The Teachers of my Life

My desk

Hey, out there.

I’ve returned to Beaufort after my long tour for The Death of Santini and the town has never seemed more welcoming or restful to me. Though I feel hollowed out and exhausted by the whirlwind nature of an American book tour, I’m smart enough to know that it’s still a grand way for any writer to connect to those readers he has picked up along the way. If any writer in this country has collected as fine and passionate a group of readers as I have, they’re fortunate and lucky beyond anyone’s imagination. It remains a shock to me that I’ve had a successful writing career. Not someone like me; Lord, there were too many forces working against me, too many dark currents pushing against me, but it somehow worked. Though I wish I’d written a lot more, been bolder with my talent, more forgiving of my weaknesses, I’ve managed to draw a

The Citadel

magic audience into my circle. They come to my signings to tell me stories, their stories. The ones that have hurt them and made their nights long and their lives harder.

Citadel graduates show up everywhere, and, of course, I took off on this tour in October, forgetting my Citadel ring on the untidy desk where I left it. “Where’s your ring?” The question always comes. My explanation always sounds hollow, but they bring their wives, children and grandchildren to meet me. The Marines and their families show up and military brats by the score. Teachers come by the dozens from Minneapolis to Miami.

Ah, yes, the teachers of America. When I meet them I always say, “God’s work, but not God’s pay.” I enrolled myself in their ranks when I wrote my book The Water is Wide, and they have never issued me my walking papers.

“Why do we hate our teachers in this country?” I ask them, and not one of them disagrees with me from Santa Fe to Charleston, from New Orleans to Philadelphia.
“I don’t know why. But I agree with you,” the teachers say in an almost unanimous voice.

The school where I taught - The Water is Wide...

The teachers of my life saved my life and sent me out prepared for whatever life I was meant to lead. Like everyone else, I had some bad ones and mediocre ones, but I never had one that I thought was holding me back because of idleness or thoughtlessness. They spent their lives with the likes of me and I felt safe during the time they spent with me. The best of them made me want to be just like them. I wanted young kids to look at me the way I looked at the teachers who loved me. Loving them was not difficult for a boy like me. They lit a path for me and one that I followed with joy.

Teaching is an art form, pure and simple. I’ll trust a teacher over a bureaucrat every single time – a teacher over an administrator. Education by test scores seems like the worst thing that’s ever happened to American education, by far. I met ten high school English teachers on my trip whom I’d have loved to have teach me. To my surprise, my novel The Lords of Discipline is taught in more high school English classes than any of my others. I thought the language of the barracks and the nasty racism of the Corps would prevent that book from ever being taught in an American classroom. I met a whole cadre of teachers in Kansas City, Missouri who had taught The Lords of Discipline for years. When I asked the head of the Department at a large public high school how his teachers navigate through parents and school boards offended by the book, he told me it had been a challenge, indeed. His teachers let their students make the case with the school board, and the passion of those students had carried the day each time the subject had come up. I fell in love with the English teachers of Kansas City and that is a bond that’ll never be broken.

Yet the unhappiness of teachers was a constant theme and they suffer from the lack of respect and honor due them for their choice to spend their lives teaching the children that are sent to them. The testing of American children all began with well-meaningness and high-mindedness. “No Child Left Behind” is a phrase of enormous beauty, yet it has caused more suffering among teachers than the pitiful wages we pay them. Whether it’s a Republican or Democratic administration doesn’t seem to make a scintilla of difference. The theories that are born in Washington D.C. and in the Ivy League are ascendant throughout the land, and as far as I can tell and as well as I can listen, they’ve had a chilling effect on most of the classrooms in our land. A nation of unhappy teachers makes for a sadder and more endangered America.

Gene Norris the Teacher who never failed to inspire me

Before my beloved English teacher Gene Norris died, he was given a lifetime achievement award by the South Carolina Council of the Teachers of English. The year before, Gene had received the first Margaret Roberts Award given by the Thomas Wolfe Society to honor the extraordinary woman who had taught high school English to the great novelist. It was a good year for Gene, even though he was suffering greatly from the leukemia that would kill him. We drove to Greenville together on one of our last road trips. The chemo had made Gene grouchy and dyspeptic when he said to me, “I don’t want you to go on and on about me. The way you usually do. You always exaggerate my influence on you. I’m so tired of you gilding the lily. I told them I don’t want this award and I certainly don’t deserve it.”

“Then why am I wasting my valuable time driving you to Greenville?” I asked.
“Because it’s good for teachers, Carpetbagger. It’s good for all teachers – everywhere. They don’t get much,” he said, and he was grinning. “But I’m going to walk out of there if you do your usual bullshit about me.”
“I’ll say anything I want. I’m an American. I’ve got rights.”
Gene was magnificent when he received the award and I was not the only one who saw him cry that day. Afterwards, we were together when two bright and hilarious teachers stood up later in the program.

The first said, “No child left behind.”
“Every child left behind,” the second said.
“No school left behind,” the first said.
“Every school left behind,” the second said.
“No teacher left behind?” asked the first.
“Every damn teacher left behind.”

Gene and I joined in the standing ovation for these two singular women. On the way home, Gene was reflective and still deeply moved by the ceremony.
“I’ve had an amazing life, Pat. I wouldn’t change a thing. Except this: They used to trust teachers with the kids they sent us. It’s all different now and oh so wrong.”

So the teachers came to my signings as they always do. Some were veterans of the inner city schools and their voices filled up with urgency and despair. Some were in danger of being fired because of the low test scores of the students at their schools. When I asked a white woman in Philadelphia if she ever thought about transferring to a suburban school, she bristled at me. “Why I would I do that? My kids need me. I’m in love with them. Who’d fight for them if it weren’t for teachers like me?”

Teaching remains a heroic act to me and teachers live a necessary and all-important life. We are killing their spirit with unnecessary pressure and expectations that seem forced and destructive to me. Long ago I was one of them. I still regret I was forced to leave them. My entire body of work is because of men and women like them.


₪ ₪ ₪


The word “blog” is the ugliest word in the English language to me. But I’ve written in journals in a haphazard fashion since I was a young writer. The journal I keep now is the material that makes up my own “blog” – though I’ve no idea what a blog is supposed to do or what it is supposed to consist of. Why it appeals to anyone is mysterious to me. But I use it as a way to sneak back into my own writing without being noticed. A new novel awaits my arrival, prepares for my careful inspection. Yet a novel is always a long dream that lives in me for years before I know where to go to hunt it out. When I found myself in new cities or strange airports on this trip, I could feel it stirring around on the outer rings of consciousness. I could feel it begin to layer itself. Though it pointed to no real beginnings or endings, I believe I’ve got two long novels and three shorts ones still in me. But my health has to cooperate and I need to pay more attention to my health. It is not long life I wish for – it is to complete what I have to say about the world I found around me from boyhood to old age. Because I’ve gotten older, I worry that there will be a steep decline in my talent, but promise not to let the same thing happen to my passion for writing.

My career still strikes me as miraculous. That a boy raised on Marine bases in the South, taught by Roman Catholic nuns in backwater southern towns who loathed Catholics, and completed with an immersion into The Citadel – the whole story sounds fabricated, impossible even to me. Maybe especially to me.
Throughout my career I’ve lived in constant fear that I wouldn’t be good enough, that I’d have nothing to say, that I’d be laughed at, humiliated – and I’m old enough to know that fear will follow me to the very last word I’ll ever write.
As for now, I feel the first itch of the novel I’m supposed to write – the grain of sand that irritates the soft tissues of the oyster. The beginning of the world as I don’t quite know it. But I trust I’ll begin to know it soon.

