Family Means Forgiving

Yesterday I delivered my first sermon. It was for the Class of 2017 baccalaureate ceremony at Western Heights High School, where I’m the English department chairman. Some Facebook friends asked for a copy of the speech, so here it is, pretty much just as delivered.

Family Means Forgiving

Hello. Thank you to my colleagues, the parents, and especially the Class of 2017 for asking me to be your speaker today. I know some of you are thinking I’m an odd choice to deliver your baccalaureate sermon, and honestly, I’m as surprised as you are. When I was a kid, my dad would blast Jimmy Swaggart on the turntable Sunday mornings while getting ready for church, and I would stay in bed as long as I could, pretending to be asleep, sick, lame, or dead in hopes I wouldn’t have to go. And now here I am.

I spent a lot of time trying to decide what I wanted to talk about today. Although I am a licensed minister, I’ve only used those credentials to marry people, and I couldn’t find anyone willing to get married today, so I had to sit down and write an actual sermon. I’ve written news stories about teenagers dying while huffing gasoline and novels exploring my own deepest fears, but this was one of the hardest things I’ve ever written. For my topic, I decided to talk about something I wish I’d been told some three decades ago when I was sitting in the audience at Enid High School’s baccalaureate.

Forgiveness is part of what I want to talk to you about today. Forgiveness, family, and avoiding regrets. But let’s start with the family part.

What is family? If you were a senior in my AP Literature class this year you probably expect to hear some John Steinbeck quotes about how there’s only one soul and each of us has a little piece of it and that makes us all family. Well, instead of a quote you got a paraphrase … and I expect you to know the difference.

Romans 12:10 has something to say about who we should consider to be family. “love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. ” First Peter, Chapter 4, verse 8, tells us, “Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.”

My point here is that family extends beyond the mom or dad or grandparents sitting with our graduates today. Sure, we’re all made in the image of God and that makes us family. But beyond that, we share a kinship forged here in these hallways, in the stadium, in this auditorium and in the classrooms. We are a family of Jets.

One of the things that has always struck me about Western Heights is the diversity of our student body and how well we all usually get along with one another. Sure, there are some fights, especially at the beginning of the year, and there are cliques and best friends and bickering and such, but for the most part, despite our differences, everyone gets along with everyone else.

That’s not how it was for me in high school. Races didn’t mix. Economic groups didn’t associate with one another. And stoners didn’t talk to preppies. The Breakfast Club was real, man.

There were over 400 seniors in my graduating class. I didn’t personally associate with more than about 25 of them. I didn’t talk to guys who wore pink shirts or girls who wore bangles. Student Council kids were brown-nosing nerds. Our state champion football team was a bunch of thugs. My grades were average, so I couldn’t chill with the geeks. I didn’t use drugs, so I didn’t even hang out with the kids who shared my musical taste. High school wasn’t much fun, and now, looking back on it, I can see that it was mostly my fault I didn’t have any fun.

We’re human and have to deal with our human nature. We’re cliquish. We’re petty sometimes. We hold grudges. We push our brothers and sisters away from us. Some of you are about to graduate without really knowing your classmates, or maybe you’re holding on to old angers. She dated your ex-boyfriend, or he dented your car, or Sally blocked you on Snapchat and Miguel got that scholarship you thought you deserved.

Things happen.

Time passes.

When you come back for your 20-year high school reunion, do you want to still be holding on to your anger because Mackenzie changed senior quotes to senior thank-yous in the yearbook or because Nayelli ate your lunch or Lakota ran faster than you in track? Take it from someone who has a hard time forgiving, from someone who let prejudices and peer pressure decide who he associated with in high school, you don’t want to walk out of here for the last time with hard feelings or not knowing your family.

Colossians chapter 3 verses 11 to 13 say, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian,* slave, free; but Christ is all and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.”

Matthew 6:14 tells us, “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.” And Luke adds to that in Chapter 6, Verse 37, with, “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”

I’m not one to turn down good advice from other sources. One of my favorite quotes comes from author Elbert Hubbard, who says, “The ineffable joy of forgiving and being forgiven forms an ecstasy that might well arouse the envy of the gods.”

