A high school teacher who became a full-time writer returns to the high school where he taught for years.
Harper’s contributor Keizer (Privacy, 2011, etc.) chronicles his return to teaching at a rural Vermont high school 14 years after his departure. One of Keizer's former students was now the principal, all the students now possessed smartphones, and teaching to the test was more common than before. Some phenomena had not changed, however: the motivated students, the indifferent students, the time-consuming lesson plans, the seemingly endless grading of essays, the individual crises of students at home and in the hallways, as well as the occasional classroom revolts that any teacher would have difficulty controlling. Keizer is a sometimes-sardonic, sometimes-maudlin, always entertaining guide to contemporary high school atmospherics. The paperwork he must complete about each student's performance led him to conclude that it has become increasingly difficult to teach the actual educational substance of what the paperwork indicates should be measured by the curriculum. Keizer explains that even if teaching conditions were closer to ideal, many of the students come from homes where nobody previously has graduated from high school; thus, a higher education will not carry much value in the minds of older rural Vermont residents. Even though he often hoped for the school year to end, Keizer felt devoted to each student, knowing that the schoolwork was providing the acculturation that students lacked at home. The author never romanticizes classroom teaching, and he skillfully compares his own admittedly challenging daily tasks to the even more difficult tasks willingly undertaken by his wife and his adult daughter, who teach special needs children. “It’s fair to say that I have never gone to work in a school with what might be called purity of heart,” writes the author, “though much of what I know about purity of heart I learned there.”
A well-written, yearlong chronicle packed with humor, pathos and valued insights on nearly every page.