The Humble Rewards of Teaching: “Shut up and Write!” Friday, Sep 28 2012 

The “write” thing to do in freshman comp!

Reflecting a few days ago on 25 years of teaching the skills and thrills of composition, as my own MWF 11:00  English 1002 flock of fledgling rhetoricians strained in the throes of invention and drafting, I drafted too . . . this current post the proof of my labor.  I had charged them that morning to an extended time of in-class writing to work on the reviews they’re preparing for their next grade.

As I took my seat at the desk in front of the class to begin my writing, since the good rhetorician models the behavior he expects from his charges, I enjoyed looking across the room to note the students’ focus and determination as they either clattered laptop keys or scurried penpoints across their notebooks.  I remembered at that point some advice that’s served me the well in my years of teaching in this discipline.  I read that advice in a late 1980’s journal article by Dr. Donald Murray, a rhetorical theorist who professed at the University of New Hampshire.  In that article, Dr. Murray admonished would-be teachers of rhetoric with eloquent bluntness and common sense: “If you [the teacher] are talking, ‘Shut up,’  because if you are talking, they [students] are not writing!”

That advice at first seemed to cross the grain, since traditional doctrines of teaching assume that teachers should explain, pour out from the fount of their well-springs of knowledge and erudition with lecturesome pontification and scholarly discourse.  And admittedly, stepping aside from the lecture podium in those early days seemed a sacrifice because, like most teachers, I confess to a streak of exhibitionism that strains for the recognition and adulation of students  (recognition and adulation, admittedly, that exists mostly in delusional states?).

Over time, of course, I got the hang of knowing when talk is appropriate and when shutting up is better, and I’m grateful that learning to use Dr. Murray’s advice has served me well. Better yet, of course, his advice has served my students well by helping them to grow and develop as writers. That’s truly a humble reward of the profession.

More Rita Memoirs: Chronicling the Past Wednesday, Sep 26 2012 

One of a blog’s values is preserving our life and times.  In 2005, before I blogged, I journaled.  Here’s the entry for today, 12 years ago, as we dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Rita in southwest Louisiana

Here’s what I entered in an email today [9/26/05]:

I’ve been thinking about New Zion, too.  The gas-availability situation is probably the most worrisome.  Hwy 190 through Eunice today looked more like I-10 volume–no exaggeration–b/c we’re the nearest west-bound alternative to I-10, I’m sure.  And the gas situation is a big news story.  Maybe one out of five stations in town has gas, and lines are atrocious.  We have off-duty police officers working security and directing traffic in and out of the Shamrock and the RaceTrac on either end of town where people are waiting probably an hour to get to a pump (and no credit cards again).  We even have police security at WalMart and Winn Dixie, where staple supplies are largely exhausted.  Good thing we like non-fat milk and caffeine free diet coke at our house–that’s the only stuff left on the shelves.  Sarah and Ann made that run–the stores were elbow-to-elbow with agonizingly long checkout lines, but we needed re-provision after three days of being holed up at home.

Along those lines, how’s the gas supply situation in the Florida Parishes?  I think things will gradually ease up around here as the week goes on, but it’s still a little unsettling–been this way since before the Hurricane, actually.  I thought about going to Covington to get my saw from Daddy either before Rita or after, but then remembering the New Zion trip would be a good opportunity to accomplish the same thing, I figured I’d wait for that.  But I wonder if the best thing we can do for ourselves and the cause of conservation now is just to stay home?

In addition to those observations, we shared some time with the Guilbeaux’s from Sulphur this afternoon and talked more about these trying days and this era of what I am calling the time of the “Great Gulf Coast Hurricanes.”  From Texas to Florida, we’ve all been touched, and we’ll never be the same.  One graphic yesterday on tv drives the point home:  Out of the top 6 most catastrophic in $$$ hurricanes in history, four of them have occurred in the past 13 months.  Scary times, indeed.  And the season isn’t over?

Found out the shelter at church is re-opening tomorrow.  A handful of our New Orleans evacuees will return along with the prospect of some Rita victims from Cameron.  Lord, help Louisiana!

Anniversary of Rita: We will remember! Tuesday, Sep 25 2012 

From my 2005 journal, Hurricane Rita came poking about around this date . . .

September 25, 2005

Rita’s aftermath, day 1, a chronology:

6:00 or so—I wake up and can’t see the clock or feel the ceiling fan—the lights are out!  Why, now that the storm is over?

8:30 or so—We drip coffee on the debris-strewn patio.  To that point, the highlight of the day.  Glen offers me to plug the refridge into hiis generator—assuming we’re in for the long haul, I take him up, gratefully.

9:30 or 20—The lights come on!

9:45—I go by the church with Autumn and Zach to see if anybody showed up for church—they didn’t.  We walk back home sightseeing the damage.  Lights are out mainly in the southwest quadrant of town, except for Hill St.

Noon—I start watching the Saints, running in and out during commercials to bring stowed patio stuff from the garage out to the patio.

2:00 or so—After the Saints were obviously stinking, I quit watching and concentrated on raking and picking up the yard.

4:30—Ran/walked to LSUE to get A Tale of Two Cities for Ann to read.  Discovered the power had just come on at LSUE.

5:30—great supper.  Sarah cooked some kind of cheesey vegetable casserole soup or whatever, but it sure was good.

6:30—Ann challenged me to a game of HORSE after she helped me put the basketball goal back up, and she beat me 2 out of 3.

7:30 or so—Checked email and found Becky and gang had made it home.

9:00 or so—Zach and Autumn pass by on their way home from errands and helping Corey Arnaud patch his roof.  They noticed police directing traffic/supervising gasoline fill-ups at Diamond Shamrock!  Signs of the times?

