WHITE TEACHER by Viviam Gussin Paley
Kirkus Star

WHITE TEACHER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

White Teacher, black children: Paley approaches this largely unexplored minefield with candor and incisiveness. In the Sixties, when Kohl, Herndon, and others were documenting urban educational blight, Paley was teaching in a virtually all-white kindergarten. When she transferred to an integrated school, she found her gut reactions surprising, even alarming. She began with a kind of studied color blindness, then gradually acknowledged the strains existing between herself and her black students, her tendency to offer unrequested compensations or to label too quickly and resist the implications of such actions. ""I had begun by looking at differences and slipped back into the clich‚s that obscure differences."" This charting of the teacher's progress is a welcome turnabout, an honest record of her attempts to recognize individuality and to reach a true appreciation of human diversity. The wit and sureness of her observations are compelling; in an admiring Foreword, James Comer and Alvin Poussaint (Black Child Care) allude to Sylvia Ashton-Warner, and the comparison holds. She unobtrusively redirects the girls pulling for Jim Crow doll corners, wrongheadedly accuses a complaining parent of prejudice, and finally connects with Steven, an angry five-year-old who initially shouts, ""I don't have to listen to no white lady."" Repeatedly, Paley uses anecdotes to convey judgmental errors, tentative adjustments, barriers overcome, as well as a feel of the classroom--a quiet accumulation of insights which both beginning and veteran teachers will value.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1979
ISBN: 0674041771
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press