As a culture, we often root for the underdog. We love to see teachers motivate students whose every word and gesture reek of defiance. After the initial, yet brief, breaking-in period, movie star teachers cleverly inspire every student to overcome years of poverty and intellectual neglect and to out-achieve their privileged, suburban counterparts. In her compilation of essays, Notes from a Classroom, Kay McSpadden has teaching days that fit the Hollywood bill, and days that would wind up on the editing room floor. She lets us in on it all, thus inspiring, frustrating, motivating, captivating, challenging and teaching us.
- But this is the real world, and I don’t know why some students from horrible backgrounds and with overwhelming odds against them prevail and why others crumble. If I did, then I might be less at a loss for what to do for the angry girls and boys that come into my classroom.
- When they read their poems to the class, I learn again that I love teaching. It can be a hard lesson to hold on to some days. But it is the lesson that keeps me steady, that sends me back into the classroom every year.
- Fortunately – or perhaps unfortunately – I am a hard headed skeptic who has always preferred testing things for myself, so I didn’t quit after that very first difficult year. I did indeed have disrespectful, indifferent students, but I also had many more students who were willing to learn and willing to teach me how to teach them. Teaching was very hard, but it was also great fun.
Kay McSpadden writes op-ed columns for the Charlotte Observer and has been teaching high school English in rural South Carolina for 30 years.
Review: Beth Donofrio, September 16th 2007.