Why We Love Our Classes

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Creative Writing: Fiction

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Creative Writing: Fiction





Our classes range from critical lectures to fun and exciting workshops here at Chadron State. Each professor is different and it provides for a range of classes and not just straight lectures. We can go into discussions about the meaning behind Wordsworth’s poem “Nutting” or discuss Gareth Hinds’s graphic novel version of “Beowulf.” We can learn about how John Smith really acted or about writing stories.

Our classes also use a range of different instructional methods. You may be asked to tweet about what you have read or discussed in class. You might get to blog about education and English. Don’t be surprised when tables are moved and you are sitting in a square to review a classmates story.

We love our classes because they provide a variety of different styles and teach us what we need to know. Variety is a great way to break the monotonous task of going from class to class. Each professor is different and the classes reflect that. You will be excited to go to class just to see what the professor has in store for you!

As a college student, there will be classes that you love and classes that you hate, but as an English major, I love almost all of my classes.

One of the reasons that I absolutely love my classes is the OPEN DISCUSSION. When you are discussing a piece of literature in class, your professor wants to hear your interpretations and what you think about what you read. They want you to share your opinions and ideas. I don’t know about you, but I like this idea of a classroom as opposed to having someone lecture at you for an hour and put you to sleep.

I also love our classes because our professors are excited about what they talk about! When a teacher is not excited about the material they are covering, class is so boring and awful to sit through. When your professor comes into the room ready to dive into a deep and interesting conversation about the material that you are covering, you want to go to class. Especially when you really have no idea what in the world the conversation can lead to. The professors always seem to have the element of surprise when it comes to class discussion.

Another ginormous reason that I love my classes is that there is not any homework that I find is pointless. As a pre-med major I was constantly doing worksheet after worksheet after worksheet for my classes and I abhorred it, with a passion. It was even more frustrating when the homework did not seem to make sense or correspond with what we were learning. As an English major, I have never done homework for a class that I thought was pointless and did not make sense. Most of our homework is simply reading the assigned piece of literature for the next class period so that we are ready for class discussion. Some of our teachers even have us Tweet what we thought about the reading, and that is pretty exciting stuff.

Being an English major is exciting and fun, especially when you have classes this great.

Why We Love Our Professors

Dr. Coughlin

Dr. Coughlin is a new professor here at Chadron State College. He is just finishing up his first semester of teaching, and the students love him. He is a teacher that doesn’t just stand there and lecture or just holds group discussions. He is always walking around, he breaks up lecturing, discussions, and activities, and he likes making things interesting. When thinking about why people liked Dr. Coughlin so much, I talked to a couple other students about what they liked about him.

Holly A. describes Dr. Coughlin as enthusiastic, happy, and encouraging to new writers. This is definitely the truth. He genuinely loves what he teaches and is always happy. He will joke around and bring up random facts, stories, or even music videos to liven things up and make everyone happy too. Dr. Coughlin is always very encouraging for new writers. He doesn’t tear a story apart when he reads it, he provides genuine feedback. He also never tells a student that their story is bad.

Maryah H. describes Dr. Coughlin as passionate about what he does, really supportive, always willing to help, and he goes out of his way to make sure you’re confident and willing to do what you need to do. Again, so true. He is always there to help and willing to answer questions. He is so supportive, especially when it comes to writing. You can always go in and ask him questions and he will help you with whatever he can. Dr. Coughlin pushes his students, but always thinks about them too. In Creative Writing: Fiction, we do many writing workshops where different students present their work to the class and the class discusses the work. While he knows reading your own work aloud can be terrifying, he does require it on a minimal scale. He is very considerate of the authors and students.

Dr. Coughlin is an awesome professor who will go far here at CSC. If you have the chance try to take one of his classes. You learn a lot and have fun at the same time!

Dr. Tucker

Dr. Tucker is one of the professors at Chadron State College in the English Department, one of the many teachers that we love to have in class. Dr. Tucker teaches Humanities. I had no idea what to expect when I read the syllabus for his class before arriving at class. And I really did not know what to think when I saw the list of books we had to buy,  but Dr. Tucker’s class was definitely one of the best classes that I have taken.

Dr. Tucker was an enjoyable teacher because he made things interesting. He taught you how to analyze a reading in order to find the subtext behind what was actually written. He asked questions that really made you think. There were many times that I walked out of that class with a headache from trying to wrap my head around the things that he asked us in class.

Another thing that I really liked about Dr. Tucker is that he was realistic with us. He knew that we would not start the paper that was due until the morning that it was due, so if we came to class that day we got extra credit points for not being worried about our paper, since we were obviously working on it. He definitely did not tip-toe around the tulips with things either. He is going to give it to you straight and I really like honesty like that from teachers.

