Friday, September 28, 2007

Letters to a distraught teacher

Recently my dad, who's a librarian, brought me a book called Letters to a Young Teacher, by Jonathan Kozol. At first I was resistant to reading it: The reality of teaching is so far from the comfortable world of reading about it in books that I thought it would just make me bitter.

But I did read it. It's basically a series of letters that Kozol wrote to a brand-new first grade teacher in inner city Boston whom he calls "Francesca." As he comments on Francesca's classroom and her rapport with her students, he also expands on his theories about educational policy.

In one part, he reflects on how Francesca recounted an incident that happened in her classroom to a woman who was conducting a teaching workshop. A student in Francesca's class was telling other students about a story she had written, and all the other students picked up on it and started relating it to their own stories. The workshop woman was impressed that the students had made what she called a "text-to-self" connection.

In the book, Kozol and Francesca both agree that this woman is ridiculous and that teachers don't actually talk like that. And that's when it hit me: I talk like that. I like that stuff. I like learning all those theories about how children learn, about how they make those text-to-self connections. I like working with kids one on one and in small groups and watching those connections click, and on occasion I even like the excitement that comes from the whole class getting really involved in an activity I've set up.

But Kozol and Francesca are right: Most teachers don't talk like that. They're too busy actually teaching.

Where does that leave me?


Anonymous said...

Nice blog. We'd love to have you join our online discussion board ( someone will answer your question.

Anonymous said...

the teachers in my school talk like that. at least the ELA teachers. and it means something, and they teach the kids what it means, and the kids get it. and the rest of us pretty much know what it means. there's nothing wrong with an intellectual reflection on the work you do - as long as it's not just jargon.