Royal Oak Our Real Voices

For an antidote to the attention Royal Oak Middle School has garnered in the past week, click  go to National Writing Project’s Letters to the Next President site.  Teens from all over the country have posted their informed viewpoints and added their voices to a national conversation about issues that matter to them.  About 80 of the letters are from students here at Royal Oak High School.  The viewpoints span the political spectrum.  The site is searchable in a variety of ways, although you cannot search for specific authors.  Students publish by first name.  As long as you’re there, though, why not just browse?  It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the kind of respectful dialogue of ideas that builds bridges, not walls; that democracy craves, and which our future voters are proving they are willing to have.

For Legacy

After the power went out I promised some video footage of Finnegan playing in the leaves. My phone camera skills are pretty weak, so here’s a before (or during, I guess) and after shot.

If power corrupts, maybe it was good to have a day without. Looking forward to tomorrow when we get back to making the kind of yearbook that will make the world a better place.



A Thank You Note for Teachers

Teachers like people.  And I think that the first thing we do when we meet someone is look for reasons to like them.  How could we not?  It seems like a pretty fundamental first response for someone whose entire life’s work is based on a belief in helping people find the best in themselves and learn to make it better.  But I was reminded of this in two big ways this past month. One was the great pleasure of having guests from Germany, and the other was having the opportunity to present about the work I do with students at the #ECET2Detroit conference.  For the latter colleagues, here are the links I promised you.  Click here for my presentation on assessing peer feedback.  The rubric I shared with you was developed by Susan Golab at Oakland Schools, Dr. Melissa Meeks, and me.  Click here for that rubric.     It was a pleasure to be part of ECET2Detroit.  Andrew Henwood’s presentation on Standards based grading gave me some goals for myself, and Peter Markus’ on poetry reminded me of my roots in this profession.  I’m grateful to the organizers of the event, the teachers I met, and to all the teachers — I think I can say this without hyperbole — in the world.  We do what we do because we know there is hope for the future.  And for my friends from Germany, ein andenken.20161029_150815

The Art of Photography

To me the images developed in the anecdotes both create powerful appeals to emotion, but also support the line of reasoning. Photography after all is about images.

Lindsey's Blog

I can see the sun breaking through the trees, catching my attention, pulling me outside. The ground feels wet, and when I hit the rock path I am suddenly aware of my bare feet stinging, but easy to ignore. I can feel the strong winds, blowing my hair into a tangled mess of knots. I can sense the water poking my toes, and rushing back to the safety of the harbor. I can hear the buoy in the distance, ringing and ringing, reminding me of the vast world beyond my sight. The lighthouse light flashes a bright green, daring to distract me from the sunset before my eyes. I am alone, seeing that no one else bothered to come down to the water’s edge, where the waves are more friendly, saying a quick hello as they introduce you to the chilling temperature of Lake Superior. It feels as if I…

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The Art of Tap Dancing: My Art Argument

I found the commentary that was provided to explain non-anecdotal evidence to be really compelling.


Thorp 1

Finnley Thorp

Mr. Miller


For the first time in about 3 years I will hopefully start up tap dancing again. I started when I was 5 years old. I instantly fell in love with the noise I could make by stamping my feet on the floor and the rhythm I could create by tapping my toes. I stopped tap dancing because I had to choose between playing basketball or dancing and I chose playing basketball. But this year, the musical Anything Goes, involves a lot of tap dancing so I decided to give it a shot.

Tap dance is a form of dance characterized by the sounds of tap shoes hitting the floor to make rhythmic beats. When most people think of tap dance they probably think of the shoes that go with the dance and think that’s all there is to it. In reality tap dancing…

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Opening Day

Although ultimately excellence might be defined has having skills no one else has, I think most people are capable of doing amazing things as long as they possess the one skill of knowing when to do what needs to be done.  No one on this team has any set of amazing skills, but in my opinion this is worth watching again and again.  Each of these guys does exactly the right thing at exactly the right time.  This isn’t about soccer, it’s a writing lesson.  Think about it as we head into the year.   What are the skills you possess as a writer?  How do you know when to use them?