Pat Conroy

94 Responses to The Teachers of my Life

  • Elisabeth says:

    Thank you for sharing your craft with us. I finished Death of Santini today, and reading it made me love The Great Santini much more. Since reading My Reading Life a year or so ago, I’ve decided that I want all of my favorite writers to write this book. Your writing inspires me to hold more closely my love of the written word.

    • Stephen Fox says:

      Pat, a Few random notes. First we are mutually acquainted with Ron Rash, with whom I have an interview in the Sept 2010 archives of my blog. I know you get a lot of requests to read other peoples stuff but this may be worth your time. Just today I notified Furman University, the alma mater I share with Marshall Frady, of your shoutout to Gov Riley and President Clinton in the Ireland Chapter of The Death of Santini.
      Just returned it to the Crossville Al library yesterday. My Father is from Rome Georgia and my Mom had a first cousin who was a Doctor in Piedmont, Alabama,; Doctor Vanzant, sure to be known to Stanny’s people.
      Saw Conrack with a Buddy from Charleston’s Battery while at Furman at 74. Loved your My Losing Season and now the Death of Santinit. Your rejoinder to the frat boy from UGA whose wife said his Mother was crazy is Priceless.
      God Bless. Hope Gov Riley has an aside to President Clinton about Death of Santini at the Fundraiser at the Peace Center in Greenville April 8.

      • Stephen Fox says:

        Oh, and for me it was Miss Jones in 11th grade at Gaffney High School, and then Honors English with Miss Chadwick in the 12. At the end of the year–she was about 70 in 71 and that was her final year–I said Miss Chadwick, you can go ahead and tell me now I’m one of the best students you ever had. She said No, Stephen, you’re not even in the top 25, and she named about 20 off the top of her head more promising than me when I asked for mercy. (smile)

  • Jody Butler says:

    Beautiful and right on target! I’m looking forward to reading those yet-to-come novels. Take care of yourself!

    • Lyda Phillips says:

      You write out of your pain. Your blessing is your introspection, your humanity, and your ability to write about those. Your pain was your curse, but also your muse. When we read you, we understand and are also blessed. You are a very beloved writer, Mr. Conroy. Please accept that. God, your writing about your mother’s death with cancer brought back my own mother’s death with the same disease. You spared us nothing and your writing went to the core. Our love for a parent is so primal, even more so than our love for ourselves. You “did good” by yours; you were forgiving and loving. That is our challenge as adult children–especially when losing our parents. Be grateful that you met the challenge. I did too–and it makes it so much easier to go on living with yourself. I will buy and read every book you write…so I’m glad you have more in you. I had a crush on you for years–but I gave up on catching you between marriages. I’m so glad you’ve settled into a good one–you’re very fortunate in that. You were damaged as a child–but you are a blessed man. I hope someday you can love yourself as much as your readers love you. Funny, I’ve
      never met you, probably never will, but I’ve considered you a friend and contemporary for years. Thank you for all you’ve shared with us.
      Also a former English teacher,

    • Lori Garner says:

      The beauty of your words grabbed my heart when I read The Lords of Discipline at the age of 20. The Water is Wide, that I read as a student at Auburn University in l984, set me on the path to becoming an English teacher; I have been at the craft now for 27 years in Georgia, Alabama, and now Arizona. I too am in love with and fight everyday for the kids here, who “need us.” Thank you for having the courage to share your stories and for the magic that happens when your pen touches paper.

  • Dona Hay says:

    You are such an incredible writer. I have read all your books and I am writing this while reading your latest…which is really hard to put down. My mother was the daughter of Sicilian immigrants…she would have been 100 last year…She and my country dad who was from Axton/Shortgrass, Va. met in 1947 in Washington, DC…She was 33 and he was 24. His mother was the oldest of 13 and she gave birth to 3 sets of twins at home. My mother graduated from Marshall (which was then Marshall College) in WVa in the 1930′s and taught school and sent money to her parents…she was the only daughter with 4 brothers. My father only finished the 10th grade and joined the army. He sold appliances for Sears his whole life…He was an angry person and she was unhappy and depressed while raising me and my sister and my brother who was born when she was 42….I know you have so many people with similar stories! I so wish I was a writer!!!

  • Carol Wise says:

    Hi, Pat!
    Thank you for your recognition of teachers! I have been one for more than 40 years (Latin and English) and am still teaching at 68! Whenever my former students have contacted me and praised a special memory, it has touched me deeply. I did not have the privilege of teaching you, but your former instructors are blessed to have received your appreciation.
    I just finished your book DEATH OF SANTINI and loved it. Our daughter Tara passed it on to me, and now Ed is reading it!. As a Citadel graduate, he loves any references to his Alma Mater. As an English teacher, I am impressed by the flow of your words and your descriptions of people and places.

  • Barb Zeak says:

    Pat – love all your books – you are one amazing man. Please one more book!!
    God bless you!

  • Kathy says:

    I was so dreading finishing “The Death of Santini” because I was so very afraid it would be the last book you wrote. So I’ve been savoring it bit by bit…making it last…but not wanting it to end. So I could hold on to you. Knowing you’re going to write more brings me more joy than you could imagine. I’ve been where you’ve been. You know me so well it brings me to tears. God Bless you Pat! And thank you for the books to come!

  • Sara Light says:

    Thank you for sharing your talents with those of us who are not so blessed. Sara

  • Debbie Payne says:

    I am beyond excited that you will start another novel. I have read all your work except the Lords of Discipline!! I have it on my bedside table waiting the courage to read it. I have two sons that graduated from the Citadel. One in 1997 and one in 2003. They are both military. You should know that I have had this book since the first started the Citadel. Your books make me happy. Thank you!

  • Dona Hay says:

    For a while Dottie and I were best friends and owned a house together on Sullivan’s Island ….I was with her at her mother’s funeral…and read her first manuscript in Montclair.

  • Steve Shamblin says:

    Bravo! You have been my hero and inspiration since you wrote the letter to the Charleston, WV, Gazette at a time when people were trying to take The Prince of Tides out of my classroom, when they tried to control how I taught. I still get tears in my eyes every time I pick that letter up to read it. I read it every year at the beginning of my English classes. “I blaze with a deep southern magic.” Thank you.

  • Ron Miller says:

    I, like you, have been heavily influenced by some wonderful, caring teachers. They are among my fondest memories and I have tried to reflect the light they put within me. Thank you for being a friend to our teachers. And I agree that “No Child Left Behind” is an awful program that did just the opposite for many, including my grandson.. I hope you do indeed have many more novels within you waiting to get out and wander over to my reading light. God bless, Ron Miller – Fernandina Beach, Fl

  • Sterleen Bryson says:

    I truly look forward to your next novel or short story; I’ve loved them all. I planned to be a teacher but ended up in the business world. All of my teacher friends are now retired but I am still working at 66. Such has been my life. I encourage people to find and thank the special teachers that most influenced their lives.
    Love your writing and keep hoping you will come to Topsail Island or at least , again, to Wilmington.

