A California educator shares his thoughts on teaching, classroom management, and American schools.
Murphy (Drugs, Death, and Auras, 2009) had the noble goal of wanting to teach, but in the early 1970s, jobs were scarce. Instead, he pursued a business career that lasted 18 years. A layoff got him thinking about what to do next; he followed his passion and started a second career as a teacher. Now a classroom veteran, Murphy seeks to educate prospective teachers with this book. He relies on his own experiences, liberally sprinkling classroom anecdotes throughout the volume. Each chapter raises a question that the author attempts to answer, such as “How Does One Decide What Grade to Teach?” and “What Do You Do About the Non-Productive Child?” The chapters are short, and the answers are generally helpful and instructive, infused with Murphy’s passion for teaching. The text often includes strong opinions honed by his business background; for example, about “non-productive” children, he writes: “Not once in all the years I was in the business of manufacturing did one of the units on the production floor REFUSE to be developed in a more useful, more well-developed form. To the chagrin of teachers, students do this all the time.” Some of the author’s ideas about classroom management are creative, such as an inventive technique he learned from another teacher “that makes use of how [students’] brains are actually wired.” On the other hand, the chapters that walk through the teacher-union relationship and California’s methods of school evaluation are a bit dry, technical, and too state-specific to be of broad interest. Perhaps the most intriguing content, which addresses a wider audience than prospective teachers alone, is the author’s expansive commentary about a failed education system. Most notably, Murphy observes that public schools are largely focused on preparing students for college when they should also be providing vocational options for non–university-bound pupils. His novel concept of appointing an “Educational Convoy,” or group of stakeholders to look out for each child’s interests, is bold and refreshing.
Rambling at times but a candid, intelligent, and heartfelt look at teachers and the education system.