Archive for the 'Just for Fun' Category

Book Club Provides Reprieve, Relaxation, Rejuvenation

images (2)By Elizabeth Jorgensen

Four years ago, as we enjoyed dinner, my best friend clutched her sauvignon blanc and said, “Kathy and Rachel and I are talking about forming a book club. Are you interested?”

Thinking of all the novels I wanted to read, but pushed aside for grading college essays, poems and exams, I answered, “Yes.” And with that, our group of four set out the rules: two books every two months. A rotation allowed each of us to select novels and host the event, complete with questions and discussion prompts. Some years, we met our two-books-every-two-months quota; other years, life presented challenges and we fell short. But we always start book club the same way: with an update on our lives. Then, while sharing a home-cooked meal or takeout pizza, we dive into the books and start our discussion.

We are support for each other and for our love of reading. We challenge each other and learn more about our lives and the way we enjoy literature. As the women in my book club birthed children, often a baby squirmed or slept, cradled in my arms. To our original four members, we’ve added two. And now, we rotate through the six of us, each member bringing a different viewpoint, preference and voice.

Before my book club, I read a handful of books a year, and they remained in my comfort zone. And rarely would they lead to discussion or dissection. But my book club has reminded me of the joy of reading—of connecting with a story, of experiencing another reality and of discussing themes of literature with my peers.  And now, when students or colleagues ask for book recommendations, I reference my much fuller repertoire:



The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty

The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis

Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont

Fly Away by Kristin Hannah

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls



All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline.

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Cemetery Girl by David Bell

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

After You by JoJo Moyes



We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

This is Where I leave You by Jonathan Tropper

The Winner by David Baldacci

The Light Between Oceans: A Novel by ML Stedman

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline



…and When She Was Good by Laura Lippman

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

Identical by Ellen Hopkins

Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Tenth of December Stories by George Saunders

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple


Happy Thanksgiving


The Lost Art of the Implausible Multiple Choice Distractor*

board-361516_960_720By Nick McDaniels

*Note: Implausible Multiple Choice Distractors are not an art nor are they lost.

Sometimes, well, all the time, really, we in education, take assessments too seriously.  We research and practice writing the most effective multiple choice (or is it selected response?) answers (alternatives?). We add trial questions for next year’s test to this year’s test and we make sure that our data is as accurate (marketable?) as possible.  Of course, by we, I mean the corporate ed-reform testing giants and those complicit in their acts.

I, however, a run-of-the-mill classroom teacher and one of the fortunate few who still has the ability to write his own assessments, often try to deviate from the standardized-assessment norm. In fact, I’d say I regularly deviate by a few standard deviations from the standardized-assessment norm. But just because I think that standardized-assessment, the endless wave of question stems and A through D alternatives, is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse of good public education, doesn’t mean that I think that all multiple-choice questions are evil. In fact, I employ multiple choice on many of my in-class assessments. But that’s not what this post is about, really.

This post is about finding a way to use multiple-choice assessments in classrooms without triggering the multiple-choice test fatigue which has befallen our young people. I have not found a fool-proof solution to making my multiple choice tests seem less painful, boring, etc…. But I do regularly employ a cardinal sin of multiple choice alternative creation. I seize an opportunity for a play on words, a joke, etc… as a throw-away answer in almost every test I create. And students regularly start laughing during my quizzes. Enjoying a test? What? How could this be? Because, perhaps, I stopped taking my own tests so seriously?

In throwing away an answer every now and again, I am reducing my student’s chance of getting that one question wrong by 25%. I’m not really providing that much of an advantage am I, on a 20 question quiz?

I encourage you, as a teacher, to find a way to bring some joy back to assessments. You can do it! Here’s a corny example from my last Constitutional Law quiz:

Which Constitutional Clause was utilized by the Supreme Court to radically expand Congressional power during the 20th Century?

  1. Necessary and Proper
  2. Commerce
  3. Supremacy
  4. Santa

And when the first student reached this question of the quiz, his belly shook like a bowl full of jelly. Not really. But he did smile. That’s more joy than we see during most assessments. Lighten up. Have fun. And throw an answer to the wind every now and again; a Nobel Prize winner once said that the answers are blowin’ there, anyway.


Tales are forever…

talesBy Dhanya Nair

Last week, I ambled to the Milwaukee public library to get some books for my three-year-old nephew. I was pleased at the wide variety of children’s books at the library; along with Snow White and Cinderella, there were folk tales from South America and Africa and books which focused on the experiences of immigrant children. As I browsed through rows of fairy tales, folk tales, animal tales, nature tales, mysteries, and tales of horror, I felt a twinge of excitement. I was surprised at my excitement because I was not engaging in anything new; libraries have always been my safe haven. Later, I realized that I was excited because I was going to be the controller-of-tales. I would influence my nephew’s flights of imagination during his short stay at my home.

I found myself thinking about the tales I used to read as a child; Enid Blyton’s Famous Five used to be one of my favorite books. The Famous Five was about four siblings and their dog: Julian, Dick, Anne, Georgina (George), and Timmy (the canine). They would routinely find themselves involved in a local mystery during their vacations. Nothing about their geographic settings were familiar to me; they often sought adventure in places like Wales and Cornwall and ate scones, jam tarts, cold cuts, roast potatoes, and kidney pies. I remember being fascinated by the adventures of the five, and today I marvel at their amazing ability to transport me to a place which was inaccessible to me. The Indian tales which I used to read always had an element of magic in them, whether they were from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Jataka, or Panchatantra.