    • Dawan says:

      I think this is amazing! It just goes to show that our youth do understand teachers and they know how to pick a bad teacher out of a crowd. I wish I could send this to every bad teacher I knew, I bet it would open their eyes. Too often I see these bad teachers say things such as oh they’re kids, they don’t know any better but I’d say that right there is proof that they DO know better. Thanks for sharing! Shana

  • Steve Cunningham says:

    Last Friday morning I went to read at Caughman Road Elementary School here in Columbia for their event “Read Across Caughman” It was great fun! I read from Carl Sandburg’s “Rootabaga Stories” about the “White Horse Girl and the Blue Wind Boy”,”How Gimme the Axe Found Out About the Zigzag Railroad and Who Made it Zigzag”. I also told them a bit about Carl Sandburg as a poet, collector of songs and biographer of Lincoln and how he came to write the stories he told his 2 girls down. I got to play a couple of ditties on my harmonica, one an old folk melody, the other a few blues riffs and also told a couple of my own stories. They asked me to come back again, so I’m going back in Poetry Month to read a few lines, play some more and tell a couple of more stories. They all sent me thank you cards home- It was one of my goals to teach and I try to altho only as an amateur. Keep up the great work. Read your “My reading Life” as part of “One Book Columbia”

  • I still hear the voices of my most inspiring teachers when I’m doing what they taught me to do. Unfortunately, if the one who said, “For heaven’s sakes, learn how to spell” is watching me from the classroom in the sky, he’ll see that for a writer, my spelling is atrocious.

  • Melony says:

    I’ve taught The Water is Wide and students always enjoyed it! An avid reader of all your novels and resident of Beaufort County for 32 years, this teacher thanks you for taking time to remember us as we continue to impart the joys of literature and writing. Drifting away with all of your novels, I still re-read parts of The Prince of Tides and South of Broad, my favorites. Best wishes to you always for health, happiness, and the next chapters! Can’t wait!

  • Sandy Bass says:

    I am so delighted to hear that another novel is stirring your soul. Your imagery is so vivid and your words so carefully chosen that I find myself re-reading passages so I can ruminate over the feelings which were evoked one more time. As a retired English teacher, I appreciate the recognition of the overworked and underpaid profession. I have been to a couple of your book signings and enjoyed your talks almost as much as your writing. I was hooked as soon as I read The Water is Wide.

  • Phyllis Gilseth says:

    Dear Mr. Conroy,

    I recently finished reading The Water is Wide, and I’ve been wondering if you’ve kept in contact with any of your former students. Thank you for giving me the wonderful gift of reading your books.

  • Judy newby says:

    Your book The Prince of Tides turned my 19 year old grandson into a lifelong reader while working on the beach at fripp. He found your books on my bookshelf and has read them all including The Death of the Great Santini….which he loved.
    Our friends thought we were crazy letting him live alone in our house during two summers, but your books kept him entertained. He has several signed ones and my friend found him a first edition of The Prince of Tides at a garage sale in Arizona. Looking forward to another book as he is.

  • Christine Rayl says:

    Thank you, for the insightful comments in regards to teachers. It is a cobbled road of dedication (with missing stones) that is back breaking yet soul filling. I continue to turn down offers to better schools and positions because I love my students, my school, and our hard working staff. If I can help one student turn on their light bulb, then it is worth all the hard work.

  • Herbert Caudle says:

    It is so rare to hear praise for the teaching profession. Thank you for making my week. I appreciate all that you do.

  • Pam Oliver says:

    You bring me to tears with every thing you write. I wish I could have read you when I was in high school. Even 50 years since h.s. reading books is what brings me empathy to the world around me & you especially. What a gift to be able to convey your thoughts that connect us to you. On a personal note, my brother was married to your niece,Cris!

  • Martha Herchak says:

    Your writing has touched me on so many levels, but as a retired teacher and the youngest daughter of a Southern gentleman and a California girl, I was able to glimpse portions of my parents’ lives through their experiences of reading your works. I witnessed my mother’s fierceness over the injustices and tears in my father’s eyes over your truthfulness. From reading The Water is Wide as a teen (and working at the Ultravision Theatre in Charleston, SC for one of the premiers of Conrack) to hearing my son’s elation at having “a ticket” to your book signing for the Death of Santini, your art and craft has been part of the fabric of my life. I salute you and thank you.

  • Elizabeth Jones says:

    Pat Conroy, we love you! You are an amazing
    Writer and storyteller. Never, never, never give up!

    • Eric says:

      Thanks for your comments Val. I toaltly agree with you about statements of this nature and fortunately I was able to ask them their reasoning behind the statement. Sadly, this time it really had to do with particular teachers screaming most of the time, being rude to students, unfair consequences and the one child felt he had learnt more from his own reading that he does at home but had not actually learnt anything new from being in his bad teacher’s class other than to expect to be screamed at. So the boys’ statement in the car centred around teachers showing off their true personalities rather than engaging students. I like to think that I would have questioned their arguments if they were unjustified. I agree that good teachers have high expectations for their students and push them to push themselves (in fact I have blogged about expectations a number of times).I really do like to believe though that in this day and age, with access to so much information and support, most teachers are not bad.

  • Pat (Harris) Stewart says:

    I know you may not remember me, but we were in French together at BHS! Later when I was in college at Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, we caught up again when the Citadel played ASU in basketball! I’m going to say ’66 or ’70! I heard your name called and couldn’t believe it! Went down to the court at half time and caught up with you! After you began writing, I couldn’t read you enough! I recognized Beaufort and Parris Island in your writings ( I too was a marine brat. When my stepfather retired we moved to AR at semester of my sophomore year). Two years ago my husband took me back to Beaufort the first time in 50 years! It was amazing and emotional!! It was quite amazing to see how much Besugort had changed while Parris Island hadn’t too much. My husband loved the area, and we hope to return soon!

  • Diana Sweeney says:

    Thank you for such beautiful words. As a high school English teacher, I am touched and humbled. Your writing has been such a joy to me. As a southern girl, I know your characters and settings but your prose is what amazes me every time. You have made me laugh, you have made me cry and you have continually inspired me and reinforced the real truth that good literature can change the world. Thank you.

  • Marla Chennault Smith says:

    Oh, how I love your work! I taught for 15 years and finally just gave it up. Not because of the kids, but because of administrators that felt that numbers were more important than these precious young people. I loved every minute that I spent in the classroom, but I think my spirit was too rebellious for the administration because I wanted my students to actually learn and enjoy my class! Pat Conroy, I love what you said about teaching and teachers. Unfortunately, it is so very true.
    Also, I want to thank you for taking the time to share how teachers feel.

  • Carol Murphy says:

    I am one of those teachers who was greatly influenced by your writing. I was inspired to teach after reading The Water is Wide in the 70′s.
    I was not an English teacher, but teaching history was my calling. My school system allowed me to write the curriculum for and teach a class in Southern History and Culture. The Water is Wide, the Great Santini, and The Lord of Discipline were on my reading list. I had to get parental permission for the first two, but no student was ever denied the pleasure of reading your work because no parent ever denied them the opportunity. They came away becoming better writers; they developed a respect for the region where they grew up, viewing all aspects of the South, good and bad; and they learned more about themselves and the human condition. Thank you for sharing, not only your craft but your life . You have touched the deepest chords in our souls. Take care of yourself so you get on with that next project ! You have the most loyal fans in America! God bless you!

  • Elizabeth Long says:

    Pat I think of you so often especially when I think of Gene . I miss him terribly! Hope you are doing well! Love Elizabeth

  • June Folkes says:

    Thank you Pat for your honesty, and opening up to your large audience of readers as to your feelings and what you are up to! Perhaps another story about a teacher could be in the making. Can’t wait to hear what you will be working on next!!

  • Melissa June Harris says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. I read “The Water is Wide” right out of Furman. I just completed my 29 year public school career (most of it was in a high risk district in Colorado Springs, CO). Your words are a retirement gift to me.

