Tuesday, August 4, 2020



Don't Waste Time

This is personal. You may want to move on. But I need to write this out because one of the people I would ordinarily talk it out with is not here.

Merrill and I taught together for just under thirty years. We were the same age, but she had gotten a late start on her career, having first worked in the world of newspaper advertising, just one of the many parts of her biography that hinted at the toughness that backed up her magnolia-sweet proper belle exterior.

A love story (that is not mine to tell, but which has inspired me at many points in my own life) brought her here, far from South Carolina, with a young daughter from an earlier marriage. We were looking for someone to fill a new gap. Merrill came with impeccable credentials, an impressive background of knowledge, and a recommendation from a local giant in teaching English.

Over the years, we settled into regular spots-- I taught the juniors, and she taught the seniors, and so we often worked as a team. In a district that didn't always provide a lot of curricular direction, we had to make sure we were hitting the right bases with our students.

And she knew all of the bases. Her knowledge and love of literature was huge, and it just kept getting huger over the years she taught. The great headline-making showpiece of her classroom was the annual end-of-year unit for the 12th grade honors (later AP, after Merrill made the extra effort to get the official upgrade for the course) for which she first taught Paradise Lost, and then had the class split into two groups to put John Milton on trial for either whether or not he successfully made CONTINUE READING: