Category: Writing and writers

Shakespeare: tragedy, comedy…and this.

While getting my sophomore English classes ready to tackle Julius Caesar, we spend time wrapping up our unit on poetry with some Shakespearean sonnets, and then dive into a two-day crash-course in Elizabethan English, in part using a series of Elizabethan-to-Contemporary English ‘cheat sheets’. It makes for a nice segue from unit to unit and … Continue reading Shakespeare: tragedy, comedy…and this.

Shades of Black and White

It was late summer, 1979, and my friend Johnny was dying. Our star fullback in high school, heavyweight wrestling champ, all around BMOC, sat there before me, slumped, in a wheelchair in his parent’s Denver living room. His once chiseled, athletic frame was basically down to half of the 215 pounds he burst through opposing … Continue reading Shades of Black and White

Schoolyear Homestretch: They Know Not of What They Speak. Or Write.

Schoolyear Homestretch: They Know Not of What They Speak. Or Write.

The discussion in my predominately black, tenth grade classroom was focused on racism. We have been working our way through the book A Lesson Before Dying, a wonderful 1994 Pulitzer nominee about a rural Louisiana black man sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit. Set in 1947, the story pre-dates the Civil Rights […]



Since we are on the topic of words and phrases (you are reading a blog) and since both words and phrases have a sneaky tendency to come up in daily life, they need more attention and nurturing than they generally recieve. Your vocabulary, like your car, needs regular care and maintenance to function properly and last … Continue reading Vernacular

It’s all the rage

A few years back, prompted by the writings of my erstwhile high school seniors at the time, I coined a new phrase for a phenomenon I never knew existed.  Two-plus years later, the spectacle I envisioned then came back to my classroom (an entirely different locale and temperament than where the original story occurred) via … Continue reading It’s all the rage


06/24/16 I was leaving the assisted living place we moved my mom into yesterday, and stopped by one of the big day rooms by the entrance; volunteers were setting up for a book giveaway – one thousand books, free to anyone who wanted one. I had seen them earlier on one of my multiple trips … Continue reading Encounter

Reprise: Happily, Less Full of Phil

07/13/16 I learned just today of the passing of a great poet and incredibly influential teacher: professor Phil Dacey. I was finishing up college as a middle-aged non-trad, Phil was in his last year of teaching before retirement, and he helmed my first class at Southwest Minnesota State University. The year - and his tutelage - … Continue reading Reprise: Happily, Less Full of Phil

Do you know what it means, to teach New Orleans?

This is it. For eight school years, my wife Amy and I have been teaching in the public schools of New Orleans. People that have known us for a long time know the basics of the how-and-why we chucked comfortable, corporate life in Minnesota for the chaos and poverty of the inner city classrooms of … Continue reading Do you know what it means, to teach New Orleans?


Old habits of youth die hard, but are easily resurrected. It is July; the heat of the summer of my fifty-fifth year and I am walking along a northern Minnesota country road much as I did nearly a half-century ago. As I walk, my attention centers on the gravel at my feet, though I alternately … Continue reading Backroads

It’s all the rage these days

Prompted by the writings of my erstwhile high school seniors, I coined a new phrase for a phenomenon I never knew existed. ‘Sprite Rage’ It all started with a simple start of class, ‘Do Now’ writing prompt one day a few weeks back. When my students come in, there is a prompt up on the … Continue reading It’s all the rage these days