A Birthday Poem for Owen Turning 18

Of her teenage days without a home

the woman says, “But there were parts

I wished would last forever.  The mountains

as the sun rose, watching from inside

a moving boxcar.”


For me, it was the water

in the marl spring, that bubbled

up out of the clay within dim

shadows of the cedars

too clear to see until we bent

our faces down to drink before

we headed back to camp

on one October night.


Most people if they’re lucky

see a landscape they remember

for the moment that it made the world

seem real, a place

that they would never want to leave.


The really lucky people, I believe,

are those who find a way to

see that landscape everywhere

in each new moment of their lives.

July 3rd Poem

To paraphrase a lot of different writers, one of the tricks to writing every day is that you  have to write even when you don’t know what to write about.  The past week and a half has been my travel time for the summer.  I’m just catching up on reading all the posts people have been working on, and I’ll probably start re-posting soon so that those of you who are following me but not each other can read the things your classmates are writing.  My goal for this summer was to write a poem a day, which was an idea I got from a friend who did it for national poetry month.  I’ve been keeping up, as long as you don’t count quality.  I don’t.  If anyone needs something to play around with, this is something I started  on July 3rd.  I see it as the end of a longer poem, but I don’t know where to start.  I want it to have two more stanzas, each with six lines.  I would put them before this, but if you wanted to bother to finish it, you could put them anywhere, so this could be either the beginning, the end, or the middle stanza.

Any of you who choose to take this on will have my undying respect and appreciation when school starts in the fall.  If more than one of you does it, my favorite wins a cookie or something once we’re back in school.

The sky is white and still

water droplets cling to the empty bird feeder

falling each time the sprinkler makes another pass

the insistent cardinal calls from beyond the hedge

and I with so much to look forward to

cannot decide what I might think about.





6 Reasons Why Photography is Important

dynamic high

1. It lets you tell a story

Whether it is a true story or one left to the imagination, the full story or just a sliver of it, photographs provide a great medium for storytelling.


2. It freezes time

Time is a slippery thing, never staying in one place too long; sometimes you can catch up to it for a moment, but you can never capture it. Except, that is, in a photograph.


3. It gives you a new perspective

Taking photographs lets you see things in a new light, as if from different eyes.


4. You become the artist

Sure, you need a scene to photograph, but you create that scene. A tree can be bland and boring from the wrong angle, but from the right one, it is a thing of beauty.


5. It expresses emotions

Whether your own or someone else’s, photographs share people’s feelings.


6. It makes you…

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Puppy Preview #1

On July 6th we bring home our dog.  Finnegin is the name we decided on.  I’m excited and nervous.  There’s a lot of work we need to do around the house to get things ready.  Our family always kept cats.  Or we did until 2012, when our old cat died.  My oldest son was allergic to her, but by the time we figured that out, she was so old we didn’t want her to  have to deal with the stress of relocation, so he just learned to live with it.  Four years without an animal in the house seems like too long.

My sister and brother in law adopted a puppy from the same litter.  They brought her home last week.  Not being experienced dog owners, my wife and I opted to have the breeder start our puppy’s training.  I’m kind of glad we made that choice seeing how much work there is with having a very very young dog who has never slept away from its mother before.

My first job of the summer is to repair the fence in our yard, which got smashed by a falling tree branch a year or so ago.  I could have done this last summer, but the boys next door play a lot of soccer in their back yard, and given the number of times they were having to jump the fence to get the ball, it seemed easier to leave it down.  Plus, there were so many good books to read, that just seemed like a more summer-ish way to spend time.  Easier for me, easier for the kids next door.  It was a win-win.  Now though I think it will be easier to have a solid fence for the dog.

I see a lot of next year’s AP students have started those blogs.  I’m just starting to get to the posts that have gone up this past week.  I hope this summer to keep reposting favorites here.  When you see them, if there’s something you like, follow it.  A lot of you have a lot of cool stuff going on.

Keep posting!