Dr. Tucker also has a very interesting lecture style. He keeps you engaged the whole time. I never missed his class unless it was a life or death situation. I loved listening to him lecture. You could learn a lot just listening to him talk. He is a very wise man. I asked a fellow student, Garret Dockweiler why he like Dr. Tucker’s class and he said that he also like how he lectured. Another thing that Garret liked about Dr. Tucker was that he could make any complicated reading seem simple.

Dr. Tucker is one of the best teachers that I have ever had and I highly recommend his class to students.

Dr. McEwen

One of Dr. McEwen’s strongest traits is that he has a keen ability to monitor student progress, see how they can improve, and push them to strive for better results. He dispels valuable nuggets of wisdom during class that applies outside the classroom. Dr. McEwen tells odd jokes and has a good lecturing style that can be appreciated. He is eager to help his students, almost begging them to come in to his office to see him.

Dr. McEwen is a teaching veteran of about 40 years, so he knows what he is doing. He has a large collection of Native American regalia in his office. He likes hot sauces, as told by his collection of Tabasco bottles.


Dr. Elisabeth Ellington

Dr. Elisabeth Ellington teaches the English language arts courses usually taken by prospective educators. She teaches extemporaneously, and the students are left to themselves to pursue their own learning in their own way. Don’t ask for specifics about anything because you’ll learn by doing. Prepare to stumble a few times, but the effort is all that counts.

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Dr. Evertson


Dr. Wilburn

Dr. Miller

Dr. Miller is an incredible teacher, along with being an amazing person. His classes are about discovering yourself as a writer, and striving to push the comfort zone once you know where you stand. Dr. Miller is invested in each individual student: their writing, their progress, and their development through it all. Dr. Miller’s always leaves students with a choice, not to say there won’t be work to get done (oh the work).


Top 10 Reasons To Be an English Major

1. PASSION!!! Your teachers and your fellow students will be passionate about what you are talking about in class.

2.The class sizes are very small and the students are conversational!

3. You get to explore a wide range of human emotions and experiences! Have you ever read Uncle Tom’s Cabin? Talk about emotion!

4.We learn more than just literature, its hidden meaning, and how to draft it. English is implicitly interdisciplinary through the consideration of the human condition. We leave class every day with new thoughts and an ever growing knowledge of the human condition.

5. Critical Thinking

My English classes have helped me become critical. Okay, I realize this may not seem like a great asset, but it is! I’ve learned how to look at the world critically, questioning phenomenons, beliefs, and perspectives.

After oodles of English classes (over 30 credits to be exact), I consider myself a critical thinker. I can consider perspectives, evaluate them, and then reevaluate my own beliefs.

Without reading a variety of authors and genres, I honestly am not sure if I would have the critical thinking skills that I have now. I am grateful for the skills I have gained through my English courses.

6. The Other English Majors

It is hard to find someone that doesn’t share an interest or two with you. I have made awesome friends in the English department! It is fun and exciting every day! Plus, who else would understand all of your literary jokes!!!


7. #cats – Let’s face it. We all love cats and we all love sharing our cat pictures on Twitter!

8. Social media in class! We love to Tweet and we love to eat and we LOVE to blog!

9. Beowulf!! It is the most epic reading you will ever get to read whilst being an English major. Seriously, thank your British Literature teachers if you have this opportunity!

10. Picture books and read alouds! Every now and then you will be lucky enough to have a teacher read a great children’s book to you aloud during class.


Friday Five: Spoken Word Poetry

I’ve been sharing a lot of spoken word poetry in my classes this semester. Here are five of my current favorites.

If you’re new to spoken word, Sarah Kay’s TED Talk, “If I Should Have a Daughter,” is a terrific introduction to the form. She shares her journey to becoming a poet and writing teacher and performs two of her poems:

Teacher Clint Smith cautions us on “The Danger of Silence” in this TED talk:


It’s hard to choose just one poem by Phil Kaye, but I’m going with “Repetition”:


Malcolm London’s “High School Training Ground” highlights what really needs to be reformed in education (also, he’s only 20 years old!):

After you listen to Daniel Beaty’s powerful “Knock Knock,” be sure to read the children’s picture book he wrote based on this piece:

10 Tips for Bloggers: Finding Topics and Motivation

10 Tips for Bloggers: Finding Topics and Motivation

Many students who start blogging as an assignment in one of my courses tell me they want to keep blogging after the course ends–only they aren’t sure how to find topics to write about or motivation to post regularly once they’re no longer blogging under deadline as part of a graded assignment. Here are 10 tips to help bloggers write and publish.

1. Identify what you have to contribute or share. Think of your writing as offering items of value to your reader. What do you have to contribute? What do you have to share that will be valuable to another reader? Often in blogs, what’s valuable is the thought process of the writer, the invitation your writing offers to others to think more deeply or reflect.