Forgive your friend for not letting you copy that homework assignment. Forgive Mr. Zenati for not rounding that 89 up to a 90. Forgive the referee for his bad calls. Forgiving will bring you joy, even if the offending party never knows or cares that you’ve given it. Do it for yourself.

Some of you know I’m kind of a literature nerd. You’re not getting out of here without a few quotes from some of my favorite books. And if I’m going to quote an author, you know I’m going to start with John Steinbeck. No paraphrase here. America’s greatest author wrote this in his journal during the time he was working on his short novel Of Mice and Men. He said:

In every bit of honest writing in the world … there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other.

If somebody had told me this when I was your age, maybe I would have been smart enough to be open to the advice. Maybe not. If I had, when I went to my first high school reunion maybe I would have actually known the names of people who greeted me instead of simply remembering how she was a snob and he was a jock and that guy was always too stoned to matter.

My next message is for the parents and guardians. My daughter Sara graduated from Western Heights in 2013. When she came here as a freshman I had the highest hopes for her to work with Mrs. Wood and get a ton of scholarships and go to college for free and become the psychologist she’d talked about becoming. As time went on and we were constantly around each other at school, it got to where Sara liked me less and less and I approved of what she was doing with her life less and less until by her senior year we were hardly on speaking terms. Her path ended up being something different than I’d imagined. It was a few years after she graduated before I read Herman Hesse’s novel Siddhartha and found this advice given to the title character in regards to his son. Hesse writes:

Which father, which teacher had been able to protect [his son] from living his life for himself, from soiling himself with life, from burdening himself with guilt, from drinking the bitter drink for himself, from finding his path for himself? Would you think, my dear,
anybody might perhaps be spared from taking this path? That perhaps your little son would be spared, because you love him, because you would like to keep him from suffering and pain and disappointment? But even if you would die ten times for him, you would not be able to take the slightest part of his destiny upon yourself.

And so my message for my fellow parents and guardians is this: Recognize that the young person sitting here today has made mistakes and will continue to make mistakes. They are going to live their own lives and it might not be what you envision. It might not be what they envision today. Be forgiving. Be supportive. Love them no matter how stupid you think they are sometimes. And trust me, there are days I’ll agree with you about that. They have to learn on their own, just like you did. Just like I did. Be ready to welcome home the prodigal once he or she has earned wisdom.

Finally, I’d like to mention Zora Neale Hurston, who wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God, the only book most of my AP seniors liked. I’m taking this quote a little out of context, but she writes that some people “forget all those things they don’t want to remember and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.” Memory is like a fishing net, she says, with the mesh releasing things that aren’t needed and holding in the good stuff. Hurston closes her novel with the protagonist, Janie, sitting on the porch as an older woman with much experience. She writes, “She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it in from the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes.”

As you leave today, I want you to think about your time at Western Heights High School as a fishing net. It’s time to draw in your net. Make sure it’s full of things worth remembering. Repair any relationships that need it. Forge new ones with people you avoided. Never forget that you are a member of the Jet family, and family sticks together.

Teacher Asks for Books

As the fallout continues from the incompetence of the Oklahoma legislature, next school year is starting to come into focus, and trust me, it isn’t pretty. The budget cuts to education are going to be very costly to students and to the teachers who remain in the profession, or are able to keep their jobs.

With 10 years at my school, I’m pretty safe. But we’re looking at much larger class sizes and an emphasis on saving money anywhere we can, which will undoubtedly include paper rationing. This means I will no longer be able to copy the binder of notes I give to my Advanced Placement English students. This is a binder I’ve built over years of teaching that includes many, many pages of vocabulary, test strategies, a reading list, a practice test, etc.

I’m having to look for alternatives to get this test prep information into my students’ hands. And so, I’ve turned to the public to ask for help. I currently have two fundraisers going.

The first one I set up through, a leader in helping teachers get what they need. This one asks for 40 copies of the latest Barron’s AP English Literature and Composition test prep workbook. This is the 12th grade AP English class. With expected class sizes of 35, I went with 40 in case of loss or damage.

The second fundraiser is through The purpose this time is to pay for 40 copies of Barron’s AP English Language and Composition test prep workbooks. This is the 11th grade AP English class. Again, class sizes are estimated at 35, which is actually the across-the-board number for all classes.

