Knowing Better Next Time

Here I am at the end of another semester. A much different semester from the semester that came before. Probably different than the one that will come next.

I’ve measured my life in semesters. Better than coffee spoons. And there I’ve just made a reference to The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Talk about an English major.

I’m going on 20 years of being an educator. Tack on my time as a student and that’s a lifetime in schools. A lifetime of semesters.

Fall of 2022 found me in Iowa City, learning how to be an associate professor of English Education at The University of Iowa. All this learning took it out of me. I’m beat.


In some ways we’re starting from scratch here. We don’t know anybody. We don’t have community. We are making our way alone again, after having built lives for ourselves in State College.

I’m not using the royal we. There’s little that’s royal about me. I just can’t disentangle myself from my wife Katie or my sons Solomon and Samson. They’re a part of me. Of how I think of things. This family is the we I’m usually writing about when I write these blogs about how things are going.

Look, this place is very nice. We’ve got a nice house. A nice neighborhood. Nice schools. Nice coffee shops. And I’ve got a nice job. Nice office. It’s a nice college of education. Nice students. Nicer than midwestern nice. There’s nothing passive aggressive about the niceness I’m writing so nicely about. Nice, nice, nice. It’s all very nice, but it all still feels new.

It’s not easy settling into a new place. New house. New neighborhood. New schools. New job. You get what I’m doing here. New, new, new.

New and nice and the fall of 2022 has been a shock to the system. And now it’s mercifully coming to an end. I’m looking forward to a little break.


I think it is good to shake things up. And it was good for us to move to Iowa City. But I’m still not done processing it. Even now as the fall of 2022 is coming to an end. The fall of 2022 was just so different from the fall of 2021. I blinked my eyes and now I’m somebody else. We’re always becoming somebody else, I suppose, even if we don’t notice it.

So I’m 42 year-old Sam now. Living in Iowa City. Looking forward to winter break. Looking forward to next semester.

That’s one of the things I appreciate about being a teacher. There’s always the next semester. A chance to improvise. To make some changes. To do a little better. There’s a great line at the end of the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard. Guil tells Roz: “Well, we’ll know better next time. Now you see me, now you – “

I love that line. In my work as an educator, for the most part, I usually know better next time. My work as a person too, I suppose.

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