A former student returns to talk about_______.


As I’m packing up my bag to go home for the day, a former student is suddenly framed in my classroom door. “Mr. Armstrong!” We smile, hug, sit down, and a few minutes into the visit the former student clears their throat and says, “Can I ask you something?” “Sure.” “Do you think about ______.” […]

The Hard Work of Happiness


The Hard Work of Happiness On a recent cold, wind-snapped morning I asked class of college-bound high school seniors a simple question. What brings you happiness? (I know…a dicey question to ask a bunch of bored 17 year olds). Their answers were both surprisingly PG and unsurprisingly boring: Sleep, Saturday, my bed, Netflix, my dog…because all […]

What good advice do you fail to take?


The other day I asked my students, “What good advice do you fail to take?” The answers ranged from “don’t procrastinate” to “live in the moment” to “eat vegetables” to “don’t sweat the small stuff” to “get more sleep.” My students, high school seniors, are primed for advice. Fresh-faced, wide-eyed, eager, energetic, and ready to […]

The Scary Work of Rewriting Yourself


The Scary Work of Rewriting Yourself This week, two years ago, I wrote The Day I Learned I Could No Longer Jump ( or learning to fly). It was my first story piece published in a publication (Generations). The story is one of the greatest leaps personal and writing leaps I ever took. Any writer […]

Cartwheels and Writing


Cartwheels and Writing Haley is writing a story for school. A fractured fairy-tale. Her narrator is the Queen of Hearts, the villain in Alice in Wonderland telling the untold story of how Alice is the real villain of wonderland. I’m impressed. For 5 pages she keeps the story cohesive, free of plot holes, and plump […]

Can poetry save lives?


Can poetry save lives? I’ve been entertaining the question: Can poetry save lives? Here’s why: At the start of the school year my 12th grade students made it clear they knew very little poetry. They knew of Edgar Allan Poe, Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss. Yet when I pressed their poetry knowledge they stared at […]

Why Parents Need to Teach Their Children Bravery


Why Parents Need to Teach Their Children Bravery In the second week at her new school Haley auditioned for a part in the school play–The Lion King. This was a big move for her. Bravery and toughness are not her things. Haley is blue-eyed, blonde-hair, warm-hearted, quiet, and lacks confidence in herself. Which makes me […]

Be the hero of your own story


Be the hero of your own story Your life is a story. A story played by three familiar characters: The hero The hero is brave and courageous. Not always but on most days they try.  The hero embraces their weaknesses and vulnerability. They pursue passions. And listen. And forgive. They enjoy people. Talking and laughing […]

Be a donkey: Meeting Tim O’Brien… again


Be a donkey: Meeting Tim O’Brien…again If you have been reading for a while you know my affinity for novelist Tim O’Brien. His masterwork, The Things They Carried, taught me more about the power of storytelling, the profoundness of language, the danger of absolute truth than any other work. For 14 years I have taught […]

The Happy Place


The Happy Place The other day I heard someone say they can’t wait to leave here and get to their happy place. “Where is your happy place?” I asked. “A beach far away from here.” We all want to change how we feel. However, we convince ourselves that the good feelings we seek are out […]