First published on Electric Literature

When I arrived at Bennington College as an undergraduate in 1996, I had almost no expectations for the type of education I was about to receive. What had drawn me there, to the other side of the country, was the promise that Bennington offered: that on this tiny campus that looked and felt more like a boarding school than a college, I would be surrounded by people who were passionate about something.

Personally, I was passionate about lots of things: about fashion history, folk dancing, choral music and hip-hop. But mostly, I was passionate about…


Image courtesy of Pixabay

About 10 years ago, an education consultant named Jamie Vollmer wrote a list. If you are a teacher or a school administrator, there’s a good chance you know about this list, even if you don’t know who Vollmer is. If you aren’t, you have probably never heard of it or him.

On his list, Vollmer details “the ever-increasing burden on America’s public schools” — all the mandates, like special education and Title IX, as well as programs that are not mandated, but so well entrenched that it would be almost unthinkable to remove them, like school lunch.

In its entirety…


Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

“What if instead of ‘behind,’ this group of kids is advanced because of this?”

That’s the question posed by a blog post I’ve seen making the rounds on Facebook. The post considers the idea that there may be silver linings in this global pandemic for those kids who will now be blessed with the opportunity to “enjoy the simple things, like their own backyard and sitting near a window in the quiet” and “notice the birds and the dates the different flowers emerge, and the calming renewal of a gentle rain shower.”

I’m thinking about the imaginary kids that are…


Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

“Hug trap?”

My daughter is waiting for me on the couch. She has built a nest: blankets, old and worn. A squashed pillow. They are crumpled on our couch, and she is waiting there.

This is what she wants: to crash into me, to slap her hands against my body, to press her face against my face, her warm, sour breath fogging my glasses. She wants me to catch her, to squeeze her until she squeals, so she can squirm loose and run free and then come back to do it all over again.

This is work she needs to…


One woman I know got Joey Lucas from “The West Wing,” the calm, clever and capable political pollster played by Marlee Matlin.

Another got Lisa Simpson, poster child of every girl who grew up unafraid to stand up for what she believed in (and almost definitely smarter than most of the adults in whatever room she was in).

Others got the wealthy, accomplished and beautiful Addison Montgomery from “Gray’s Anatomy,”; kooky, gentle and lovely Phoebe Buffay from “Friends”; Harriet the Spy, Jo from “Little Women”; and Arya Stark from “Game of Thrones.”

Most marveled at how accurate they felt the…


I’ve just finished up listening to “Stay Free: the Story of the Clash,” the 8-episode podcast narrated by Chuck D, and besides totally fangirling out over a band I really loved, I started thinking a lot about exactly what made the Clash so great — and discovered that those same qualities could apply to my writing. Here’s what I took away from this podcast:

Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

Do the work

OK, this one is a gimme. But it really struck me how, even at the height of the punk era, when a lot of groups were proud of how little they knew about what they were…


Writer bows over a laptop with hands clasped at the back of their head

In the 1985 young adult novel “I’ll Take Manhattan,” 15-year-old Amanda gets burned when she shares an idea with a powerful person who profits off it without her permission. Amanda quickly learns that she was naive to share her ideas with someone in her industry.

But if you’re a freelancer pitching a story to a publication, it’s not naive to share your idea — it’s simply how the industry works. And sadly, just as Amanda learned, getting taken advantage of can seem like just part of the business.

“You pitch a pub, they turn down your story, and then something…


Dear Amazon,

Can you believe it’s been 20 years? I mean, the time has just flown by.

We were both so different back in 1998 — me, a shy undergrad with a bad haircut and acne; you, an up-and-coming online retailer who had just made the big time by going public.

I mean, at first, I just hooked up with you because I liked your book collection. When my roommate introduced us, I never could have imagined that it would be the start of something like this.

I have to admit, I was seeing a lot of other online retailers…


Frederick Winslow Taylor, eat your heart out.

The pioneer of scientific management would no doubt give at least a nod of professional admiration to the patent filed by Tye Michael Brady of Seattle, Washington, for a “wrist band haptic feedback system.”

This fantastical (and as yet still imaginary) system would employ “radio frequency based tracking of a worker’s hands to monitor performance of inventory tasks.” Furthermore, if the wrist band senses that a worker was moving in the wrong direction, its “haptic feedback system” would vibrate to re-direct the worker to the proper course.

Taylor no doubt would have found…


Photo: Marcin Konsek / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

If you heard about Nancy Pelosi’s 8-hour filibuster-style speech last week, you probably also heard the oft-mentioned fact that she executed this feat while wearing 4-inch high heels.

This fact was breathlessly noted, not just by fashion and industry publications, but also by more mainstream news and culture outlets, and I find myself wondering if this is an achievement that is really deserving of celebration.

Of course, there’s a narrative here about sacrifice. Alongside mentions of her 4-inch heels, it was also noted that she took “only sips of water” during the 8-hour stretch and “barely took time to unwrap…

Emily Popek

Emily F. Popek, a school communications professional and freelance journalist, lives in upstate New York with her family.

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