Expanding on the mentoring role she developed as she supervised teachers in training, a middle school English teacher weaves experience, anecdotes and faith into a resource for educators.
Treating teachers as people with lives outside the classroom, each of the 30 chapters addresses an aspect of the teacher’s experience, including critical areas such as classroom rules, civility, and how to give and receive criticism. The chapters focus on what the teacher can control—i.e., the teacher, not the student—offering advice on practices such as cleanliness, organization and using time wisely, as well as approaches for inside the classroom, including the roles of laughter and listening. Also mentioned are the important elements of a teacher’s broader life, including health, faith and achieving balance. While acknowledging that all teachers have limitations, Hayes gives struggling teachers advice on learning from their mistakes and seeking help when they need it, advising them not to consider self-reliance and independence as marks of true success. Nuggets of wisdom and examples from her experience are interwoven with practical advice: how to arrange student desks, drawings on Friday to reward good students, a sample note to parents outlining the behavior expectations for the class, sample notes for a substitute teacher and a sample detention slip. All chapters begin with a quotation of a short bit of (mostly secular) wisdom, though many chapters include Scripture quotations. Noting that research indicates the average U.S. teacher is a woman, Hayes has chosen to refer to teachers as she and to the general student as he, which helps clarify which classroom role she’s referencing. The least effective part of the book, however, is its introduction, which begins with a litany of teacher frustrations that doesn’t do much to communicate the substance of what’s to follow.
Although aimed at Christian teachers, even those of other or no faiths may find some valuable suggestions in this little book.