A teacher offers personal commentary in his exploration of various types of U.S. schools.
This is an unusual book: It presents a lengthy record of a teacher’s own experiences with the American education system as a basis for an examination of public, private, charter, and cooperative schools. The author appears to have a unique background for an educator, as indicated in the “scholastic resume” he includes at the beginning: He attended both public and private schools, some parochial and some charter, and held a variety of positions, primarily as a substitute teacher, at public, private, parochial, charter, and cooperative schools. He also continues to work as a tutor, which adds another dimension to the story. In an opening “letter,” Felton (Tommy Wrought, 2015) suggests he wrote this volume to assist parents in evaluating and selecting appropriate schools for their children, yet as the book unfolds, it seems that teachers and administrators might actually be a more suitable audience. The sheer amount of specifics associated with the description of each school and every classroom experience, including discussions of teaching methodologies and materials, may only excite a professional educator. Still, the author’s firsthand observations of various types of schools are not without broader appeal. Also enticing, if a bit too flowery at times, is Felton’s expansive, engaging writing style and a strong storytelling element that makes the book read like a memoir. This autobiographical approach considerably enhances the content, but at times it can be unnecessarily detailed, particularly when the copious, lengthy footnotes overwhelm the text itself.
The volume opens with a lovely, heartfelt tribute to an instructor “without whom there would no ‘Mr. Felton,’ ” evidence that the author was inspired to teach at a young age. The book then breaks into chapters, several of which address particular types of schools: parochial, public, private, charter, single sex, cooperative, and immersion (multilingual/multicultural). In each of these chapters, the author uses his own direct experiences with the type of school to comment on it, adding a very personal touch to the content. For example, Felton shares the surprising fact that he has been both a student and teacher at Hebrew, Roman Catholic, and Quaker parochial schools but has “never belonged” to any of these religions. The final two chapters concentrate more specifically on the author’s experiences as a tutor, substitute teacher, and, ultimately, a “lead” teacher. He observes that all of these roles allowed him to view and understand the educational process from significantly different perspectives. Felton’s glowing appraisal of his most recent school position is intriguing as a contrast to some of his less desirable employment situations; however, delving into the fine points of the curriculum may simply be too much for average readers to bear. Despite these occasional informational transgressions, the book exudes an enthusiasm and respect for education as a calling that are hard to ignore.
Overly detailed at times, but an impassioned insider narrative about American education.