Things I Love Thursday #66

Lit 101 students' work

When my students not only exceed my expectations, they hit them right out of the park

I’m currently teaching this class of students — mostly women — who are studying a unit that is basically Literature 101. Some of them did English in school, but none of them are pursuing a humanities subject now: this unit is a requirement for them, not something they chose. When the term started, a lot of them were bemused about why on earth they were having to do a literature course at all. We did an introductory exercise in which I asked them to list the first ten words that came to mind when they thought about poetry. “Boring”, “pretentious” and “pointless” all came up.

Fast-forward a month: last week we started talking about literary techniques. I decided that, rather than me just producing a Xeroxed A4 handout that they’d probably all just stuff into a folder and forget about, I’d get them to make their own literary techniques resource to refer to. That way, they’d have to go away and research the techniques, and they could put together something to use that would suit their own personal learning style. I told them they had one week, could be as creative as they liked, and that there’d be a small prize for the best resulting handout. I then promptly forgot all about it.

Imagine my utter, utter delight when I walked into the classroom this week and started being handed things like this:

Lit 101 students' work

Lit 101 students' work

^ This student hand-bound her book from scratch and used 100% reclaimed materials, including old envelopes. Meanwhile, check out the booklet below, which has pop-up pages, pull-out tabs and tons of illustrations:

Lit 101 students' work

Lit 101 students' work

One of my favourites came from a student who’d decided to focus on the fact that many of the class find poetry “boring.” She decided to come up with a way to make it Definitely Not Boring… um, success! Check it out:

Lit 101 students' work
“And just like magic, poetry suddenly bored no one.”

Lit 101 students' work

Lit 101 students' work

All of the resources the class came up with were thoughtful, creative, colourful and fun.

Lit 101 students' work

Lit 101 students' work

Lit 101 students' work

One student even went to the trouble of making a “poetree”! It’s made from real twigs she found around the place, and each leaf has a different literary technique defined on it. It clearly took a heck of a lot of thought and effort — and when she produced it from a carrier bag under her desk, it got a huge cheer from the rest of the group!

poetree 002

poetree 001

poetree 006

I’ve had something of an epiphany about my job these past couple of months. Only a few weeks ago I was applying for jobs at universities and going to very stuffy and often downright unpleasant interviews for entry-level faculty posts. Then a bunch of things like this happened, kind of like the Universe was slapping me around the head and going, why the hell would you want to work in a university when community education offers you this sort of stuff?! Now I can’t quite believe I was ever thinking of leaving. I’m so happy to be working in this incredible community (Granton and Pilton REPREZENT!) with these amazing young people. No matter what my expectations are, they’re exceeded. No matter how much I think I’ve seen, I can still be not just surprised, but overwhelmed, by the incredible creativity and flair of my students. This sounds mushy, I know… but these past couple of months have been a massive emotional turnaround for me. I’ve taken stock and realised that actually, I freaking love my job. Thank you, lovely students, and thank you, Universe, for waking me up before I made a massive career mistake!


The Folio Society

My unrequited love affair with the Folio Society has been going on for years. It started when I was about 12 and my parents signed up to be members. When they joined up, they got sent some kind of new members reward which basically amounted to a huge stack of the prettiest books I had ever seen. I remember spending a lot of time perusing the catalogue, folding over many a page, trying to decide which of the incredible gilt-edged, beautifully illustrated, cloth-bound, gift-boxed tomes I would like for Christmas. It was basically book porn.


I was pretty psyched this summer, too, when I found out that The Folio Society were sponsoring what was without a doubt my absolute favourite event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival: Marina Warner, talking about her new book on the Arabian Nights. Not only was Marina on top form (I so fangirled all over everywhere), but after the very fabby event I was chuffed to be handed a free Folio Society gift bag full of free goodies! Thank you very much indeed, Folio Society!


But the Folio Society have now outdone themselves by sending me this utterly gob-smackingly gorgeous special edition copy of The Master and Margarita (full disclosure: in exchange for a mention in this post. But I’d've been happy to shout my love for them from the highest rooftops anyway). This book is super-special to me, and my little cheapie paperback copy is pretty battered and worn-out. This shiny new hardback comes in its own cloth-covered box and I mean… look. Just look at these illustrations!



It’s like Christmas come early here at ONS Towers, it really is!
Anyway, I urge you to go and check out the Folio Society website, because it is full of drool-some delights. The Master and Margarita, which you can buy here, is only one of the hundreds of beautiful books on offer. If you’re a bookworm, you might want to add a few (dozen?) to your Christmas list — if you know a bookworm, anything from the Folio Society store is a guaranteed Christmas present winner! Get shopping!

What are you loving this week?


You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at] I reply as swiftly as I can!

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One Response to “Things I Love Thursday #66”

  1. Linda Kernan Says:

    Dear Claire

    Those students must have put so much love into those offerings! When I was reading it, it went thru my mind that I’d never see anything like that at my university - (apart from Design students maybe) They wouldn’t have the time or inclination if it wasn’t going to be credited. Yes, a Community College must be the most rewarding place to work re job satisfaction.