2. Read other blogs. One of the best ways to figure out what kind of blog you want to write is to figure out what kind of blog you like to read. I read blogs to learn more about the subjects I’m passionate about (education, children’s literature, books, cooking), to be inspired, to be entertained, to be pushed to think more deeply about my work and myself. What kinds of blog posts appeal to you? Lists? Long reflective posts? Humorous posts? Try to write the kind of post you want to read.

3. Know your target audience. My target audience is my students, most of whom are pre-service teachers, and other educators. Many of my most popular blog posts have been suggested by my students or written in response to other teachers’ questions or posts.

4. Participate in weekly memes. Book bloggers can find a list of daily book blogging memes at Bookshelf Fantasies. Mama Dweeb collects a variety of blog memes that bloggers can participate in.

5. Post consistently. It doesn’t matter how often you post new content every week: it only matters that you do post consistently. Are you a once a week blogger, a daily blogger, or somewhere in between? Knowing how many days per week you will post new content helps you manage your writing life and helps your readers know what to expect from your blog. Blogging is a habit: once you establish the habit, it’s much easier to follow through and write.

6. Commit to a weekly schedule. Once you identify the types of posts you might write and decide how often you want to publish new content, commit to a schedule. I make sure I finish books every week so that I will have something to write about in my “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” posts. I check the Top Ten Tuesday topic so that I can begin brainstorming my list. Throughout the week, I collect small moments that I want to celebrate on Saturday.

7. Prewrite and schedule posts. Once you know your schedule and what types of posts you’ll be writing and publishing, you can identify chunks of time when you can do more writing, draft posts, and schedule them for later publication.

8. Keep an ideas notebook. Once you start looking for ideas for blog posts, they’re everywhere. Since many of my posts are about reading and teaching, I jot down questions, observations, experiences, and topics I might blog about throughout my day at work.

9. Build an audience. It’s so much easier to find the motivation to write when you know you have readers who want to read your writing, who are expecting you to post, who will comment on your work.

10. Perfect is the enemy of done. Blogging requires a special kind of discipline for the perfectionist who wants to revise and polish a piece of writing endlessly before publication. Blogs are meant to capture thoughts about current events. It’s okay if they’re half-baked. It’s okay if they’re unfinished. It’s okay if they represent the best version of thinking you can do on that day–even if you know it’s not the best version of thinking you’ll ever do on that topic. If I were to write a list of top 10 tips for blogger next week, it might be quite different from the list I’ve written today.


 Additional Resources:

At my blog, The Dirigible Plum, I’ve shared my own blogging process, How I Blog: Topics, Structure, Time.

Kelsey Empfield shares her suggestions for overcoming blogging writer’s block in Blogspiration.

Sacha Chua has identified every excuse you might make for avoiding blogging and come up with a solution. Her No-Excuses Guide to Blogging should inspire dozens of posts.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Were Hard for You to Read

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Were Hard for You to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a book meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish. This week’s topic: Top Ten Books That Were Hard for You to Read. I decided to poll some of our English majors and students in my British Literature survey class to find out what books they’ve found hard to read. Surprise: Twilight made the list–twice!

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Melissa‘s choice: The English Major by Jim Harrison.

