8 Ridiculous College Classes (…that we’d totally take!)




Ah… the charming chime of your 6am alarm clock, making sure you are on your way to first period, or your 7:30am chem class (what were you thinking in scheduling that!?).

Perhaps your mornings would be a little less grouchy if you were on your way to study the science of Hogwarts or the mythical language of Middle-Earth. With the rising cost of education, you can’t help but think WTF to the following classes but… we’re all secretly jealous we didn’t sign up for these literary electives:



1) A New Look at American Culture with The Hunger Games

This class, offered at American University, explores the literary correlation between Panem, the fictional backdrop of The Hunger Games, and the complex American Society. It’s already super easy to see the comparison between some of our red carpet soirees or high fashion runways (Miss Universe, anyone?) and the glamorous life of Panem’s Capitol.

I wonder if they offer class debate on Team Gale or Team Peeta (and what about #TeamKatniss… she don’t need no man).



2) The Vampire in Literature and Cinema

Interested in literary and mythological comparisons of Dracula vs. Nosferatu (and maybe the sparkly Edward Cullen)? Then sign up for this class at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Let’s hope the class is offered during the daytime… and not after dusk… in a basement… or in a batty church belfry.


3) What if Harry Potter is Real?

First of, let’s clear this up–Harry Potter is real, and all our Hogwarts acceptance letter owls are just a bit delayed. But for the faint of heart or non-believer, head on over to Appalachian State University to discuss some actually very compelling questions: “Who decides what history is? Who decides how it is used or mis-used? How does this use or misuse affect us?” etc.

But, like I said, I’ll see you all in Diagon Alley when the post office clears up this drawn out owl delivery kerfuffle.



4) The Science of Harry Potter

To take it one step further, Frostburg State University offers an honors seminar of the science of J.K. Rowling’s magical world. You can even take your studies home with the required reading.


5) The Science of Superheroes

University of California, Irvine offered a class exploring the “science” of gamma rays and spidey senses. They also explored what kind of superheroes might be imagined with today’s scientific knowledge. Maybe… Counter Global Warming Man, or A Million YouTube Views in a Minute Woman?

I’d also love to assume the professor was a strong-jawed, horn-rimmed glasses donner who mysteriously disappeared at the sign of trouble.


6) Mother Goose to Mash Ups

If you ever wondered any of the following–“Why did the London Bridge fall down? Is Rub-a-dub-dub really about bath time? Why didn’t an old man live in a shoe?– then this Occidental College class would be for you.

Any class where a paper topic could be Together Again: An analytical analysis of society, race, and Humpty Dumpty is a winner in our book.



7) Far Side Entomology

“If students can laugh about bugs, maybe they won’t squash them,” Professor Michael Burgett says on his class combining the study of bugs with the beloved comics. Burgett’s students at Oregon State University learn science and appreciation of Entomology while laughing along the way – a decisively effective learning tool.



8) Elvish, the language of Lord of the Rings

Sevig thû úan.

If you had taken this class at University of Wisconsin you’d know I insulted you saying “you smell like a monster” and would have an appropriate response like “go kiss an orc!” (Ego, mibo orch of course).

This class was taught by linguist David Salo, the actual person behind the languages for the films. How cool is that!?

7 Wintery Novels To Cozy Up To

eNoters! We are so close to springtime!

Birds, bees, apple trees, and sunscreen. It’s almost in our reach. But when the sun comes back, we lose our (completely viable) excuse to stay in after school/work… with our fuzzy slippers & snowflake jammies, bingeing on Netflix or absorbed in a book all night.

Let’s be clear: coming from an introvert, I never condemn these practices any time of year. But the other people of the world expect, yah know, some sort of human contact every now and then. *sigh*

So, let’s take advantage of the coming months’ gift of socially acceptable pajama-donning YOU time. Here’s some great winter-themed reads to keep you cozied up inside:



1) Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

This “travelouge” from Bill Bryson is a light-hearted, humorous, and endearing tale of a first-hand adventure of the Appalachian Trail. Chock-full of interesting characters and almost a stream of conscious commentary, it will keep you laughing out loud or flipping pages.

You’ll either want to get out and hike yourself, or stay in your reading nook. Either way – contentment achieved.


FrozenHeartofDread_enotes_blog2) Frozen: Heart of Dread #1

Not to be confused with the catchy Disney flick, Frozen is the first book in a YA fantastical fiction series is about a mystical, post-apocalyptic world covered in ice (yeesh… I got chills typing that).

