Author Archives: Professor McDonnell

Day Two

Okay, here is what I left in the replies section on another person’s post. I think I am now starting a new thread! I’m still finding this hard to navigate and have not finished the readings because I only just accessed them, but my first impression is to find “Getting on the Right Side of It” fairly problematic in its efforts to examine privilege. This description stood out to me: “Meanwhile, Alice, a light-green-eyed native of Trinidad, also prided herself on her ability to speak “proper” English with a “perfect British accent” (in fact, neither of the two students actually possessed the phonological systems they claimed).” I hope we’ll discuss.

As for my own research, these last few months I have been doing a lot of fear based research about PLAGUES and AUTOCRACY. I also, like much of the country, went deeper into my research about racism and police brutality in this country. All of this research was reactive to real things happening in the world.

As far as PLAGUES, I read a lot of news articles about coronavirus in this country and worldwide. I have curated my social media sites so that I mostly see posts from news sources I have some trust in (The New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian…). I also have ongoing dialogs with friends and family in other states and countries. We regularly share our experiences, perceptions, and research with one another and help one another make informed choices. I also read a YA book called FEVER 1793 with my daughter, and we reflected on the similarities and differences between what the girl experienced then and what we are experiencing. NPR also did a great series recently that I listened to on a long drives.
As for autocracy, I’m reading Masha Gessen and researching the best way to vote safely in November and following candidates up and down the ballot.
As for racism, I joined a study group run by my friend Naomi Extra, who is black and getting her PhD in American Studies at Rutgers. We read the Combahee River Collective statement and had a group zoom discussion where the poet Cheryl Clarke joined in. It was amazing and gave me hope.

I can’t find the readings, but I have been replacing the traditional research paper with an EMPIRICAL one for years. In fact, for some classes, I stopped making it a paper at all. Students start with a question or a hypothesis about something that interests them. At least one of their sources needs to be EMPIRICAL, as in they interview somebody who they can argue is an expert, or they conduct a survey. When they are done, they create a presentation for the class, which I would like to continue if it could be melded with the curriculum here online somehow….

Day One Response


Hi! My name is Caitlin McDonnell. I’ve been teaching English in different capacities for 25 years, from undergraduates at NYU while I was in graduate school, to teaching as a teaching artist (poetry), to getting certified and teaching high school, to returning to college teaching for the past seven years. As for teaching online, I have mixed feelings. I appreciate the flexibility it opens up in my schedule. I miss my students a lot. I think my inner standup comedian is fulfilled by classroom teaching and I have not been able to figure out how to regain that in virtual instruction. I currently teach at both Baruch and City Tech. I also have concerns about adjunct work exploitation, and worry that online teaching might even increase the workload.


In the face-to-face classroom, I always started with having students generate a list of words that they can use to interview one another and write poems or descriptive paragraphs about one another to present to the class. They laugh; they talk to one another; they feel dorky; they either show off or try something new. I find it really breaks us in. I don’t see a way to effectively replicate this online, but plan to add a similar kind of twist the discussion board introductions.


I’m a poet and an essayist, but I’m also, for better or worse, a fairly frequent Facebook poster. Because Facebook has the “on this day” memory feature where you can see what you posted years ago, I can see how my skills writing in this genre have actually developed. I’d say there are different kinds of Facebook posts, almost all of which I’ve participated in at some juncture, (the mysterious (I can’t tell you what but something big is happening).  the rant, the overshare, the cute thing my kid said, and the sharing of political or artistic articles with a commentary attached.