This week I sat down and read a book by my friend, teacher, Phillip Done, 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny: Life Lessons from Teaching.
He is an elementary teacher and has won numerous awards for his teaching and success. To me, the thing I liked most about the book (in addition to the funny stories) is the fact that it brings into clear focus just how human and messy the teaching process is. Maybe it resonates with me because I'm a piler too (see his chapter on the types of teachers.) My room is usually the messiest one in the building but is also the one that is overflowing with kids who want to be there. Most often, they are working on my class although my class is long since done!
One of my favorite parts of the book is called, “Interview Questions” (p 136-138) — I'm quoting a bit of it here:
“The other day I was thinking about the time when I interviewed for my first teaching job. It is hard to believe it has been twenty years. I can still remember my first interview questions. What is your philosophy of education? What is your classroom management system? What is your discipline plan?
God if I knew…
Here's what I said then and what I'd say now…
Question 1: If I walked into your classroom what would I see?
Answer at first interview: YOu would see children working collaboratively in peace and harmony, praising each other, and sharing their supplies happily with one another. You would see children thinking critically, helping their classmates, and encouraging one another.
Answer today: You'd see Brian hiding the soccer ball between his feet, Peter connecting markers together to make a really long one, and me looking for my coffee mug.
Question 5: What would you do with a difficult parent?
Answer at first interview: I would call the parent and listen to her suggestions. I would work closely with her because we are a team, working together for the success of the child.
Answer today: Say, “Get a life.”
Question 12: Why should we hire you?
Answer at first interview: Because I love kids.
Answer today: Because I love kids.”
To me, teaching is not the sanitary mechanistic textbook-like prose of college textbooks but rather a messy, human-filled, flawed process where sometimes the most bull-headedly determined teacher resorts to expressive, dramatic actions to keep the attention of her (or his) students. It is messy and if it is done well it is the most fun, tear-filled, hard, rewarding, frustrating, incredible, exhausting, amazing, work that one could ever do.
I love kids too. In addition to my own, I have adopted several hundred more. I love them, hope for them, dream for them, sit up at night thinking of what they are good at doing so I can tell them.
This is a great book because it is real. It is funny, heartwarming and very true.
There is a lot of comfort in knowing how imperfect other teachers are, I guess it lets me not be so hard on myself because those “perfect” teachers out there make really make me feel guilty sometimes!!! (You know those with the neat rooms, no backlog of papers to be graded, perpetually updated bulletin boards, and tidy desks in perfect rows?) Phil is an elementary teacher but so much of this is something that I can relate to.
Phil sent me an autographed copy back in the late fall (I collect books autographed by their author) and I appreciate him adding to my collection this endearing book. While not a textbook on “how to teach” in many ways, the “how to teach” is all over it.
For example, when teaching suddenly became easy for me was when I realized that my facial expressions and proximity to my students were my best friends. If you have “the look” down, you don't ever have to fuss — just give the look and your problem is handled. 😉 He has a whole chapter laughing about “the look.”
Thanks Phil for a great read! I wish I could review every book I get, but review those that I enjoy the most. To me, this is a good gift book for teachers, whether retiring or new, and makes for a humorous read. It would be interesting to have all of the teachers at your school compile their funny stories in this way, because we all have them.
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