Friday, 27 March 2015

Book Review--Real Talk for Real Teachers

If you have ever stepped foot in a classroom as a teacher (or substitute) and felt overwhelmed, Real Talk for Real Teachers by Rafe Esquith has something for you!

I spent the last school year as a substitute teacher in the public school, culminating with the last 12 weeks of the year as a permanent sub for 8th grade Language Arts.  I knew my subject and have a passion for it, I've taught in various informal setting and in small classes at the university level.  But I was not prepared for a classroom of 27 8th graders.  From the horrifyingly frustrating moment when a boy unhooked a girl's bra when we were supposed to be watching the afternoon news program to an irate parent wondering why her daughter didn't get the same grade as another student even though she didn't do the work, I spent many moments treading water, trying to gasp for breath.

That is all behind me currently as I am happily ensconced in my field of education and training: librarianship (although if you're read some of my earlier posts you'll see being in the public library brings its own challenges).  But I believe in learning all I can about any of the various endeavors I try so this book was a wonderful tool to that end.

Grouped into three sections, the beginning teacher, the mature teacher and the experienced teacher, Rafe Esquith addresses the challenges and benefits of each season of a long-term classroom teacher. For newbies, they will find comfort in the reassurance that all great teachers were once new teachers. For the teacher who has settled into his/her stride, encouragement to fight against the comfort of the rut.  And for the experienced teacher who has been at it for decades, the freedom to explore.

Esquith uses a combination of theory, explanation and real-life examples from his own classroom and other interactions he has observed between teachers and students.  Just when I thought he was becoming unrealistically optimistic, he would discuss an obstacle or a failure.  He also does not shy away from the turmoil that politics and standardization have created in the classroom.  Parental interactions are outlined in both the positive and negative.  And very, very frank statements such as "This job can kill you" ensure that new or prospective teachers will know what they are getting in for when they enter the classroom.

If you are even considering a career in education, this is a spectacular book to read to get a realistic account of what being a teacher is.  You will find successes, failures, lesson learned and encouragement in the pages of this gem of wisdom.

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