  • Maxine S Appleby says:

    Believe me, Mr. Conroy, you are good enough. My first teaching was in Beaufort, 1962. You have told the story of those children, their folks,and the culture,both good and bad.You have left an indelible truth with your writing about the culture of the Citadel,Your father and family and the people of the low country. Most of all, you have given us the wonderful use of language and the beauty of a soul who understands how to mold it into a work of art. Yes, Pat Conroy, you are good enough.

  • Pam Leptich says:


    “Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not; it is the first lesson that ought to be learned; and however early a man’s training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly.”
    —Thomas Henry Huxley

    The responsibility is the greatest, most urgent, most desperate you’ll ever know.
    Everything you do and say will be remembered, mimicked, talked about, approved and disapproved.
    They’ll love you, hate you, and tell you so.
    You’ll further their worthy goals, redirect tangled priorities.
    You’ll build for them a world that will allow emotion yet insist upon accountability.
    Knowledge will be shared, must be shared, or you will suffer as they.
    There’ll be days which foster maturity, days you’ll wish had never dawned.
    They’ll say, “I want to be just like you.” How frightening those words can be unless you are what you’d like them to be.
    Protect, treasure, excite your precious youngsters. Never let rusted realism stain any idealistic purpose, method, or philosophy you know in your heart and by your instincts is educationally sound.
    It’s okay to cry when a bond issue fails.
    The purity of your purpose can withstand all antiquated squelches. Never let “It’s never been done that way,” or “It won’t work,” or “There’s not enough time or money” discourage you.
    Open for your students the world, themselves, the knowledge of the ages…open for them yourself. Itch for every “why?” they may ask; enjoy their every conquest; nurture their curiosities by teasing them with questions, challenges, half answers for them to complete. Allow their mistakes and misunderstandings for it is then they are alive and not merely recorders of past knowledge.
    May there be a panic in your classroom, a hurry in your teaching, and a desperate desire in their learning.
    The nights you go home and cry, throwing your lesson plans across the room, disgusted with your incompetence and the kids themselves…may those nights be soothed by the days students try and show they care, by a “thank you” from a parent.
    You possess a dynamic and terrifying power. You have been granted a classroom of students totally dependent upon your guidance and trusting in your purpose.
    You must be consistent, strong, and demonstrate through unswerving expectations that you value what you say you value. The message you send to students when stated expectations are lowered is that there is nothing worth doing well…that mediocrity is not only acceptable but has also become the norm. Don’t reward the norm with an inflated grading system that gives students who merely bother to show up for class a passing grade. You must expect more…every day in every class of every student and you must not weaken.
    Expecting a student to turn in a well done, completed assignment on time is not mean…it is not an unfair, evil thing to do. Expecting a student to sit quietly in class, to read, to come to class prepared with textbook, paper, and pencil is not punishment.
    Apathy is your greatest enemy. No teaching plan will succeed if students don’t care. All interventions and strategies pale in the darkness of weak attitudes. Your challenge is therefore a dual one…to provide every opportunity for students who care to succeed and to prevent interruption of that opportunity by students who don’t.
    You can lead them to learning, but you can’t make them learn. As J.G. Holland wrote, “God gives every bird its food, but He does not throw it into the nest.”
    You must develop an appetite for the struggle. You must prepare to be hungry.
    Enclose your failures in your mind for reference and as a constant reminder for reflection each time you feel yourself becoming intolerant of youthful minds when they seem slow to respond.
    Those touched by you will forever know the particular way you were special to them.
    Your life has meaning, purpose, and a stake in the future.

    Challenge to Teachers
    Laugh with them…deserve their respect
    Protect them and discipline their minds and bodies
    Cherish the time given to you in which you are
    allowed to mold them
    Do all these things, teacher…but most of all
    Love them
    For they are now and will forever be
    A part of you and you a part of them.

    Pam Leptich

  • Bill Beltz says:

    Enjoyed this article. This is your neighbor South of the Broad(Broad River not The Broad in Charleston.) I’m still the secretary of the Thomas Wolfe Society. Maybe someday I’ll be the secretary of the Pay Conroy Society? Loved Death of Santini. I was also a Special Ed Teacher in my younger days and my wife and sister still teach. I can certainly relate to what you say about teachers. Still would love to have lunch with you sometime-maybe Panini’s on Bay? You name the time and place and I’ll pick up the tab.

  • Elaine Graham Stacy says:

    Pat, there are so many of us in Beaufort that care about you. It would be great to see you strolling on the Bay, or lunch on the porch at the Q or Plums, just to say hello, or chat about the good ole days. You are our “Hometown Pride”.
    Tidal Wave Class of 1965

  • Thank you for not wasting your talents.

  • Chris Hill says:


    The words you crafted here, as always, have left me with goosebumps and a plea for them and the story to never end. The journey of traveling through your books time and time again has allowed me to magically escape to a place I almost feel exists. When I first fell in love with your prose in high school, it was great, because even though I read “The Prince of Tides” in three days while vacationing with my family on Isle of Palms, I was able to head into Mt. Pleasant midweek to find the nearest bookstore and pick up The Lords of Discipline, where it along with a slue of others awaited me. And after that “The Water is Wide”, and then when I finished my senior year of high school as a potential small college walk-on basketball player, I read My Losing Season, and when I began to cook, in college you helped me connect the stories of my life with the meals of my life through “The Recipes of My Life”. As a chef, I firmly believe that all great meals have a story behind them, and the ingredients within those meals always have a story to tell; all we have to do is listen. There was a few years in my life, when there was always “another” book of yours to look forward to, and then when I had completed the Conroy catalogue, I began reading them again, further falling in love with the stories that grace me with every possible emotion, from fear, to joy, to feelings of incredible anxiety smothered in hopelessness, to the feeling that, “everything will be just fine”. Your works hold one of the most special places in my heart, and through it, I have discovered and unearthed many of the cavernous corners of my own life. Your writings, have taught me. So, yes, those deprived elementary school students on Daufuskie Island needed you, oh so desperately, but there are many of us out here, that have needed you, whether we knew it or not. Whether it was through learning of cammaraderie in The Lords of Discipline, of life-long friendship in South of Broad, or how time can, indeed, heal wounds of the soul, as you teach us, most recently in The Death of Santini.

    Mr. Conroy, I wrote a letter to Nan Talese from my family’s buckhead home, back before email was checked on phones, before facebook instantaneously connected us with anyone, and just before I finished my creative writing major at The University of Alabama. I wrote to tell you that I would be visiting Charleston with my family for a certain number of dates in July, and that I would love to meet you for a cup of joe, or even for just a moment to say thank you. Well, as you alluded to Gene Norris in this last piece of writing, I alluded to you, very similarly, kissing your ass every step of the way – you see, from afar, you had the same impact on me.

    Well, Nan received the letter. I never heard from you while I was visiting the beautiful Holy City; a place I fall in love with every time I step foot upon her noble grounds, a place where my father honeymooned, and later asked my now stepmother to marry him. I am smitten by charm, mesmerized by history, and enchanted with romanticism, hoping I might see Tom Wingo walking the beaches of Sullivan’s Island, stumble upon Will McLean as I jog through the Battery, and up Rainbow Row, or grab a drink with Ledare Ashley, somewhere tucked away, down one of Charleston’s mysterious alleyways. As my father and I were heading back to Atlanta, down I-20, just east of Augusta, my cell phone, which was apparently out of commission for the duration of the trip lit up with some 10-12 voicemails that had stacked up over the course of the week. Well, the very last one was you, Mr. Conroy.

