Tag: teaching

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

My wife (and Bill Belichick) taught me something this week


My wife (and Bill Belichick) taught me something this week This school year has been a change for both Cindy and our children. The children started at a new school and, after 17 years at one school, Cindy moved on and accepted a teaching position at a new school. The children have transitioned nicely. They’re […]

Perspective: To grow in soul


Perspective: To grow in soul The speaker of Thomas Hardy’s poem “The Man He Killed” is a soldier who recalls killing an enemy soldier and realizes had they met under different circumstances they would probably share a drink and a story or two. The speaker hesitates, repeats himself, talks in circles as he tries to […]

Happy Diagnosis-versary! Why you should celebrate your worse day


Happy Diagnosis-versary! Why you should celebrate your worst day An MRI on September 4, 2013 revealed my brain damage. If you have been reading write on fight on for awhile you know all about my broken brain and I don’t want to bore you. And if you’re visit me for the first time–what took you […]

Are we having fun yet?


Are we having fun yet? All summer long I’ve been helping high school 12th graders write their college applications essays. When we first meet, most students see writing as a chore. Writing, like cleaning their room, is something an adult made them do. They assume writing is simply a matter of slogging through 5 paragraph […]

What is a pebble jar and why you should make one


What is a pebble jar and why you should make one Day 20 of the 21 Day Challenge required me to make a pebble jar. What’s a pebble jar? Literally–it’s a jar filled with pebbles. Or in my case, a jar filled with poker chips. Figuratively–each pebble, or poker chip, represents a measure of time. […]