Since I’m a not a conventional, or very good, English major, I would count most of the traditional assigned canon as difficult books to read, but the books I’ve had the hardest time finishing are novels that include incorrect details about things or places I have experience with.
Jim Harrison’s book The English Major took a road trip through north central Nebraska where I live and got details wrong about places and used language that didn’t ring true about ranching and farm equipment. I finished the book because I love Jim Harrison’s work but threw the book down in disgust more than once.
The late Stephen J Connell, the television producer, wrote a series of detective stories that weren’t great works of literature but were fun to read. Until one including a lengthy chase scene through a dairy farm that was so unbelievable that I didn’t finish that book or read another. I can live with unrealistic car chases and shoot outs or ridiculous sex scene language, but anatomically impossible cows standing placidly in the pasture while three guys belly crawl under them and then shoot at the bad guys was a book-thrower.
Tristen has some strong words about Twilight:
The hardest book I ever read was Stephanie Meyers’s Twilight. Everyone else was reading it saying it had a strong female character and I didn’t want to be that guy who wouldn’t read it just because it was cool. Turns out it was 300 pages of a girl whining because she couldn’t date a vampire. I got through it, and now I feel justified in saying that it’s terrible.
Twilight was Amanda‘s hardest book too:
Oh my goodness, I felt like my brain was dying with every word and each scene made me splutter in female outrage.  I wanted to punch the people who had recommended that trash to me really hard in the throat.  This book encourages young women to not only enter into risky relationships, but that their existence is only validated when they have multiple guys chasing after them.  Granted this is not a new literary concept, but the least she could have done was write it with more style than a melodramatic seventh grader!  I swallowed my pride and hazarded reading the next two sequels in the hopes that it would improve.  Needless to say, IT DID NOT!!!  I absolutely refuse to pick up the final installment in her incredibly awful series, and I can say with certainty that I am neither Team Edward nor Team Jacob.  Frankly, I’m team I Don’t Understand Why This Was Ever a Bestseller.
Zach nominates Dune:
The hardest book I think I’ve read is Dune by Frank Herbert. What made Dune so difficult was the number of new terms and phrases that the author did not define until later in the book. It was like reading a book with two different languages and not being able to read one of them.
varieties of disturbance
Holly selects a book that I assigned in Contemporary Literature last year (Sorry, Holly, and I’m kind of right there with you on this one!):
The first thing that popped into my mind was Lydia Davis’s short story collection Varieties of Disturbances. I get frustrated just thinking about it. The writing isn’t poor, but the content is. It’s dry, it’s pretentious, and overall I didn’t see the point. I’ve never been more relieved to put a book down after I finished reading (most of) it.
great expectations
Jeff decides that Great Expectations is the hardest book he’s read:
Describing a book as “hard” is pretty multi-faceted, but the hardest one I’ve had to read to date has probably been Great Expectations. The thing is so draconian in length that keeping track of all of the characters and their changes, the thematic material, and even the plot can become a chore after awhile. But, that’s just me!
waiting for godot
Christian targets Waiting for Godot:
I have a great play! It’s about two people, Vladimir and Estragon, who wait for a man named Godot, who (spoiler!) never shows up. Tragicomedy in two acts!? I don’t know what was so funny about wasting my time, but it sure was tragic!
heart of darkness
Analise has bad memories of studying Heart of Darkness in school:
The story didn’t appeal to me, but we were forced to read and analyze the story. It was a terrible book that had me wanting to chuck it out the window.
divine comedy
Clint had to read the Divine Comedy in school! That’s one ambitious classroom!
The hardest book that I’ve ever read was The Divine Comedy because it was originally written in Italian and later translated to English, and when something old like that is translated into English it tends to be hard to read.
Maggie chooses Civilization and Its Discontents:
I had a lot of trouble tracking what Freud was trying to say. It became too lofty at times for me to understand as easily as I normally do. Freud also has a really challenging writing style that is hard for me to get into.
around the world
Kelsey struggled with Around the World in Eighty Days:
The hardest book I’ve ever read was Around The World in Eighty Days, recommended to me by my younger brother. I didn’t find the characters or plotline relatable but I still finished the book just to say I finished it. Although the end of the book was significantly better than the beginning, I finished the book widely disappointed.
What book has been the hardest for you to read?
My Name Is Elisabeth and I’m a Book-Startaholic

My Name Is Elisabeth and I’m a Book-Startaholic

I will be the first to admit I have a problem: I’m a book-startaholic.

That’s different than being a bookaholic. I’m one of those too. And I know I find myself in good company in an English department, working with English majors as colleagues and teaching English majors as students.

But I’m not sure that too many other people suffer from book-startaholism, which I define as the compulsive need to start new books even when you’re reading five (or ten or twenty) perfectly good books that you’re enjoying and actually want to finish.

Right now, I’m reading these books:

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And these books:

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Oh yeah, and these books too:

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And these stacks don’t include what I’m reading on my Kindle or for my classes.

I’ve always read more than one book at a time, but lately the compulsion to start new books seems to have gotten much worse.

Partly it’s the classic problem of the bookaholic: so many books, so little time. Despite research that proves the contrary, I want to believe that multi-tasking really works, so surely I can finish more books if I read more books at the same time.

Partly it’s “grass is greener” syndrome. I’m reading a lot of books I like right now, but not one of them is changing my life. So I keep searching until I find that life-changing book that I have to stop everything to finish.

Often, it feels like it takes less mental effort to start a new book than to try to re-immerse myself in a book I’ve already started.

And certainly my condition is exacerbated by my apparent inability to stop buying books. The arrival of a box of books from Amazon almost guarantees that I will start two or three new books before bedtime. And don’t even get me started on library hauls.

I have every intention of finishing at least one of the books in those stacks tonight. But those books have a lot of competition. The six new middle-grade novels I just got from the library beckon. The stack of new picture books that are already getting Caldecott buzz. The clinical textbook on attachment that I’m pretty sure contains just the nugget I need. The volume of Mary Oliver’s poetry I unearthed this afternoon. The graphic novel I borrowed from a student. Any one (or more) of those books may prove more alluring than the couple of dozen books I’m currently in the middle of reading.

Is it just me? Or do other readers also have a habit of starting far more books than they finish?


Featured Photo CC-BY Silke Gerstenkorn