Magic is the word I associate most with childhood tales, these tales are often also associated with an emotional landscape. When I reflect back on my childhood, I remember the stories and rhymes which my aunt and mother narrated to coax me to eat food or fall asleep. I also vividly remember the eagerness with which I would await cartoons and other kids’ shows on Sundays (my childhood was spent in simpler times, when delayed gratification was the rule and not the exception). Tales are also often the perfect gateway to a rich alternate world, where most children find comfort and refuge. My nephew is adept at pretend-play and often adopts the voices and words of the characters from his beloved tales.

My fascination with tales is child-like, however, I am not ashamed at admitting that they hold a strong sway over me. Tales are powerful, the world around us is filled with them. They not only serve as vehicles of morals and values for children, but also reflect the times we live in. Salman Rushdie conveys the importance of tales in his wonderful book, Haroun and the Sea of Stories. In the book, Haroun’s father, Rashid, is a master storyteller and is much sought after by political parties to weave positive stories about their candidates. Rashid is called the “shah of blah” in the book and I will always remain grateful to the various “shahs of blah” whom I have encountered in my life.

The Case for Summer Camp

Pinemere_Camp_grounds.jpgBy Carl Anderson

I loved Marquette, and the experiences I had there changed my life. But the thing I miss most about my college experience is being able to work at Camp Lincoln for Boys in North-Central Minnesota. I was able to work there for every summer from 2008-2013. I’m jealous both of my little brothers are able to work there this summer. But more than anything else, working at summer camp is the best summer teacher training I can think of. I can’t recommend it enough for any pre-service teacher looking for a meaningful, impactful and transformative summer experience. I came up with a list of reasons everyone, but especially pre-service teachers, should work at summer camp.

  1. It’s really, really, really, hard, which gives you an idea of what makes teaching so hard. You think that it is a summer of being on a lake playing with kids. While it is partly that, you wear a ton of hats; you are a mentor, parent, role-model, older sibling, inspiration, friend and so much more to the campers and fellow staff. You gain respect for parents, because you’re with the kids 24/7. You understand what teachers have to do when they feel like crap but have to put on their teaching faces. You learn how to push campers to be their best—at whatever activity they are working on. You inspire their work ethic, self worth, sense of community, friendship-building skills and fun! Oh! And, if you’re lucky, you get a day off a week. So definitely not easy.
  2. It’s incredibly rewarding. When you get a letter from a parent after their kid has come home, and it says they see a more confident kid, who has a stronger sense of self-worth, cleans up after themselves, and understands perseverance, you swell with pride. You will see your campers grow every day. From learning to make their bed (a big skill for an 8-year-old!) to watching a 15-year-old become a leader for the whole camp, you know you’ve helped that camper excel.
  3. You build your classroom management skills in an environment where they get put to the test immediately. Imagine having 14 rambunctious 10-year-olds who don’t want to be quiet for rest hour, because they’ve got touch football after. How do you get them to stay calm? How do you reward desired behavior? There’s a group of kids upstairs you can’t see, how do you make sure they’re not causing trouble? I learned how do deal with all of those things my first week with campers as a 19-year-old. It has been invaluable for my classroom management skills in my teaching career.
  4. You discover you were meant to be a teacher. This cuts two ways. My particular experience at Camp Lincoln in 2008 and 2009 made me realize I should have listened to my mom when I applied to Marquette, and enrolled in the College of Education right away (I just didn’t want to be a clone of my Dad…so I teach English, not Social Studies). I went right in to my advisor in September of 2009 after Camp and worked out a way to be an Education major without sacrificing a summer at Camp. The other side is anyone who knew in their heart they wanted to be a teacher will have it affirmed by working at a summer camp.
  5. You will learn from amazing people how to be a better teacher. There is a legend at Camp Lincoln named John Heineman. He worked at Camp for years and is a teacher in Nebraska. He was Teacher of the Year there at least once. His tips for working with campers are things I use every day while I teach. From sitting side by side while talking to boys, or giving them something to play with while talking to you so they aren’t nervous, to knowing it is okay to be goofy because kids will love it when it is authentic– I use it all every day. I credit John and Camp for being the reason relationship building is my strongest skill as a teacher.
  6. Bonus! CFAB. CFAB is a saying from my Camp. It stands for Camp Friends Are Best. You will make friends for life. In the way MU Alums have a fantastic network of amazing Marquette friends, I also have an amazing network of Camp friends. I worked at camp for long enough that some of my camp friends were campers when I first met them, and then worked for me at Camp. And in the same way talking Marquette with other MU grads is an instant connection, talking Camp with other people from your Camp (and others too) is an instant connection as well. Finally, it makes traveling even more fun. I’ve visited Camp friends in Oklahoma, Chicago, Michigan, Miami, London, Liverpool, and will be meeting some in Dublin in August. Some of my Camp friends I haven’t seen in a couple years, but we’ll always pick up right where we left off.

I could keep going for a whole book (one of my Camp friends did write a book about why to work at Camp!), but these are six of the best reasons I can think of to work at Camp for every summer you are in college. I guarantee it will be one of the best experiences of your life.

Wishing You a Happy Thanksgiving

“If the only prayer you said was thank
you, that would be enough.”
–Meister Eckhart


Have a happy, safe Thanksgiving break COEDers!

Tuesday Trivia: April 28, 2015

How much do YOU know about Marquette University and the College of Education?
Test your knowledge (and win cool prizes) every Tuesday!


For the final COED Tuesday Trivia of the 2014-2015 school year, we’re honoring our excellent COED faculty…

Who received the Dean’s Faculty Excellence Award at Mission Recognition last Tuesday?


Claim your chance to win by leaving the correct answer in the comments section below anytime today between 7am – 11pm. And don’t be afraid to play, even if someone has already posted the right answer! One winner will be randomly selected from ALL correct answers and announced the following day.  The winner will be posted on our Facebook page and notified by email.  Please note that you must have a valid email address listed in your comment or WordPress profile to win.

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