What’s the point of all this?  Well, the storm is past and life slowly returns to normal, if “normal” can ever be such again.

No church today—this Cameron Parish church photo represents something about the institution of Sunday services?

“Remember” … Mom’s Solemn, Timeless Entreaty Recalled Tuesday, Sep 18 2012 

Looking through some old saved documents for something fresh to post, I ran across this letter that Sarah wrote to our son Zach on the eve of his departure from home for college waaaaaaay back in 2000.  I’m glad she preserved this piece.  This letter illustrates the point that there’s no sentiment on Earth as powerful as a mother’s care and concern for her own.  The maternal instinct is surely God’s gift to all of us children who would not have done so well, left to our own devices! 

Dear Zach,

Your time has arrived so quickly.  I knew it was coming–I just didn’t expect it so soon.  What happened to your childhood?  Who fast-forwarded the years? It seems just a short time ago that your Papa and I excitedly prepared a bedroom for you and spent our last few dollars on baby furniture.  I’ve never known a prouder moment than when I first held you in my arms, only minutes old.  How I did love you! And so did everyone else; for you have always been a darling boy.

Today you leave home and I am full of colorful, warm memories:  your first proud steps, potty training and bedwetting, your first day of school, your first Bible, the day you made your profession of faith in our Lord Jesus, the day you were baptized my Brother in Christ, your broken leg and black eye, baseball and football games, your first girlfriend, Homecomings, the Prom, youth camps, and mission trips.

In the past eighteen years, we have tried to teach you a few basics:  to know without a doubt that you are greatly loved and of great value, to love God, to reverence life, and all things, to laugh at your own mistakes, not to judge others (for we are generally doing the best we know under the circumstances), the dignity of hard work, to be proud of your family and your Louisiana heritage, and to conduct yourself as a Christian gentleman.

Although we’ve approached being your parents as a full-time profession, we’ve made a number of mistakes, for which we apologize.  The times we failed you in no way reflect a lack of devotion to you.  Like you, we have been maturing over the past few years, too.  Some things we would do differently today.  How well you forgive us for our mistakes will say as much about what you think of yourself as what you think of us.

And now, as you prepare to leave, inside the house will be a quiet bedroom.  Last spring’s Prom photo will sit on the bedside table; a dried Homecoming flower hangs from the bulletin board; outside the house is a packed car.  What was in the room is now in the car.

When I say I love you today, I hope that somehow you can hear with your heart the rest of the words that are going through my mind.  Words that told you how special you are to us, words that would let you know how rich your Papa and I have been because you came into our lives, words that tell you how much we believe in you, hope for you, pray for you, and thank God for you.

Although we’d like to keep things as they are forever, we know that’s impossible.  We could never keep you by calling a halt to your progress.  You have promises to keep.

The things we want to save, Jesus said, must be let go, and the things we hold most tightly will be strangled in the end.  We know that love releases the loved.  We know the training is over, the last bell has rung, the class is dismissed, and the application has begun.  There’s no time to  teach new truths, there’s no time to instill values or lay foundations.

There’s only one word that can be said:


                  Remember who loves you.  Remember what matters.  Remember what is right and wrong.  Remember!




August 13, 2000


(Proverbs 3:6 and Proverbs 16:3)

We Will Remember: Happy Birthday, Mama! Friday, Sep 14 2012 

We will remember the works of Your hands.

Perhaps life is too short to die young, so we cherish the blessing of longevity for our parents when their longevity is attended by good health and good nature.  And so we gathered yesterday, the four siblings remaining, to celebrate Mama’s 87th birthday (officially tomorrow, 9/15).

But before we could meet the cousins and nephews and nieces for lunch, we had to gather as brothers and sisters with our mom to honor the fallen, our Daddy and our brother, who have gone on to their greener pastures.  What folks need to know is that this cemetery visit to Daddy’s memorial was not a grief-stricken affair.  We laughed and cut up, certain that Daddy would approve much more of  merriment than of sorrow.

Yes, this was a time to remember and celebrate, a solemn place where the grave’s headstone stands as a sturdy reminder of God’s presence and action in our lives.

We will remember–Dare we not?

Saturday, Sep 8 2012 

Six years to date I posted this piece. Little Sadie is grown into a big ol’ girl, almost 50 pounds. But dogma still abounds!


sadie-lynn.jpgNo, of course, the word dogma has nothing to do with puppy dogs. But that pic of Sadie the Dog when she was a baby puppy was just too cute to resist. Besides, when I was a kid and ran into the word dogma, I always wondered what it had to do with the canine species.

But lately as an adult, I was prompted to consider what that word means because a famous reader of my blogs, Professor Emeritus of Rhetoric at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and my former grad. school advisor and still-mentor, Dr. Ann Dobie, read some of my recent postings on religious and denominational dogma. (Read Ann’s comment # 2 on my August 31 posting to this blog on the word backslide.) Ann was obviously interested in my observations, to the point that she privately asked me in email what I meant when I…

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An Audacious Proposal: The Perpetual Monday Holiday and the 4 Day Work Week Monday, Sep 3 2012 

Blue Monday: No fun at all.

This Labor Day holiday weekend, coupled with the hurricane’s disruption, resulted in extended time away from the office–several days, all told.

Strangely, I don’t feel farther behind that I’ve missed these days of work and the busy-ness thereof.  In fact, I feel

ironically that I’m farther ahead, because my mind and my bones are relaxed and recreated by the idle hours.

In consideration thereof, let me propose that Monday henceforth be perpetually declared a holiday.  Life is too short otherwise: Monday must go!