    I listened to that voicemail the whole trip home, and as my father and I giggled in amazement continuining our jouney westward, I called every single person I could think of. That voicemail, hearing your words, speaking to me, taught me as much as any of your books have. They taught me to honor your work, to pay it forward, when and if ever possible, and above all, the humility of a New York Times Best Selling Author.

    Well, now I am friends with Nathalee Dupree, and whenever I see her or am reminded of you via some social media post she offers, I make mention of, and often ask about you, and last time I did so, while eating some of her delicious, more Southern than her, biscuits.

    So, Mr. Conroy, thank you for your life’s work, thus far. Thank you for sharing the world of stories with us, and thank you for that phone call on that steaming hot July day some 11 years ago. It changed “my writing life”, forver. That writing life has evolved, as I am a restaurant owner and chef, but you better believe your bottom dollar that I slip away to the world of stories, whenever I have the opportunity. I know I have atleast one novel in me. Regardless, if there is ever a time when that pretty wife of yours and you decide that a chef other than Nathalee is welcomed to your kitchen to cook, you let me know, and I will be I-20 Eastbound, before you can say, C-O-N-R-A-C-K.

    All My Best,

    Chris Hill
    404.936.4666 (damn right I put my number in there again)

    • Lisa Smegner says:

      Mr. Hill,

      I just read your eloquent note to Pat Conroy. I can hear how much he meant to you in this note. I never met him either, but I have always said if there were one person that I could meet and have dinner with, it would be Pat Conroy. I’ve never read anything by anyone that touched me like The Prince of Tides. I had a rough childhood also, and I related to it in a way I can’t even begin to explain – nor would I want to. I saw the movie before I read the book. I sat in the theatre and cried like a baby. It brought so much pain up for me. But it made me realize that other people went through unspeakable things. For so long, I’d felt like nobody could possibly understand my life. But, he did. I really don’t know why I’m telling you this, except that I’m so saddened by Mr. Conroy’s recent death, and I’m sure you are also. When I started reading The Prince of Tides, I was totally mesmerized. I was almost in shock because he painted such a clear picture with words. He was indeed unbelievable, and after that, I became inspired to write. Since then, I’ve put a lot on paper that my folks would have hated and denied, but they are no longer alive. Writing has been a most therapeutic exercise for me. What I wouldn’t give to be able to write like Pat Conroy! But that, my friend, is a God-given talent, in my opinion. What a lovely note you wrote him, and said many things that I’m sure many of his admirers, including myself would have loved to say to him. But YOU did it! I’m quite impressed that Mr. Conroy called you, even if you did miss the call. What a great memory!

      Thank you for your great note. I’m sorry for the loss I’m quite sure you feel….as I do.

  • Sandra Nuelken says:

    Thank you for your understanding of those things that make teaching so very difficult. I retired after teaching 18 years when the administrator sitting in the conference with a parent allowed that parent to yell and curse at me for ten minutes. When the parent left the administrator said, “don’t feel bad he did the same thing last year to a teacher”. I loved the children, it was the constant negativity from the parents, administrators and lawmakers that made it not fun anymore.

  • Harold Hickman jr says:

    Nobody says it like Pat Conroy and this is what keeps me coming back. I was born and raised on Sullivan’s Island,SC and find myself drawn to the dialogue and life experiences shared in your novels. I have since moved to the mtns. of NC and you sir keep me in touch with my heritage. I have read all of your work and just finished The Water is Wide again so another novel would be great.

  • Eddie Blackmon says:

    While you are quite right Mr. Conroy in your praise for teachers as well as the negative impact our federal government has had on teaching, there is one glaring problematic issue that you have ignored in your praise of our teachers and criticism of our government.
    That is, some teachers who graduate from colleges in our own state of South Carolina are hardly educated at all but somehow have received license from our state to teach in our public schools. Two of my grandchildren had incompetent teachers like this, one in elementary school and one in middle school. This is a gut wrenching tragedy in our system today.

  • Bill Gabrielson says:

    Thank you for sharing your appreciation of Gene Norris.When I arrived from New Jersey to become principal of Robert Smalls Middle School one of the first people I met was Gene, one of our guidance counselors. He was a true Southern Gentle man. [Space intentional.I remember how you had to convince him to go to a program that would honor him. He didn’t want me to approve the trip, but his reluctance was futile.I almost had to push him out the door.
    As I have now retired after 51 years in education, I can reflect and place Gene Norris on that t list of people who matter.

  • charlie ledford says:

    “The needle’s eye that doth supply, the thread that runs so true”. Jesse Stuart’s book about a country school teacher was read to my fourth grade class by Mrs Ruby Deyton in 1951 and I remember it to this day. Go for it!

  • J. MAgner says:

    A friend sent me your post after I had sent an article to about the mayor of N.Y. and the teacher’s union attempts to kill Charter schools.

    This is my reply to him.

    Conroy had teachers from a different time which evoked different values. The teachers he praises today are not the ones nor do they operate in the same system of the ones he grew up in.

    He may be amazed that his novel “The Lords of Discipline” is used in high school because it paints the South and Marines and the Citadel in an unfavorable light. Isn’t that the point as to why it is used?

    At the hotel in Spokane a few years back there was a convention of “Educators” They were carrying signs opposing no child left behind. What a misshapen ugly bunch. They really looked like something out of a carnival show. I wouldn’t give my dog to them let alone my child.

    The simple fact is that primary education is failing many of America’s children. Excuse me if my sympathy lies more with the victims of that system then the teachers and Pat Conroy’s dream for a time and system that no longer exists.

    Systems become corrupted and bought out by the people that work in them. Wall St works for the benefit of brokers and investment bankers rather than investors. The law becomes a job program for judges and lawyers and only incidentally a system for public order.

    Education becomes a system that primarily serves the needs of the educators.

    To bad that pat Conroy has bought into that.

  • Eve Fleming says:

    Dear Pat,

    You and I met some years ago, introduced by Scott Graber at a fundraiser for the amazing Alex Sanders. Anything you write, I love to read. You could call me a Pat Conroy groupie, I suppose. While it is impossible for me to choose a favorite Conroy book, The Water is Wide has always held a special place in my heart. I’ve been thinking of it, and your experience as a teacher, often this past year….last April, several of us here in Beaufort saw the need for public Montessori here in Beaufort, and we started the very challenging journey of beginning a public Montessori charter school here, which will open this fall. It’s been quite a ride, but I think about your story when it gets a little tough. Thank you for the inspiration… and by the way, Carol Wise, who wrote a comment above? She is a FABULOUS Latin teacher at Beaufort Academy!

  • Jeanne Rountree says:

    Dear Pat Conroy,

    I am an English teacher, and I long to be a novelist like you. You are still a teacher in so many ways. Your “blog” here moves me to tears. Teachers are struggling so much under the weight of red tape and test scores these days. Thank you for using your words to lift us up.

  • Rhonda Powell says:

    I am a retired English teacher who loves you and thanks you.

  • Ann Ward says:

    Dear Pat,

    We are all so very proud of you and will continue to be. We looked up to you in school because of your academics and agility in sports. To us there wasn’t anything Pat Conroy couldn’t accomplish. I know there have been struggles, as we all have in life and that is what defines us. God bless you Pat and I am so proud to say we grew up together!


    Ann Ward

  • R Cooley says:

    Mr. Conroy, I have read and loved all your books; and I’m so happy that you plan to write more.

