Wednesday, December 16, 2009


In addition to being a writer I teach history at a liberal arts college in St. Paul, Minnesota. I love my job - my classes bring me into contact with brilliant young people (okay now that I've referred to them as 'young people' I feel old) whose questions and ideas broaden my own horizons in fabulous ways.

My husband works for a non-profit organization that assists ex-offenders with reintegration into society. His program in particular mentors young men who are coming out of the maximum security juvenile facility in our state.

We both go to work every day, encounter 17 - 21 year olds, and try to help them find paths to the lives they hope for. But for the circumstances we encounter, he and I might as well be living in different universes. While my students are reading dense academic texts and writing at a post-graduate level, his may or may not be literate and their chances of finding employment as ex-offenders are slim. When we come home at the end of the day with tales from the work trenches, we're both aware that this disparity lays bare an immense, seemingly insoluble problem of 21st century America.

Tonight our worlds collided at an amazing, inspiring event that was the culmination of the "Schools to Prisons" class at my college. In this course students build a bridge between the privileged word of private education and the harsh realities of prison, release, and recidivism prevention. The students in this class participate in internships where they work for organizations like my husband's to get a firsthand look at the grassroots programs that attempt to disrupt the cycles of imprisonment and unemployment that plague our country. These students are humble, hard-working and absolutely committed to trying to make a difference in the world. They have the ideas we need to create a better future and the determination to see it through.

The semester has come to a close and tonight reminded me why being a teacher brings me so much joy. Thank you to the next generation, who bring hopes for a better future to life and share it with the world.

Next up: Wacky Holiday Post Extravaganza


  1. Wow. gives me hope for the future, too.

  2. This is beautiful. Thank you for your family's hard work on behalf of young people.

    Remembering your earlier post on Pocahontas and John Smith, I'm curious on your take of Joseph Bruchac's novel, POCAHONTAS. (I'm reading it with my sixth and seventh-grade book club and am discussing it today.)

  3. Thanks storyqueen and Caroline!

    Caroline: I am abashed to say I haven't read this novel. Though I'd have to say if it involves romance between Pocahontas and Mr. Smith, I'd be hard pressed to like it :) Going to the bookstore today, will check it out!

  4. I hope these kids make it across the bridge to better lives. Thanks to you, your husband and all the other people who stretch out a hand to help them.

  5. Lol - I definitely am not deserving of thanks, my job is a treat. My husband is doing the heavy lifting is this scenario :)

  6. We need more professors like you :)

  7. Wow, you guys are giving back to a society that seems to take take take. That's very awesome of you to both dedicate yourselves to roles which can help better our future as a country.

  8. I think teaching is one of our most important vocations. Your husband's is equally so but his must be heartbreaking given the obstacles society places between a young person gone wrong and so-called rehabilitation.

    And congratulations on all your writing success. What a euphoric whirlwind you've been on over the past few months. But don't give up the teaching!

    I wish you all the best.