Tag: writing

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 ______.” […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

I turned 39.5 this week so I made a list of 39.5 things I still think are awesome


I turned 39.5 this week so I made a list of 39.5 things I still think are still awesome The other day Cindy kindly informed me that in 6 months I’ll turn 40. “You’re officially 39 and a half!” Like a piece of pound cake before bed, the thought sank and sat in my stomach […]

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 […]

It’s the response that matters


It’s the response that matters It was a tradition of sorts. In the initial months following my diagnosis, after each doctor’s appointment, I would go to the bar Given my deteriorating health, a few pints, and a plate of fried pickles was not the most constructive response, but sometimes nothing soothes a fractured soul like the […]

What we value = the conflicts we endure


What we value = the conflicts we endure I want to share with you something I recently taught my writing students this week. All conflict, whether personal or societal, is simply a conflict of values. Take me, and most adults for that matter, we value hygiene. We value soap and toothpaste. My 9 year son […]