  • Rachel says:

    Exquisitely written as usual for you and a beautiful tribute to us! Thank you for it!

  • Judi B. Kimrey says:

    What a writer! I have often said that your prose is the prettiest I have ever read. How in the world do you create in your craft prose that is so poetic. I have read all your books and loved all of them. I just recently finished reading Death of the Great Santini, and am still scratching my head over the dysfunctional family in which you grew up. I honestly thought that my family, the one in which I grew up, was the only one with such dysfunction until I broadened my horizons in terms of friends and acquaintances.

    i was an English teacher for 26 years, and loved the interaction with my students. In our little small town, I often see former students, and get reconnected with them. Facebook has also affored me the opportunity to reconnect wiith those who do not live in Norwood. I, like you, had one teacher that was responsible for making me realize my abilities and aiming to use them in the service of others.

    Thanks for all your wonderful books. One Christmas, I received your cookbook as a gift. To date, I have not used any recipes in it, but certainly aim to. As long as I taught, teaching was my passion. Now, since I have retired, cooking is.

  • Rich H says:

    2nd part comments: “Blog” is an abbreviation for Web Log… so it’s sort of like a diary that you let everyone see.
    I once read one writer’s opinion that for writers, stories seem to be buried in them, and if they don’t find a release, it feels like they will explode. I imagine that for a writer like that, a blog could be a great idea, letting those little stories that deserve telling but will never fit in a book or short story a place to live.

    1st part comments: as a teacher, all I can say is “thank you” for more eloquently venting my frustration than I can.

    Lastly, and I truly apologize for this..
    Rah Virginia Mil!
    Rich H, VMI ’81

    • Ramy says:

      a teacher is bad. And of cosrue there are always exceptions, but I have found that when they use the word bad it usually refers to how the teacher makes them feel about themselves. They yell, or demean or just make the classroom seem unsafe. The statement the kids made seemed very telling to me, and I’m not surprised that you could see where the boys were coming from. Thanks for sharing their observations! I always love to visit your site. You always give me something to think about!! Take care!!!

  • Judi B. Kimrey says:

    Oops! Where were my editing skills? I need a question mark at the end of the second sentence. In the second paragraph, first sentence, I failed to capitalize the first word of the sentence–should read I. Still in the second paragraph, third sentence, I left off the d in the middle of the word afforded.

  • George Maroska says:

    My times and yours didn’t work this tour, sorry I missed you. Saw Garbade last month and he says you see each other every now and then. I’ll put my copy in the car next trip to Beaufort who knows? Take care Pat a wonderful book!

  • Connie Hipp says:

    You were an inspiration to me as a Beaufort High School teacher – and so was Gene Norris. And you have continued to make me feel good about myself and the things I have accomplished in my life and community. Thank you Looking forward to your next writings.

  • vic powers says:

    went to beaufort high for my first three years of high school, then to California for my senior year, when my dad went back to viet nam for his second tour… then came back to beaufort and stayed with mr. Norris for a couple of months while I went to uscb… great guy… quirky is a compliment when you’re describing him and men and women like him… great heart and soul, as well… sharp witted, steel trap mind encased in a slow moving body that made people underestimate him to their own peril… love your writing style, and will certainly read the latest and the last, whenever that one is… quit worrying about not being good enough, it’s a little too late for that, don’t you think?… that horse is waaay over the hill by now…

  • Nils H says:

    Thanks for the kind words for teachers, Pat. I’ve read many of your books but not all. The two that have really formed bookends for me are The Water is Wide and My Losing Season. Both encapsulate the feeling of floundering I’ve had when I was supposed to be the captain; as a teacher and as a coach. Whether in the Peace Corps or in an inner city school, I recognized the challenges that you had as a new teacher. In My Losing Season, I felt at times like your coach trying to motivate but struggling to communicate what I wanted you to do, or in my case my players.

    Best of all, though, My Losing Season teaches how important the effort is and not the outcome. I’ve given that book to struggling athletes and students to help them that yes, it’s hard to soar like an eagle when you’re travelling with turkeys but the turkeys didn’t choose to be turkeys….and many of them are great turkeys!

    Pat, you’re doing a great job. I enjoy your work and craft and kind words for teachers.

  • Rebecca Dorr says:

    Pat,I so enjoy reading your books. Sadly, I must admit, I have not read all of them, yet.
    I think my favorite has been “The Water Is Wide”, because i have a great respect for teachers and I lived in Beaufort when my husband was stationed there. I cam to love that town and left with mixed emotions. In all my years in school, I had three teachers that had a great impact on my life. First was my third grade teacher, who gave me the opportunity and desire to read. Second was my fifth grade teacher, who taught me an appreciation for Classical Music. And last, but not least was my 10th grade biology teacher, who not only taught us Biology, but taught us about life.
    Thank you for honoring the teachers in your life with this latest Blog.

  • Julie Bussells says:

    Enjoyed hearing you in Columbia! Glad you mentioned your Citadel ring above. Our son, a 2005 English graduate, had his ring stolen from his apartment in D.C. while he served in the Army at Walter Reed/Bethesda hospital as a nurse (his second degree). Your mention of your ring was a reminder that replacing his ring would be a wonderful gift from his proud parents. He is now at UVA in graduate school, and has friends in many parts of the world because of his Citadel connections.

  • Kathy Snell Caine says:

    Thank you Pat.
    May your muse provide you with ideas/plots for our
    reading pleasure for many years to come.

  • Linda R Allen says:

    Dear Pat (I hope you don’t mind the use of your first name),
    I feel like I know you on some level (as do many of your readers). I was born in 1945, was an Army brat growing up, and certainly related to many of the stories of your life. I have loved reading all of your books, you truly have a gift of being able to paint a vivid picture of whatever you are describing. Such beautiful words that go straight to our souls. I have worried about you over the years, because of the pain of your early life, especially. But you are a tough survivor, and I’m delighted that you feel that you have some more books left to write. I look forward to them! Take good care, Linda

  • Jim Crotty says:

    So timely today, Mr. Conroy, because I am returning to the college classroom, to teach once again. There is nothing more rewarding than making a positive difference in a young person’s life through teaching and helping in the flourishing of natural talent. Good teachers make all the difference in the world. They are our bedrock.

  • Eleanor Allan Mcphail says:

    I love your books. I was a teacher at Beaufort high school with Gene and Ellis. You were a junior I believe. You describe that time and place beautifully. I admire your writing and appreciate your speaking up for teachers. Those years at Beaufort were magical

  • Caren Witt says:

    “As for now, I feel the first itch of the novel I’m supposed to write – the grain of sand that irritates the soft tissues of the oyster. The beginning of the world as I don’t quite know it. But I trust I’ll begin to know it soon.”

    These lines are but one reason why I am a Pat Conroy loyalist!

    Our first trip to Beaufort in 2003 was to feel and experience what I had read in Beach Music; and the area did not disappoint. From the smell of the marsh to witnessing turtles hatch on Hunting Island; I had stepped into a Pat Conroy novel. Traveling to meet you at the book signing for South of Broad in Beaufort was our next step in Conroy “stalking”, and worth every minute! And now….my husband is a true convert as well, and we are on a first name basis with you; as if you are a life long friend. When we discussed parts of The Death of Santini, our conversations went something like, “when Pat said this” or “when Pat said that, I really felt”. We spent the month of January 2014 in Beaufort (brrr), and what a blessing it was. To be gifted with experiencing one of those amazing sunrises or sunsets; its magical. As I passed a woman in one of the shops on Bay Street carry a copy of the Lords of Discipline, I was drawn to speak with another “follower”!

