June 11, 2008

Cheap Teacher Drugs: Laughter and Learn Me Good

I finally read John Pearson's (aka Mr. Teacher) book Learn Me Good. Trust me when I say that I've felt an incredible amount of guilt for not ordering the guy's book. I do love his writing style and his quirky sense of humor.

If I adore his writing so much, why wouldn't I buy his book? Truly, it's nothing personal. It's just that in the last decade I've had my fill of educators who write books about their first year experiences. These educators turned writers come galloping in ready to change the world through teaching, but then they discover that it is about the hardest job in the world. Some of them dedicate their entire lives to their students, often to the detriment of their outside relationships and personal health. Many of them quit teaching within a few years. Then they write these books that make themselves look like tragic heroes--and they make some bucks doing it. Some of them have even had movies made from their experiences.

So what's the problem with that? I'll readily admit the green-eyed monster is stalking me. The experiences that these experimental teachers write about could have been my experiences. I could have written those books. My own heroic teacher journey could be on the big screen. But no. I'm still a teacher. Now I've been teaching too long to be some tragic hero. I don't even make a good martyr. I'm just a teacher.

I'm pleased to say that John Pearson is just a teacher. With a great sense of humor. Oh, he's a witty, witty man. We all know that, of course. I'm sure that his humor is used as a coping mechanism to some extent, as it is with all sane teachers, but while reading his adventures in the classroom, I know that his humor is the way he approaches life. He's a go-with-the-flow kind of guy who knows which battles to pick.

He's not really a battle-picking guy either. I can appreciate a man who goes into teaching as a second career and learns how to work within the system. We have bureaucracy, over-testing, low student achievement, and student transiency. These are all huge issues that deserve some battles, but John simply puts his energies into the students. Yes, the other (irritating) teacher authors do the same, but I think the difference is in his attitude. He doesn't act like he's out to change the world. He also doesn't act like teaching is a stopping point on the way to something better in life. He teaches students math, and along the way he works in some lessons about character. And he teaches elementary students! People, give the man some applause. Elementary students are so wiggly. And smelly. And lots of other things I wouldn't even want to discover.

Oh, but that description makes the book sound so boring. It's not. Oh, no! It's hi-lar-i-ous! It is so ridiculous at times that I am not truly sure what is fact or fiction. That's life in the classroom, though, isn't it? Some days I can't wait until each period is over so I can meet with my colleagues in the hallway during passing time. We exchange quick stories of madness: "You know that kid who calls himself Bob the Worm? He's wearing a bullet-proof vest today." Some days I live for those stories. Anything to break the stress of teaching. That's what I like about Learn Me Good. His odd, witty stories re energize the tired, frustrated teacher soul without making us feel like we need to start changing the world today.

For that, I'll not be bitter when he becomes a billionaire from selling the movie rights to his book. So, help him make his way to an early retirement and buy his book. I'm buying two.

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