You’ll follow along with the protagonist, Nat, as she tried to find a non-frozen haven. Therapeutic, right?



3) Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Obviously a classic, but the Chronicles of Narnia stand the test of time as a wonderful winter-themed read to take you away on an adventure. Author C.S. Lewis sets the stage for conquering the Ice Queen and restoring peace & tranquility (and green things!) to Narnia.

I personally keep my copy nearby all winter for a quick escape into the wardrobe of Spare Oom.



4) Game of Thrones series

If you haven’t been told by a Stark “winter is coming” a time or two (or twenty), then you’re missing out. These medieval fantasy masterpieces have it all: romance, deceit, politics, triumph, endless twists, and dragons. Rawr.

Pro tip: The audiobooks are a wonderful way to digest the complex characters and plots. Narrated by the legendary Roy Dotrice, they are sure to keep you on your toes (and… ears?) for many, many hours.



5) Life As We Knew It

This novel is told through the diary of 16-year old protagonist, Miranda, as a meteor striking the moon causes the world to dive into natural disasters and extreme temperature changes. Life As We Knew It kick starts a best-selling series as Miranda copes with this new, unexpected world.

Sip empathetically on your hot chocolate as snowpocalypse, tornadoes, and tsunamis run rampant.



6) The Golden Compass 

Another classic, the Golden Compass is a go-to during winter. Lyra is forced to chase after a mysterious “particle” dust in the Arctic; the dust is rumored to be able to unite the universe. You and Lyra will face shape-shifting soul creatures (Daemons), dimensional worlds, and armored polar bears (of course).


Blankets_enotes_blog7) Blankets

This high-rated graphic novel is a coming of age tale involving first love, budding (and unappreciated) creativity, and loss. The artwork of the graphic novel is as beautiful as the storyline, and might be a good change of pace from traditional novels.

It is a monster of a book (clocking in at 600 pages), but that just means the relatable characters and frosty adventure will keep your fuzzy-feelings around that much longer.


Let’s hear from you: what books help you get through the winter months?

January’s Study Tip: How to Beat the Winter Quarter Blues

Winter is the cruelest of quarters. One day you’re making merry and ringing in the new year, the next you’re expected to have read all of your coursework and to bounce back to student life with the youth and agility of, well, a student…

If you feel the winter quarter sads, try these quick tips to stay motivated for your classes:

1. Jazz up your dorm room

Cheap and cheerful are the operative words here. Because of winter’s short days and long nights, your little space can easily turn gloomy, which in turn will affect your mood and how well you study there. Try injecting some extra light with the help of an inexpensive box of Christmas tree lights. It’ll feel like the good winter cheer never left.
You can find other dorm room decorating ideas on this eNotes Pinterest board.

2. Invest in a light therapy box

Similar to above, if you live somewhere cold getting enough of the sun’s rays can make or break your winter blues. Unless you’re fortunate enough to live in the sunshine state this time of year, you may want to invest in a light therapy box for your desk. Mayo Clinic has some helpful information on how they’re used to treat SAD (Seasonal affective disorder). You may also want to replenish the Vitamin D you’ll be missing with nutrition or supplements.

3. Break up a boring routine

Yes, routines can be great, but if you feel you’re falling into a winter quarter slump because of the day-to-day drudgery of classes, punctuated only by more studying and mealtimes, get out there and find something fun to break up your routine. You could join a club, apply for an internship, audition for the school play, or plan an outing with friends. Anything that gives you something exciting to look forward to is a good thing.

And that, my friends, is how you win winter. Enjoy the season!

January’s Teacher’s Corner Column: Homework – The Great Debate

The philosophy of education in the U.S. is always subject to disagreement and controversy, but everyone can agree on this: It’s never, ever static. The dynamics in education often seem like those of a pendulum swinging back and forth, from one extreme to the other, as policymakers, curriculum designers and book writers continue to define and redefine what are now called “best practices.”

The current Great Debate over homework is a perfect example of the way the pendulum swings in education. In “The Case For and Against Homework” at http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar07/vol64/num06/The-Case-For-and-Against-Homework.aspx, Robert J. Marzano and Debra J. Pickering summarize how homework has been accepted or rejected as a good practice since the early 1900s. Reading the summary is enough to give you whiplash:

Throughout the first few decades of the 20th century, educators commonly believed that homework helped create disciplined minds. By 1940, growing concern that homework interfered with other home activities sparked a reaction against it. This trend was reversed in the late 1950s when the Soviets’ launch of Sputnik led to concern that U.S. education lacked rigor; schools viewed more rigorous homework as a partial solution to the problem. By 1980, the trend had reversed again, with some learning theorists claiming that homework could be detrimental to students’ mental health.