    We lost our own “Santini” this past Saturday, and I am desperately trying to find the words for the memorial on Friday. It is amazing to me how we live these uniquely individual lives yet they can be so similar to another’s story!

    You are a blessing to the literary world, and to our world! Thank you! Now…..get out those yellow tablets, and get writing!

  • Everett Tolton says:

    My son is a Teacher who works with children with behavioral problems and has been a Coach and Teacher all of his adult life. Whenever I have tried to get him to leave the profession that has not been kind to him, he bristles also. It is not a profession or a job, it is a Calling, not unlike that of the Priesthood. I stand in awe of him and all of those others like him and wish I could have been as driven in my professional life. Maybe I was just meant to be the father of one. I love your writing because you touch the core of who and what we are. God Bless you.

  • Linda Chappell Stout says:

    Thank you so much for this description of teachers and the art of teaching. I am, was, among their ranks as a high school English teacher and as a librarian for 25 years in North Carolina and metro Atlanta and as a librarian for 25 years(now retired). Thanks for championing the cause. Thanks also for your service as detailed in THE WATER IS WIDE, a lovely book. I am recommending it my family and friends, those with experience in Education, but especially to those without it. Recently I watched your interview on Years ago I read MY and LOSING SEASON and really enjoyed it. I had previously started a number of your novels but could not complete them because time constraints: full-time teaching, being a single mom. The sadness in your family reached out and grabbed me to such an extent that I could not continue. Because of a synchronicity of factors, I have now embarked on a great adventure: reading all of your works in order so that I can trace your development as an artist. I hope to be able to make it through the painful parts of your family life. I have a gym buddy, a retired teacher, who is doing the same thing. I admire you as a person, as a man, and as a great talent. I love your sense of humor and your style of writing. I love your world view. Currently I am reading four of your works: at different locales on different formats. I am a native of NC but spent my adult life in Atlanta, GA. I relate to your settings
    and “characters”, real and fictional. Good luck getting some much needed rest and pursuing the other novels that are percolating in your brain. BTW: I have “friended” you on Facebook. A serious case of hero worship ;-)

  • Alice S. Wolfe says:

    I am at the end of my teaching career but my daughter has just begun. Her first year I furnished her with a house to live so she could spend her pay checks on her students. Now she is planning to marry and is looking for a house. How do I answer her when she looks at her check and says “how can we ever afford to buy a house?” She has a 4 year degree and she earns $30,000 after 3 years. Her college roommate has a 4 year degree and started out at $60,000.
    What are we thinking America????

  • Cary Riggs says:

    Thank you. For this blog, for putting in the years to give us books like Lords of Discipline, Water is Wide and Prince of Tides. I hope to see more.

    As a Latin teacher at the end of his career I keep looking ahead…”Maybe I can get this last group through…One more 4 year journey to AP Latin…one more group through AP Art History. Teaching has been a joy and a blessing.

  • Elizabeth Barringer Schrader says:

    Thank you for recognizing teachers. As an elementary teacher, I see subjects like math and reading getting the most attention, due to standardizing testing. I love teaching writing to my students. This is the area where one can see the most growth from the beginning of the year to the end. Do you ever visit elementary schools? It would be nice for the students to meet you and aspire to be a writer instead of a professional ball player.

  • Ginny jackson says:

    Wow! What a gift you are to all who read but especially to those of us who have lived a more dark dysfunctional life. Mine was mild in comparison. I read Prince of Tides in early 90′s and it awakened something in me that needed to be awakened. After my then five yr old son said to me ” I hate you when… comes to visit” I knew I was SEEN and that began my inner archeological dig but tho I wanted it fast it has been at the pace necessary to find any treasures along the way. I’ve read a few of your other books and after stumbling onto The Death of Santini I now will read them all. The Death of… Was tough and soft at the same time. How you stayed in the mix is something that causes me to pause and rethink my leaving my mix. Drugs are a part of my reason for detaching. Not safe. But I try to remain open and your book reminds me the treasures you do get for staying. I just also know the toxicity eats away at me even when I think it doesn’t. Is that good for my life now and into the future. Time will tell. Thank you for risking this book/ stepping OUT and telling YOUR truth. And so many lines resonated with me in your book. You are the master at not wasting a word on any page!!!

  • Love your books. I have bought every one and gifted many many copies of Beach Music. Read every word multiple times. I look forward to your next book. I sing your praises whenever I get the chance. I now have many friends who share my love of your books.

    I work to raise funds for our Domestic Violence shelter. We raised $60,000 last year with our Dancing with the Valley Stars event. If you would consider recording a brief utube video with a mention of your experience with violence in the family and how we need to hold hands to stop it. We would be forever grateful and use the video at the 2014 Dancing with the Stars Video.

  • Lee Whitlock says:


    Thank you for teaching all these years. You may not think of yourself as a teacher, but you are. Perhaps it’s because of all those years with Gene, but you are one of the wisest teachers I’ve ever known. In addition to teaching me to love literature, you have taught me psychology, geography, sociology, home economics, the art of cooking, and a host of other subjects. Part of your teaching method has been to introduce something, and then force me to go find out more about the subject. Great teaching method.

    In addition, you introduced me to myself. I first read you in the “The Prince of Tides,” and I found out a great deal about myself. I now tell friends, “If you really want to know me, read “Tides.” Read about “Tom Wingo,” and you will understand my good points and my demons. Thank you. And thank you for your drum beat for teachers that never ceases.


  • Steve jones says:

    I enjoyed reading your essay, “The Teachers of My Life”, which stirred many memories from my past. I am a product of the Beaufort County education system, and have always been proud of that. I was reminded of the many teachers throughout my educational career who inspired and encouraged me to strive for something, not necessarily better, but something higher. I was fortunate to have been influenced by your friend, Bernie Schein, as my Principal, Teacher and Friend as a 6th grader at the Port Royal Elementary School. He not only encouraged me to want to go to college, but inspired me to believe that there could be no other path for me in my life. He transformed me into a life long learner with a faith that nothing I seek cannot be accomplished.
    I number you among those teachers, for although you never taught me in a class room, I was in Port Royal when you brought the kids from Daufuskie Island to our town and school for a Halloween parade and carnival and to take them Trick or Treating. It was an amazing thing to behold and a memory I will always treasure.

  • Gretchen Mercer says:

    Mr. Conroy, just a wee bit behind Harper Lee, you are my favorite author. The fact that you are a Southern author is like icing on the cake! I must confess to riding in my friend’s golf cart…along with 3 college/teacher friends, by your home on Fripp last year. My friend says it’s impolite for the locals to treat you special, but we needed to steal a picture of your place to paste into the front covers of our new Signed Copies of The Water is Wide. A most Prized Possession! I do pray that you live out your life long enough to tell all of your stories…and that I will still be around to read each one.

  • Sandra Denton says:

    I have read most of your books, & they’re True Treasures,to me! I’ve been engrossed, by Beach Music, @ least a couple times. I am reading South of Broad, for the second time, and, look forward to many more adventures, with you. I love your beautiful writing; it just soothes the SOUL!!!! May we be blessed with your Masterpieces, for many years, to come!!!!! God bless you & your extraordinary GIFT, of touching hearts, everywhere!!!!!! A True Follower!

  • Phyliss Boatwright says:

    You have been my literary hero since I read The Prince of Tides shortly after it was published. I immediately went back and read your previously published works, and have anxiously waited for your next book ever since.

