find it helpful to see what Patricia Roberts Miller has to say.  She’s compiled a useful list for times when reasoned argument is possible.

Speaking: Let There Be Light 

Several students were missing from my Introduction to Public Speaking class yesterday, and the ones who were present asked if I would scrap the lesson plan so we could watch a speech by Trump “to figure out how he got elected.

The students pick a speech Trump gave in Florida not long before the election, we watch 10 minutes of it, and then they talk.

Student from China: “Why is everyone so upset?”

Someone asks if we can watch “a good speech to compare.”  I suggest Obama’s “A More Perfect Union,” his speech about race from the 2008 campaign, we watch ten minutes of that, and then the students talk.

Someone asks for another suggestion, something different in style.  We watch the last few  minutes of Martin Luther King’s “I Have Been to the Mountaintop”, and then the students talk some more.

Obama and King appeal to our better angels, to history and education and inclusivity and progress. Trump, to anger and hate.

Student from California:  “Other nations are laughing at us.”

Student from Russia, who is watching one of Hitler’s speeches on her laptop:  “No one is laughing.”

I am exhausted.  I end class early, and as I leave the room, I realize the lights are off.

We have been discussing in the dark.


Obama’s “A More Perfect Union”

Conclusion of Martin Luther King’s “I Have Been to the Mountaintop”


Aftermath: State of the Student

One of my diligent students sent me the following email yesterday.

I apologize in advance. I am not in the state where I am comfortable or able to speak without breaking down in tears. I tried attending my classes today but didn’t stay in any one of them for the full duration.  I asked to leave mid-way.  As a Muslim immigrant from the Middle East who has experienced hate comments, this election puts me in so much unease and I am completely disheartened. I don’t feel entirely safe as well.

If it is possible, with your mercy, I would like to request approval for my absence tomorrow.

This breaks my heart.

Teaching Nap Time


Evidence of my strikingly engaging teaching style:  students collapsed during the break!

Argument at UC Berkeley

I’m proud of my students this semester in Intermediate Composition: Argument in the Disciplines. This was the first semester the course has been offered, and the students stepped up and built a website about written argument for the student community at UCB. The website (Argument at UC Berkeley) contains papers that the students wrote during the course, as well as advice from professionals and academics whom they interviewed. Students in subsequent semesters will maintain and expand the site.

Here’s a link, if you want to check out the site:

Mike Larkin’s “A Compendium of Selfie Reflections (For My Students)”

My colleague Mike Larkin is a triple threat:  engaging writer, intriguing thinker, and encouraging teacher.  He’s helping his students share their work publicly on his blog and anywhere else it might spread, and I’m hoping they end up with a bigger audience than they imagined.

You can help encourage them by reading their online writing–or even just by “liking” their posts when they appear, wherever they appear.

If you want to peek behind the curtain, see Mike’s blog post  A compendium of selfie reflections (for my students).

At the end, he notes several reasons that he wrote the post, concluding that

mostly I wrote this for my current students, who will be embarking on writing some digital, multimodal essays about online identity in the coming month.

I offer this brief essay as an example to them, and I’m hoping to encourage them to let me share some of their work publicly here. Given their facility with technology, I’m sure they can do much more interesting things with digital tools than I’ve managed to do in this blog post. (Oh, look at that textual selfie he just took–so humble!)

Back at Work

Here I am, back in my office in Wheeler Hall on the UCB campus, after finishing the first class on the first day of fall semester.


I’m not sure what my expression means.  “We’re gonna do this thing”, maybe?


I spent the last eight hours, without a break, on class prep. Socrates, sorites, software . . . progress of a sort. But I want to write my novel, not prep my courses. Strange to think that my students, too, are probably wishing they could do something else instead of head back to class.

We’re all ingrates in the moment.

GSI Presentation Skills Workshop

Today I teach the usual pre-semester Oral Presentation Skills workshop for graduate student instructors. Here’s the handy-dandy visual aid I give them so that they have something to point at during practice.