I’ll have kids answer the workbook questions on notebook paper, so these books should actually last for several years.

Why different forums for the fundraising? DonorsChoose is a trusted source where the administrators of the site purchase the specified products and send them to the school. In other words, I never actually touch the money. However, the $387 cost of the workbooks becomes a goal of $529 when you add in the administrative fees. When I saw that, I decided to set up the other through GoFundMe and hope that people trust I’ll buy the workbooks. Believe me, it’s much more important to me that my students pass the AP exam than buying anything $387 would get me.

Kids in Need Won’t Find Help

When I was a high school student in the early 1980s I couldn’t have imagined having police officers or Department of Human Services social workers in the building. Now that I teach high school, I can’t imagine doing without them.

But it’s happening.

I’ve already discussed here how we’re down to one officer for our high school, 9th grade center, middle school, and alternative school (about 1,300 students). I’ve since learned he also covers the elementary school just north of our campus, too. This allows kids to roam freely at all hours of the school day; there’s simply nobody available to round them up when they skip class. It also allows for acts of violence like the one that occurred outside my room a few minutes after the bell signalling the start of a class yesterday.

That’s bad, but I’ve talked about that already. I learned recently that Oklahoma’s cuts to the DHS budget is costing us our social worker at the end of this school year. This is our second year to have Katrina in our building and I simply can’t say enough about what she’s done for our students.

I have gone to Katrina countless times about students who need help because a parent, step-parent, boyfriend or girlfriend was physically or emotionally abusive. I’ve taken her kids who were bruised, who were hungry, who needed clothes, who were homeless, who were thinking about suicide. She’s gotten help for them. She literally has been a life saver.

And now, as we’re facing a reduction in force that will lead to bigger class sizes, more work per teacher, and less individual attention per student, we need someone like Katrina more than ever. It’s likely she won’t be there, though. What will happen to those kids? Who will they turn to? Who is going to have the time and energy to care for them?

Not the legislators who refuse to end subsidies for petroleum and wind energy companies. Not the congressmen and women who are considering deregulating schools so cash-strapped administrators can do away with high-priced teachers (who are now the lowest paid in the nation) and hire minimum-wage-earning ex-convicts to save money. The governor won’t be reflecting on their fates as she stares into the new reflecting pool that will be built at the Capitol.

Every seat in the Oklahoma House of Representatives is available this November. About half of the Senate seats are, too. We cannot afford to allow the same kind of people to continue to run our state. Vote for candidates who will diversify our budget and who see the value in a strong system of public education.

Open Letter to Oklahoma Voters and Lawmakers

I am a teacher. I teach English at the high school of an independent district within Oklahoma City. I love my job. I love your kids. I call them my kids. I keep blankets in my room for when they’re cold. I feed them peanut butter crackers, beef jerky, or Pop Tarts when Michelle Obama’s school breakfast or lunch isn’t enough to fill their bellies. I comfort them when they cry and I praise them when they do well and always I try to make them believe that they are somebody with unlimited potential no matter what they go home to when they leave me.

What do they go home to? Sometimes when they get sick at school they can’t go home because you and the person you’re currently shacking up with are too stoned to figure out it’s your phone ringing. Sometimes they go home to parents who don’t notice them, and those are often the lucky kids. Sometimes they go home to sleep on the neighbor’s back porch because your boyfriend kicked them out of the house and his dog is too mean to let them sleep on their own back porch. They go home to physical and verbal abuse. They go home looking for love and acceptance from the people who created them … and too often they don’t find it.

Many days your children bring the resentment they feel toward you to school with them and they act out against peers, property, or their teachers. When I call you I’m told, “When he’s at school he’s your problem.” Or you beat them, not for what they did, but because it embarrassed or inconvenienced you when I called.

Often, they stay at school with me for an hour and a half after the bell rings because they don’t want to go home to you. Reluctantly, they get on the two buses meant to take home students who stay for athletic practice, and they go away for a dark night in places I can’t imagine.

