Writer and teacher. Sometimes, I write about teaching.
For me, writing is compulsive, but it never feels self-destructive; it’s the safest medium by which I can confront what scares me.
I've been told my Instagram needs a makeover.
Readers don't have to love you. Do you love you?
Every now and then, I sense I'm talking too much. I have a habit of thinking aloud, due in part, I suspect, to my falling in love with the dialogic approach to learning employed by my favorite teachers in high school. I figure out what I think as I speak.
School Lunches, or, What Cafeterias Taught Me About Seeing
We were sitting at the lunch table, a rectangular piece of school manufacturing with six stools attached to either side, when someone mentioned Caitlin's crush in that way that middle school girls so often do. His name was Tommy McDowley. He was Caitlin's Tommy, and, apparently, as a table, we'd already invented an entire life between the two of them.
Teaching Courage and Teaching for Courage
Not too long ago, I unearthed a personal essay I’d written in high school, in which I claimed that I felt little connection to the Boston area and that I’d decided to move to Montana, live on the plains, and possibly never come back. Now that I’ve had my cake and returned to central Massachusetts, I understand that my upbringing taught me that courage is the greatest conviction I can bring to the classroom, as a student or a teacher.
I'm trying to be efficient. It's driving me manic.
Early last week, I requested that my ninth graders fill out a midyear course evaluation. On it, I asked pointed questions, like the activities that were most and least helpful to their learning and which units were their favorite so far and why. I also left room at the bottom for students to give me any feedback that they'd like. I made the evaluation anonymous; I wanted students to be honest, to share their points of view from their desks without fear that I would penalize them for their candor.
You can always do a Quick Edit.
Once, not too long ago, I wrote a letter to a politician, which got published on a Substack whose daily newsletter was read by at least several thousand people. I’d written the letter of just under 400 words in a two-day period of self-torment, insomnia, and anxiety. Writing it felt urgent, as all things related to politics are urgent, and, at a time when I feared that the hands of every powerful entity were merging into an autocracy that would slowly suffocate me and everyone else, it felt that if I didn’t write the letter, I would be frozen in history’s textbook of disappointments. It was one of those especially heightened times.
- First Place in #200 Challenge
This Heaven We Have, Here First Place in #200 Challenge
There’s an author on Vocal named Raymond G. Taylor, who, at least from what I can tell based on his profile, is one of those prolific, enviable writers who seems to always earn dozens of likes and comments on the stories and contemplations that he posts on a near-daily basis. On Raymond’s own response to this challenge, which he titles, “Sorry, Vocal, but it’s not all about you,” he shares an altruistic commitment to the rest of us:
- Top Story - January 2024
My Decade to Play
I spend the morning of my birthday reading a middle-grade novel about a girl named Arden, who lives in a tiny house with her parents, her brother, and a dog. Today, I am thirty, and I live in the house I grew up in, built by my parents in 1997.
- Top Story - July 2023
Finding a NameTop Story - July 2023
As an illustrator, my job was methodical. Witnesses would give their mental reconstructions to the authorities, who would then relay to me the intricacies, the outlines, the prominence of the space between the eyebrows. Then, I’d infer the specifics. What type of head should it be: broad and brachycephalic? Stretched and dolichocephalic? Or somewhere in the middle? And how does one measure the depth of the palpebral ligament? You wouldn’t think there’d be an intimacy to the upper eyelid, but it predetermines the stroke of the lashes, which suggests the wakefulness of the eyes, the feature that a distraught brother or a bewildered neighbor may be most likely to recognize.
True Love, Now
I’m ashamed to admit that during each of our first three meetings, I entertained the idea that James could be a creep. When we first met, I wouldn’t tell him what school I taught at, even after he knew where’d I’d gone to undergrad and that I thought that the erosion of public discourse could be remedied—or at least stymied—by teaching the Harkness method in English and social studies classrooms. Or that I felt inadequate as I watched weekly copies of the New Yorker pile up on my desk, their edges curling up like the legs of dead spiders. Even so, I wrote down my number on a little piece of notebook paper, so we could meet up again. Part of me wondered if I was stupid. But James said he worked professionally as an editor for the American Psychological Association, and I want to be a writer.