I stand atop the dune in the darkness of the too-early dawn. A fear as deep as time tells me to go back. I know I’ll be fine. I do this all of the time. But still. There’s lightning off shore, the waves are deafening and the wind is unrelenting. I go forward anyways. I carry a chair and a coffee and make my way to the waves by the cloud-obscured light of the moon. I unfold my chair, sit down, cover my head with my hoodie and let go.

The waves are unceasing. Incessant. Insisting. Rising and falling. Sweeping…


I stormed into the classroom fifteen minutes late and fired up. I scanned their faces. We were halfway through the semester and their work was uninspiring. There was infighting. And, our standards for excellence were deteriorating. They needed a kick in the ass. They needed an ultimatum. So, I pulled a Zappos.

“I will give you a B to leave” I said.

“What?!” they clamored to ask.

“I will give you a B to leave; but you have to leave now, right now, and you can never come back” I said. The class erupted into a cacophony of confusion. “I’ll…


“Shawn!” someone shouted in a whisper. I looked up from the wood block I was sanding and saw Andy and Joe peeking their heads through the doorway of my classroom. “Come on!” they beckoned. They wanted me to skip class. I was in sixth grade. Maybe seventh. I cannot recall. I was in whatever grade it was in which we had to make a wooden shelf in Industrial Arts. And, as I was twisting in my seat to join them, three of my bullies filled the doorway behind them. I stopped. This could be a trick. My bullies were a…


I dropped into my chair without attempting to resist gravity. I was beat. It was the end of another grueling day in Siete de Abril conducting surveys for the third and final phase of our improved cookstove program. The paper surveys were all kinds of misshapen. I was doing my best to stack them neatly on the tabletop, when one of my students, Christine Exley, sat down beside me. She took half of the stack. And, survey by survey, we began carefully reviewing the day’s work. To our dismay, a number of survey questions had been inadvertently skipped. Without me…


There is this threshold. I walk my students up to it each and every semester. They stand on one side of the threshold as they are, as they arrive. You know, good students. Highly conditioned, rule-following, hand-raising, wait-to-be-called-upon students. The kind of students our education system prides itself on producing. On the other side of the threshold is the kind of student I need them to become: initiative-taking, ownership-owning, do-it-and-see-what-happens kind of human being.

Getting my students across that threshold is a process. It takes a lot of encouragement. That’s easy to give. But that’s not enough. They need more…


The other day Kyra and I were driving to the greenhouse talking about Dillon, high school and violence…

ME: One time, I went to a house party with my friends Randy and Paul. It was on our side of town. We were juniors. I think. Anyways, Randy and Paul get into a fight with a couple of kids from another high school, a private school called Elder. My friends getting into fights was not unusual. It was almost a Saturday night routine for us. They’d get into fights and I would break them up by throwing one of them over…


I’m turning 50 in a few days and felt like sharing some of the things that I’ve learned along the way (ht Kevin Kelly for the inspiration):

  1. Develop a good swagger. Let the world know what you will and will not accept from it.
  2. Your background, path, history, family, community, crazy relatives and the whole tangled mess of your upbringing with all of its trials and traumas was and is a gift.
  3. If you want to go forward you have to go back & integrate your past into your present. …

Read on shawnhumphrey.com | May 3, 2021

Here are five bolts of inspiration I’m sharing this month:

1. Ursula K. Le Guin on giving gifts:

“All you have is what you are, and what you give.”

2. Austin Kleon on the life of a project:


Read on shawnhumphrey.com | April 23, 2021

Here are a few things I’m sharing this month

1. Question I’m living with:

Resmaa Menaken, during a conversation with Krista Tippett on how he introduces the idea of white-body-supremacy (as opposed to white-supremacy) to audiences committed to diversity and inclusion, said the following:

  • I said, “How many people in here believe in diversity?” Everybody shot their hands up. Boom. Everybody. I said, “Answer this one next question.” And I said, “Don’t bring your hands down. Answer this question. Diverse from what?”

2. Quote I’m considering:

  • “Between stimulus and response there is a…


All of the other dogs were barking. Pleading really. Not her. She was facing away from her gate, tightly curled up in the back of her cage. She was lying as deep as she could get on the concrete floor in a puddle of wet. I could not walk away, move away from her cage. I asked if we could see her. They said “Yes”. So, Kyra and I waited by the front desk. And, when they handed us her leash, she scurried under our chairs. She would not come out. She hid beneath our feet. That’s when I turned…

Shawn Humphrey

the blue collar professor

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