Over 90 percent of the kids in my high school are on the free or reduced lunch programs. The walk hand-in-hand with Poverty and its brother Violence. They find comfort in the arms of your lover, Addiction. They make babies before they are old enough to vote. Or drive. And they continue the cycle you put them in.

Sometimes I get through to a student and convince her that education is the way out of this spiral of poverty and despair. Then you slap them down for wanting to be better than you.

And you, the lawmakers of this state, you encourage it. I hold two college degrees and have been on my job for 10 years. I was our school’s Teacher of the Year in 2014. I teach kids to read the ballots that keep you in your elite position. I teach them to look behind your lies and rhetoric. I teach them to think for  themselves. The compensation of me and my colleagues ranks 49th in the nation, and is the lowest in our region. I currently earn about $18,000 per year less than I did in 2002, my last year as an office worker for an energy company that merged with another and eliminated my job. I feel like my life has purpose now, but, as I turn 50 this year and wonder how I’ll put my own high school-age kids through college, I have to consider giving up helping scores of kids per year so I can afford to give my own children what they need to find satisfaction in their lives.

And what do you do? You whittle away at education funding. You waste the taxpayers’ money so that our great state faces unbelievable shortfalls and massive budget cuts. You take home a salary that ranks 10th highest in the nation among state legislators and you are inept, uncaring, and an abomination to our democratic form of government.

Those kids who stay after school with me? After Spring Break 2016 they can’t do that. You see, our district can no longer afford to pay to run those late buses. Your kids wade through garbage in the halls because we had to release the custodial crew that cleaned at night. Oh sure, we could make the kids clean up after themselves, except our administrators live in fear of lawsuits, and making a kid pick up the lunch tray he threw on the floor has been considered forced child labor. There’s also the very real possibility that a belligerent kid will just take a swing at one of us — again — because he or she wasn’t taught respect for authority at home. Did I mention how we had to let go of our security officers because we could no longer afford them? We now share one single solitary Oklahoma County Sheriff’s deputy with our ninth grade center and our middle school and alternative school. That’s one deputy for about 1,300 students.

We can no longer afford rolls of colored paper or paint or tape to make signs to support and advertise our Student Council activities. This fall our football team won’t charge through a decorated banner as they take the field because we can’t afford to make the banner. There won’t be any new textbooks in the foreseeable future. Broken desks won’t be replaced. We’re about to ration copy paper and we’ve already had the desktop printers taken out of our rooms.

We live in fear that our colleagues will leave us, not just because they are our friends, but because the district wouldn’t replace them even if we could lure new teachers to our inner-city schools during the teacher shortage you have caused. We fear our classes doubling in size.

We fear becoming as ineffective as you are. Not because we can’t or won’t do our job, like you, but because you keep passing mandates to make us better while taking away all the resources we need just to maintain the status quo. We fear that our second jobs will prevent us from grading the papers or creating the lesson plans we already have to do from home. We fear our families will leave us because we don’t have time for them.

I am the chairman of my department. My teachers could easily take other jobs in the private sector where they would make more money, but so far they have chosen to remain teachers because they love working with kids. How long will they continue to put the needs of students over the needs of family? It’s something we’re all dealing with. How far will you push us? What will you do without us when we leave the classroom or leave the state? It’s happening. You know it’s happening, and yet you do nothing.

You, the representatives, senators, and governor of Oklahoma are creating a population of ignorant peasants fit only to work in the oil field and factories you bring to this state by promising those businesses won’t have to pay their fair share of taxes. You leave our kids in a cycle of poverty and abuse while your pet donor oil companies destroy the bedrock beneath us, shaking our homes to pieces while you deny your part in all of it.

Parents, I beg you to love your children the way we love your children. Vote for people who will help teachers educate and nurture the kids we share. We can’t do it alone anymore.

Therapy in 88,404 words

So, yesterday was a good day. I finished the first draft of a novel tentatively titled The Teacher.  This is the first new novel I’ve completed in three years. Needless to say, finally getting over some issues that kept me from writing and actually finishing a new book felt really, really good.