Since the 1980s, the campaign to eliminate homework has marched on with the publication of books and articles and op-ed pieces contending that homework is not only useless but harmful. Today, many schools have banned homework completely, instituting a “no-homework” policy that teachers must observe in lesson planning and instruction.

As always in our profession, however, a change in education theory and best practices is on the horizon. According to Marzano and Pickering, a growing body of research indicates that homework, “when employed effectively,” is, in fact, useful and that “doing homework causes improved academic achievement.” Right now, the pro-homework and the anti-homework forces have squared off, dug in, and begun attacking each other’s credibility and research.

As the debate rages on, Marzano and Pickering’s phrase, “when employed effectively,” is important to note because it implies, correctly, that homework should never be assigned without careful thought and planning. Type “homework” into your favorite search engine, and among the hundreds of articles that pop up you’ll find lots of guidelines, like these:

  • Assign homework that has a legitimate purpose, such as practicing a skill, studying topics that students want to explore on their own, or reading in preparation for instruction.
  • Make sure to consider length and degree of difficulty when designing homework assignments so that students can complete them successfully with reasonable effort.
  •  Keep students’ ages in mind when assigning homework. The older they are, the more likely it is that they will benefit from homework. The younger they are, the less time they should spend on homework and the less likely they are to benefit from it.
  • Since middle school and high school students usually take numerous classes with differentteachers, avoid assigning homework that’s due the following day. Give them some flexibility since they probably have homework deadlines in several classes.
  • Don’t assign homework that’s so difficult or complicated it requires parents to act as tutors.

To learn more about effective vs. ineffective homework practices, check out the two user-friendly charts at Reading Rockets: http://www.readingrockets.org/article/effective-practices-homework. The charts are part of an article that lists five facts about homework every teacher should read before assigning it.

Since at least seven recent studies have shown that homework significantly raises scores on standardized tests, it’s likely that assigning homework will become a “best practice” once again. Meanwhile, until the dust settles, teachers no doubt will do what teachers always do while the theorists are busy debating how to educate kids. They will use their knowledge, training, experience, creativity, and common sense to find the middle ground where learning takes place steadily and consistently from year to year. So thank goodness for that—and for you!

I’ll be back next month with some ideas for second semester. It’s hard to believe that half the school year is over. It’s also hard to believe that 2015 is actually here and not just a fantasy from Back to the Future. I hope it’s a great year for you and your students, even without hover boards and flying cars!

Happy New Year!


Dispatches from an eNotes Roaming Correspondent: New Adventures and Dream Jobs

When I graduated from the University of Washington, I immediately started my dream career.

Was it a position of prestige and wealth, you ask? Am I rolling in Franklins? Am I some rockstar, mogul, or entrepreneur? Have I launched my humanities degree into some lucrative business venture or position of power?


Nope, none of that—after I graduated, I cobbled together several freelance jobs, contract positions, volunteer work, and internships. And now, a year later, I am about to move to Morocco to work as a youth development specialist through the Peace Corps.

For me, a dream career means constant adventure, innovation, and education. I can’t stand staid days of formula and routine. I’m a perpetual student, which doesn’t just mean I’m still considering that PhD path—it means that I actively seek out new ideas and information.

This past year, my first year of Real Adulthood, I have learned so much about myself. I feel secure in my present and excited for my future—and I truly believe that I feel this way because of my patchwork quilt of a career choice.

Everything I’ve been doing has given me insight into my future. I have been working as a tutor and teacher’s assistant, which has solidified my resolve to always work in the education sector. I’ve connected with so many inspiring students—our world’s future leaders and thinkers. I have been volunteering with organizations like the International Rescue Committee and Neighborhood House, which have connected me with grassroots community efforts in my city. I interned with Seattle Arts & Lectures, which meant I got to support amazing programming and work with brilliant local writers. I wrote poems and news stories, which found homes at various wonderful publications. I’m literally doing everything I’ve ever dreamed of in a career: teaching, learning, reading, writing, getting published, and collaborating with smart and caring colleagues.

I specifically want to talk about one of the best opportunities I’ve ever had: this gig right here, writing for eNotes.com as an Editorial Intern. It blows my mind whenever I think about the fact that I actually get paid to annotate Shakespeare plays, examine classic novels, and edit resources for research. When I was a young bookworm, this was what I imagined when I considered the maxim of “following your passion,” but I never expected this dream to come true. I’m living an English major’s fantasy!

