Professor jennifer hurley


On Teaching, Depression, and Tattoos

It took me almost twenty years of teaching to recognize the pattern. Every spring semester, come March, my stress built to an unsustainable point, and I sank down deep into depression. In the spring of 2017, it hit harder than ever, for no particular reason, […]

Grading Without Comparing

In my system of contract grading, my students write a final reflection at the end of the semester discussing their learning in the class. As part of this reflection, they are welcome to make a case for what grade they earned, although it’s wonderful to […]

Is Throwing Out Grades Too Idealistic?

I teach composition, critical thinking, and literature at a community college in the San Francisco Bay Area. For over two years, my teaching has been gradeless, as much as my institution will allow. I assign no letter grades or point values to essays, quizzes, or […]

Slow Teaching

This summer, I’ve been raising caterpillars in my backyard garden. It’s a slow business. Every day, there is quiet, incremental change. Day to day, the caterpillars look mostly the same. But over the course of weeks, a new Monarch caterpillar, only a quarter of an […]

Is Teaching a Sustainable Profession?

After spending a weekend at a retreat with a group of other teachers, I came away worried about whether teaching can be a sustainable profession—whether it can be done over the course of decades, with vigor, love, and increasing excellence. So many teachers I know […]

Why I Scrapped All Lesson Plans

A few years ago, I shared some student essays with my colleagues, as part of a teacher training program I was co-facilitating. I was proud of what my students had done: They had read a series of difficult texts, formulated their thoughts on a profound […]

Student Self-Feedback: One Key to Gradeless Classrooms

The first time I sat down to “not grade” a stack of student essays, I panicked a little bit. To read the papers without giving them a number, letter, or any evaluation whatsoever felt so disorienting that I went crazy providing narrative feedback. That day […]

How Meditation Changed My Teaching

It was an evening class in spring, a literature class held in the geology classroom. Rocks sat immobile in glass cases. Students sat at small tables, equally immobile. This was supposed to be my fun class: “Banned Books,” for literature majors. I had hoped to […]

Words I’d Like to Nix: Assessment

Almost twenty years ago, when I started teaching community college English, no one used the word assessment. Teachers assigned homework and group projects. They gave tests. Then this word started popping up, and soon, it became a major part of our job to “assess” whether […]

Lessons About Process-Oriented Feedback from Art Class

This semester, while on sabbatical from teaching, I entered a classroom as a student. I did so feeling as I think most of my students do: anxious, tentative, and totally lacking in confidence. This was a drawing class, and if I knew one thing it […]