Back when After Obsession was published in 2011 I thought I was finally going to get the break I’d been working toward for so many years. Yeah, Carrie had already made the NY Times bestseller list and was a name, but I wrote half the book, so surely a publisher would be interested in a solo book from me, right? Who knows? The agent we shared for a while seemed dead set against me writing anything with paranormal elements. I wrote two young adult novels, both of which he had me revise more than once, only to tell me he didn’t think there was a market for them. He never sent them anywhere. This led to a lot of self-doubt that really just crippled my creativity. I started a novel last year, but gave it up halfway through because I figured nobody would be interested in it, either. That was my only writing project until I started writing The Teacher in jerks and fits this past spring.

Sometime during the writing, though, the old fire came back and, if you followed my Twitter or Facebook you know that I was hitting pretty respectable word counts for the last couple of weeks of the project. I’m sure it annoyed my wife and kids that my head was always in the story, even when I wasn’t sitting at the computer. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and really only wanted to be unspooling the tale until it was all told.

It was also therapeutic in that it was an opportunity for me to deal with things, through characters, that have bothered me lately. Things like having a daughter become a woman and not needing her daddy so much, spending so much time on the job that you neglect your family, and losing friends due to various circumstances. This isn’t a horror novel. There are no werewolves or ghosts or anything paranormal, and the only person to die is someone we never actually see “on stage.” It was definitely a new experience for me.

I have a couple of weeks before school starts again. In that time I’m going to try to hold on to the rekindled fire I have and finish that Western novel I began last year. There are syllabi to create or update and lesson plans to begin, but … I have to write!

What champions of Common Core are missing

I don’t post about my job as a high school English teacher a lot. Too much information makes administrators nervous, and once I start it’s hard for me to decide where to draw the line. But this post isn’t so much about my specific school, so maybe I won’t end up in the principal’s office. Again. We’ll see.

Today I read what apparently was already an old column by Joel Stein in which he discusses “How I Replaced Shakespeare.” In it, he talks about some of the objectives of Common Core, a method of teaching that most schools — including mine — will adopt by the 2014 school year. In some ways this is simply “replacing one piece of nonsense for another,” as Winston Smith would say in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four. But soon kids won’t know that. (We’ll come back to that.) Common Core replaces P.A.S.S., which replaced something else, which replaced something else, etc. If you’ve ever worked in the corporate world you can relate this nonsense to Six Sigma and all the other philosophies somebody who got paid more than you dreamed up to make you a better worker.

Now, I’m often accused of being too negative. So before I make a startling revelation about why Common Core won’t work, let me state that there is some good here. Oklahoma’s current end-of-instruction exams are primarily multiple choice. The English exam has an essay component, but it only accounts for 14 percent of the final grade. Common Core will require students to write, and to do that they must THINK. Here’s how I think it will work. Students currently read a short passage — fiction, poetry, or nonfiction — and are asked MC questions such as, “The theme of this story can best be described as ___________” and they answer A, B, C or D. What do we know? Lucky guess, or the kid really knew the answer? A Common Core question would be more like, “What is the theme of this story? Support your response with examples from the text.”

Ah. Now we can see what the student really knows. Does he know what theme is? Does he understand how to distill that theme down to a simple sentence? Can he find evidence that supports his hypothesis? And hey, while he’s doing that we can evaluate his spelling, grammar, punctuation, diction and syntax. This is good. This makes the kids think. Thinking kids make happy teachers.

In his column, Stein discusses a conversation he had with Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers — who, along with the National Governors Association, created the Common Core. According to Stein, Wilhoit said CEOs and university professors pushed for Common Core to happen. The only people who opposed it were lovers of literature. Stein writes:

“That happens to be a lot of high school teachers,” Wilhoit said. But students aren’t reading nonfiction on their own, he added, and their history-class assignments tend to be short textbook summaries, not primary sources. “It’s not a good trend, ” he said. “I guess it’s a by-product of the media world we live in.”

So … the only people opposed are the ones who have to actually implement the plan? Hmm. Success is assured! Stein, who seems a sensible man, points out the ridiculousness of this.

But if you ask me, that’s a failing of history classes, not English. Among the nonfiction the Common Core curriculum suggests are FedViews by the Federal Reserve of San Francisco.