    I am a native South Carolinian, and am proud you settled in my – our – home state.

    For years, I was a journalist, and covered education. I had several teachers in my family, including my sister. I thought I knew something about teaching. Three years ago, when the decline of newspapers was becoming so frightening, I left that career and moved into education. I am in my third year of teaching English and journalism at a charter high school, and I can honestly say that I had no idea what the job entailed. It is by far the hardest work I’ve ever done – including growing up on a farm in the 1960s and 1970s. I still don’t consider myself a teacher, because I haven’t given my entire adult life to this most difficult, demanding, exhilarating and exhausting labor of love. I do admire and commend all those who have sacrificed years and countless hours and energy to make a true difference.

    I have thought many times that I need to write about my experiences, and how being “on the inside” has opened my eyes to what teaching really is. One day, God willing, I will. In the meantime, I can’t wait to read your next book. I will pray for your good health and look forward to once again being enchanted by your craftsmanship.

    Thank you for sharing your amazing talent with the world!

  • Leigh Ausband says:

    A former resident of Beaufort where I was a teacher (nine years at Robert Small Middle where Gene Norris was a guidance counselor), I am now a professor at UNC Charlotte, training the next generation of teachers. I am going to share this with my seniors who are doing their student teaching in the fall. The North Carolina legislature has not been kind to our teachers and I believe that this piece of writing – eloquent as usual – will provide a realistic and optimistic view of teaching and should provide the basis for a lively conversation. Even though my seniors still see life through the idealistic lens of the young, teaching is a hard job and words of encouragement are always needed.

  • Pati says:

    Pat, I read The Water is Wide when I was twelve years old at my desk in my tiny Catholic school in middle Georgia. You, your writing, those nuns and the many wonderful teachers I’ve been blessed with are the reason I became an educator 29 years ago. As number 6 of the seven children of a fighter pilot and a beauty, I have lived and been witness to many parallels with your stories. I have read all your books, and I heard you speak at The Walker School in Marietta 10 years after we lost our own Santini to leukemia. Our beauty will be 90 years old this year, and is still a vibrant lifeforce of grace, strength, and inspiration. Your mastery of the written word has made me cry and sing in equal measure. Your defense of educators has had the same effect. As I write this, my heart is full with gratitude that you have shared with us your talent and your craft. The promise of your next book is as the spring, eagerly awaited. Thank you. Regards, Pati

  • Jennifer Leonard says:

    I’m one of the many teachers who adore your books. Over the years, I’ve had many student teachers, and each one leaves my classroom with a copy of The Water is Wide. Thank you for your passionate words on teaching; it is good to be appreciated by one of the great authors of our time.

  • Amanda Greenway says:

    Thank you so much for your kind words to teachers. I read The Water is Wide during my first year teaching Spanish in 2001, and re-read it every few summers. We all appreciate your support! My father (a former Navy officer) has always been a big fan of your writing, and when I bought him Death of Santini for Christmas, I also picked up a copy for my husband and myself. Of course I had to get The Great Santini too, because we needed to read that first. We finished both of them (reading aloud to each other) within a month. We were very happy to have you as company on that long car ride from Rhode Island to North Carolina and back at Christmas. We were thrilled when we came upon your interview with Diane Rehm on the radio during that same long trip, and are looking forward to reading the rest of your work.

    On a side note for all the Pat Conroy fans out there, I have an anecdote that I hope is okay to share. One summer during college, I was waiting tables at an inn & country club in Cashiers, NC. There was some kind of writing conference going on one weekend, and management chose me to wait on Pat and Winston Groom. It was a place that touted their policy of “southern hospitality.” What they meant by this was that there was a no-tipping policy. They paid us minimum wage ($4.25 at the time) so they were able to get away with it. I’m sure I was a completely inept waitress, but I did my best. Both of them were extremely nice, and felt uncomfortable not tipping, so they ordered an extra bottle of wine at the end of their meal and left it for me on the table! Isn’t there a saying that how people treat their waiters and waitresses is a glimpse of their true character?

  • Jennifer Mulvaney says:

    Mr. Conroy, you have been my favorite author since I read Lords of Discipline during my college years. I attended a school with a very strict honor code and one of my classmates recommended it to me. I could not put it down, and when I had finished, I read all the other novels you had published. Today I stumbled upon your blog and read the post you wrote about teachers. In New Jersey we are in the midst of implementing our new teacher evaluation system. Test scores, SGOs, SGPs … Sometimes I struggle to remember why I entered the profession. Your blog post was a much needed reminder of the positive impact we can have on out students. Thank you :-)

  • Patricia E. Griswold says:

    Mr. Pat Conroy. Would you consider writing a book about all the ghosts, in the lowcountry/Beaufort, SC? So many people. ask about our ghosts. Reports that there is a ghost in my house is still mentioned! Any way if there IS a spirit floating around, he (Father Karras) would be glad that this house is so loved.

  • Brenda DeFoor says:

    Mr. Conroy,
    Thank you so much for the inspiring words about the teaching profession. I recently retired after teaching first and then second grade in Westminster, S. C. I dreamed of becoming a teacher as a child putting my younger sister and brother through many hours of “play school” on our front porch steps. It was the only job I ever wanted.Twenty eight years later I have so many fond memories, some good and some bad, of my years in the classroom. My daughter is now a Media Specialist in an elementary school and my granddughter is majoring in Elementary Education at Clemson University. So you see, teaching runs in the family. However, it is hard to fathom the lack of respect we receive as teachers not only from the public but from our elected officials. I would like to see some of our senators and representatives walk in our shoes just one day. I’m sure most of them would last less than a day. Thank you for setting the example you did for those of us who have followed in the profession.

  • David Shinn says:

    I agree with you about Gene Norris. He was probably the most unintimidating inspiration of a teacher I ever met. Although he often let me and others skip his class so us “brats” would not disrupt his intended instruction for the day, it occasionally came with a price, i.e., read a book and submit a report on it. Gosh, I sure wish I could do that with today’s chemistry students. Lol. :-)

  • You must be so busy exercising that you don’t have time to write in your blog. Every week I look for the next writing – please hurry up and continue. Best. Claire Tomlin

  • Darla Rigg says:

    Mr. Conroy, I am holding back tears as I type this “reply.” I have been listening to your audiobook “My Reading Life.” I just finished listening to the beloved Gene Norris’s passing. I am in mourning over a man I never met, but to whom you have introduced me through your writing. I have read many, if not all, of your books, Years ago, “Prince of Tides” was recommended to me by a friend who knew I loved to read, and I have been enthralled with your beautify use of words ever since. I am not a writer, and don’t have the ability to convey to you what your writing evokes in me. But listening to you tell the story of your dear teacher was, well, lovely, touching, moving…big. And I was compelled to Google his name and yours, to see if I could tell you that. Thank you so much for sharing him with me.

  • Cindy Rich says:

    To the Muse and of the Prince of Tides
    What touched the poet’s heart to stir his search for what life means?
    Was it tortured days, enchanted joy, or a drawing toward the fight?
    Where did the tiny drops of water join to grow his river’s streams?
    As the tides rush in the full moon glows, in the pink and purple light.

    Who is the muse that enchants the pen that prompts the lover’s screams?
    In her deep green depths and eternal sway with truth that oft takes flight.
    I ask myself, who will explain to us again, is truth just what it seems?
    Who will call the gulls, seek and ponder God as words dance in delight?

    And what makes the dreamer sleep again in search of vivid dreams?
    Will he sail peaceful into his passion’s wish in that final sleep of night?

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