Through eNotes, not only do I get to interact everyday with literary greats like Zora Neale Hurston, Harper Lee, Amy Tan, Ray Bradbury, and Chinua Achebe—but also with a community of educators and students from all around the world.

Obviously, the same career path doesn’t work for everyone. Not everyone is like me—a person who gets excited about analyzing gender roles in Macbeth or linking Transcendentalist theories with Romantic poetry (AKA a complete nerd). But even if you don’t idolize John Berryman or Maya Angelou, the lessons I’ve learned from my work experiences can also apply to you.

This is what working at eNotes has taught me about “dream jobs”:

  • Value yourself and make sure others value you. At the beginning of the year, I had a contract position that I disliked. Although I loved the work itself, my supervisors at that company did not respect me. They manipulated my dedication and consistently shortchanged me. It took me a while to realize that my work was worth a lot more than they thought it was. The people at eNotes, however, are the coolest. This blog post is an indication of how great I think they are! They only asked me to write a post about my post-graduate job-finding experiences, but it’s somehow turned into an eNotes-love-apalooza… Even though everyone else here has a lot more knowledge than me, they always value my input—and that means the world. Plus, in this post-grad world of exploitation via unpaid internships, eNotes actually pays interns! That sort of economic leveling makes all the difference.
  • Go for what makes you feel useful and competent. In other words, utilize your strengths. The advice I used to give was “pursue your passions,” but young people would always respond that they didn’t know what they were passionate about. I realized that there’s no need to pressure yourself into that kind of powerful declaration before you’re ready! Instead, focus on doing what you’re pretty good at. At eNotes, the times I felt most fulfilled were the times I took initiative in something small like suggesting a new way to tell students about our Homework Help pages or writing a particularly solid Text Insight. Your contributions don’t always have to be monumental—it’s little building blocks that keep companies and organizations going!
  • Do work that you believe in. Most of the stuff I did at eNotes kept me intellectually stimulated, but gonna be honest—all jobs will have moments of drudgery. However, if the ultimate goal of what you’re doing matters to you, it’s much easier to get through these moments! So even when my eyeballs were about to fall out from scrolling endlessly down Excel spreadsheets and Google docs, I persevered because of my loyalty to the company. The conversations at eNotes are all about helping students and enhancing the education experience. eNotes makes learning easier without resorting to plagiarism or other shortcuts. It’s a company that is inherently ethical and compassionate, not just because it’s a good business practice! This is kind of cheesy, but it’s true that loving the mission of your workplace makes everything more productive and fun.

Whatever your dream job is—even if you’re not sure what it is—these things are really important. I’m applying these eNotes-curated lessons to the next phase of my personal dream career. During the next two years, I will do my very best to remember to value myself and ensure that others value my work, use my strengths to create useful projects, and sustain work that I wholeheartedly believe in. In Morocco, I will be teaching English, facilitating youth skill development projects, organizing girls’ groups, and other grand adventures. I’ll do my best to keep the eNotes community updated!

Yours truly,

Julie Feng

Quick Tips to Make It Through Your Fall Term Finals

1. Find an “Accountabilibuddy”

If you’ve been reading eNotes study tips for a while now you’ll already know the importance of making flash cards and creating a study schedule in time for finals week, so here’s a new tip for you. Make a pact with a friend to be accountabilibuddies; you will agree to check in with and keep each other on the studying track leading up to your exams. If one of you strays, the other is “accountabilibuddyable,” and reserves the right to publicly shame you, or at least make you donate $1 to the procrastination jar.

Read the rest of this entry »

December’s Teacher’s Corner Column: Are We Expecting Too Much, Too Soon?

Teacher’s Corner is a monthly newsletter from eNotes just for teachers. In it, experienced educator and eNotes contributor Susan Hurn shares her tips, tricks, and insight into the world of teaching. Check out this month’s Teacher’s Corner column below, or sign up to receive the complete newsletter in your inbox at eNotes.com.

I recently read an article by Laura Katan in which she shares an anecdote I keep thinking about. At a fair, Katan saw a ten-year-old boy and his mom pass a massage vendor, and she heard the mother ask her son, “Do you want a massage? It may relax you.” Katan recalls she was “incredulous” as she overheard the comment. “Since when do 10-year-olds need to relax?” she asks. Well, apparently now. In fact, there seems to be a lot of kids who need to relax, and most of them are in our classrooms.   Read the rest of this entry »


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