Who the hell wants to read FedViews? The boringness of the very name makes my head wobble toward the point where it wants to slam against my desk while I reach for my cell phone to check Facebook for news of the zombie apocalypse. We would give up Orwell for FedViews? C’mon!

Switching to a focus on non-fiction doesn’t excite me and I think it’s a bad idea. But most any English teacher would tell you that. If we really want to fix education, I have a different idea.

And this is where I might get myself in trouble. The CEOs and university professors and even Stein himself seems to have missed a vital variable here. This was true in the 1980s when I was a student and it was evident in full force when my son graduated from his high school a few years ago and it’s a real problem where I teach. You see, history classes are often … overseen … by guys who were jocks in school but not good enough jocks to go pro, so they decided to become high school coaches. The way to do that is by getting a teaching certificate. This requires they sit through a few hours per day with kids before they get to plan and practice for the next game or meet or match, but movies and worksheets they don’t grade will keep those kids busy while he watches ESPN or reads the sports page.

Hold on! I know many history teachers who really teach. Yes. Some are good friends of mine and I respect and admire them for what they do and they are intelligent enough to know that if they truly teach their subject I am not including them here. If they’re honest, they’ll also admit they have colleagues who do exactly what I have described. My son’s history teacher was the head football coach. My son would often turn in papers on which he’d written … well, things that were not the correct answers over and over and he’d earn a grade of 100. I have a student who is failing six of his seven classes, but he has a 100 average in his history class. This is not new, and sadly it is not uncommon.

English teachers typically take on their job because we love literature. We love language. We love communicating and we know that nonfiction will teach us facts but fiction teaches us truths.

What am I getting to? We don’t need Common Core anymore than we needed P.A.S.S. How about we hire laymen as coaches and teachers as teachers? And make athletics an extracurricular activity that has to be earned instead of a blow-off class that pulls half the teachers out of the classroom one (and sometimes two) period(s) every day? How about we get rid of schools’ help wanted ads that read, “Football coach wanted. Teaching field open.” No, I am not joking; I have seen those ads. How about we get the politicians and the booster money out of the school and put in teachers who love their subjects? How about we enforce some discipline among the students and hold parents accountable? Can we instill respect for themselves and their school and community so that they want to learn and improve themselves?

It won’t happen, of course. Common Core will follow P.A.S.S. into the ashes. Students like mine who took their American History EOI a couple of weeks ago will continue to realize that watching movies and getting easy 100s on every assignment left them totally unprepared for the test that will determine whether or not they have to retake the class. And schools will continue to look for good coaches and will continue to do what the state tells them to, even when they know it’s wrong.

And soon the proles won’t remember that we were at war with East Asia yesterday. We have always been at war with Eurasia.

Dead Teachers Society

Before Christmas break I had my English 3 class reading and writing poetry. It was going like everything else. They hated the reading and their writing was all about how thug they are, how they be smokin’ Mary Jane and gettin’ it all the time, yo. Their subject matter was garbage for the most part, but they liked the writing.

So, when we reconvened, with seven school days before I have a student teacher joining us, I thought we’d continue with some poetry before starting something new, focusing on Walt Whitman mostly, and then watch Dead Poets Society, a movie I’d only seen once back when it first came out on VHS. I had to order a DVD from eBay. I watched it tonight and it made me think about what a failure I am as a teacher.

I had more kids fail last semester than I’ve ever had fail before. I’ve been blaming the kids. They don’t do their work. They won’t participate in discussion. They won’t pay attention. They don’t care. All that’s true, but it’s my job to inspire them. And I haven’t done that. I think some of the reason is exactly because of what Dead Poets Society is all about. I’ve tried to be unorthodox like Robin Williams portrayed Mr. Keating in the film, but when the students don’t immediately respond, I drop the act.

It shouldn’t be an act. I am excited about literature and writing and I should express that every hour of every day. If they’re not going to do anything, they’re not going to do it whether I drone at them about rhyme schemes from the front of the room or prowl among them preaching how the truth of poetry is as important as scientific facts. So I might as well do what I want and make it fun for me, at least.

On Monday we’re reading and analyzing Whitman’s “O Captain, My Captain” before starting the movie on Tuesday. Perhaps it’s time for a fresh start.