A well-balanced combination of classroom anecdotes and educational strategies.
In this debut work, Iaccarino draws upon three decades of experience, primarily at the elementary level, with occasional forays into that special wilderness also known as middle school. The author recognizes her own early sources of inspiration, most notably a high school history teacher who selected her to participate in a Saturday lecture and discussion program at Yale University, despite lackluster grades. By means of this rare opportunity, Iaccarino came upon an insight that ended up guiding her entire teaching philosophy: Apathy is the real enemy. This book is not a treatise on educational reform, but the author is not shy about commenting on the changes—both positive and negative—that she has witnessed over the past 30 years. Certainly among the veiled criticisms is the notion of standardized testing as the ultimate indicator of student achievement and teacher effectiveness. Throughout the text, Iaccarino employs self-deprecating humor and parenthetical asides, keeping the tone light and breezy, without minimizing the importance of her subject matter. She offers practical, tongue-in-cheek advice: If one is going to employ the “talking stick” method for maintaining classroom order, lightweight cardboard materials are preferable in the event of violent outbursts. She also recounts her experiences using Shakespeare, medieval English history and Native American cultures to motivate students, helping them make connections between schoolwork and overarching themes that would shape their own lives. The section on the six basic syllable types is not to be missed, as Iaccarino employs narratives that will resonate with children and enable them to learn pronunciation rules. Observe how “Secret Agent Silent E” furtively appears at the end of a word and allows the previous vowel to speak its own name: “at” versus “ate.” Parents can use this valuable resource not only to familiarize themselves with challenges faced in the classroom, but also to reinforce beneficial educational habits at home.
Recommended reading for all educators, from starry-eyed neophytes to seasoned veterans.