The Education of a Teacher: Including Dirty Books and Pointed Looks

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9781450250986: The Education of a Teacher: Including Dirty Books and Pointed Looks
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"In 1968, at age twenty-one, I was sure I had all the answers I needed to know about teaching five classes a day in a real high school ... I had no idea how na´ve I was!" Every teacher's career is a journey of discovery that begins with rookie insecurities and moves toward self-confidence and understanding. When Susan Van Kirk drove into little Monmouth, Illinois, in 1968-straight out of college, with her teaching degree in hand-she thought she was ready to teach English and speech to high school students. She didn't realize that, for the rest of her career, she would both teach and be taught by a town, a school, and the students who entered her life. A veteran of thirty-four years in public high school teaching, Van Kirk will take you on a passionate and unforgettable journey through one teaching life. Meet her students and experience the events that molded a rookie teacher into a veteran. This montage of stories covers the years 1968 to 2008; they describe her early fears about classroom discipline, plots to overthrow "the rookie," handing drug overdoses, the devastating first student death, and a challenge to a major Kurt Vonnegut book in her classroom.

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From the Author:

An Interview with Susan Van Kirk

Q:  What readers will most enjoy The Education of a Teacher?
A:  People who want to be teachers or who are studying to be teachers will love this book.  It isn't about benchmarks or standardized testing, subjects that seem to be driving the curriculum these days.  Instead, it is about the "messy" side of teaching where human beings interact.  The joys, frustrations, exhaustion, pain, and love of the profession are all deeply imbedded in these stories.  One of our state universities is currently using my book in their classes for education students, prior to student-teaching, where it works well because it is from a teacher's viewpoint. In fact, I used several of these stories in my own college education classes. Teachers currently in classrooms, especially the young ones, will read this book and say, "Yes!"  I arranged the stories chronologically so readers see the young, inexperienced teacher grow into the more mature, experienced professional. People who look back on their high school experiences and wonder "what were those teachers thinking" will now know. Finally, anyone who likes a good short story will find this book refreshing because the chapters are about human beings experiencing an American rite of passage:  surviving high school.

Q:  What surprised you most about writing The Education of a Teacher?
A:  I thought my stories would be about the subject I taught for thirty-four years: high school English and speech.  Instead, they centered on memorable students and interactions with them.  I can still hear their voices and see their high school faces.  They taught me a how to be a teacher. I located many of these students who were eager to help with this book, and it was most gratifying to hear where their lives have gone.

Q:  Since you taught English, didn't you find it easy to write your own stories?
A:  It took me six years, on and off, to finish this book.  I taught expository writing in high school, but chose to use creative nonfiction in my book.  That meant I had to walk an ethical line between using the facts as I remembered them (or could corroborate them), and creating dialogue or using nonlinear plots. These stories read like fiction but they are based on fact. People often ask how I can remember conversations.  Some conversations I remember quite clearly, and others I created to approximate what might have been said to move the story in a factual direction.   

Q: What aspects of a public school teaching career do you believe are central to your book?
A:  The early stories touch on my fears.  Every first-year teacher has some of those fears despite the face he or she puts on.  Those early years a teacher deals with fear, sleeplessness, and concerns about discipline and ethics.  Exhaustion becomes a way of life.  Many of the stories reveal how teachers figure out a way to be genuine in their reactions and interactions with students, but also remain professional and ethical.  Differences in socio-economic backgrounds and home lives play a huge part in many of these stories.  And aloneness is a real issue in teaching.  Every day teachers go into their classrooms, shut their doors, and have to deal with all kinds of issues and decisions alone.  It can be a very lonely and frustrating profession.  Problem-solving and making ethical decisions are important skills for any professional teacher.  These true stories reveal how all of these aspects of public school teaching are a part of teachers' lives on a daily basis.

Q:  What issues do your stories address?
A:  The book has fifteen chapters and each addresses a topic teachers often face.  Some of those subjects are:  drug use, socio-economic differences, racial issues, intellectual freedom, the death of a student, teenage pregnancy and sexual abuse, teacher aging, and book censorship.  The longest story is about a book challenge to Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions. Some of the stories are humorous, focusing on the lighter side of the job.

Q:  What are you working on now?
A:  I'm moving to fiction and working on a novel of the cozy mystery genre.  Set in a small town, it will involve a main character who just retired from teaching and finds herself in the middle of a murder.  I'm having great fun planning and writing in a new genre.

About the Author:

Susan Van Kirk taught at Monmouth High School for thirty-four years. She earned a BA from Knox College and a M.Ed. from the University of Illinois. She currently lives in Monmouth, Illinois, and teaches at Monmouth College. From this collection, her story "War and Remembrance" was published in Teacher Magazine.

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Book Description iUniverse.com. Hardcover. Condition: New. 264 pages. Dimensions: 9.1in. x 5.9in. x 1.1in.In 1968, at age twenty-one, I was sure I had all the answers I needed to know about teaching five classes a day in a real high school . . . I had no idea how nave I was! Every teachers career is a journey of discovery that begins with rookie insecurities and moves toward self-confidence and understanding. When Susan Van Kirk drove into little Monmouth, Illinois, in 1968-straight out of college, with her teaching degree in hand-she thought she was ready to teach English and speech to high school students. She didnt realize that, for the rest of her career, she would both teach and be taught by a town, a school, and the students who entered her life. A veteran of thirty-four years in public high school teaching, Van Kirk will take you on a passionate and unforgettable journey through one teaching life. Meet her students and experience the events that molded a rookie teacher into a veteran. This montage of stories covers the years 1968 to 2008; they describe her early fears about classroom discipline, plots to overthrow the rookie, handing drug overdoses, the devastating first student death, and a challenge to a major Kurt Vonnegut book in her classroom. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Hardcover. Seller Inventory # 9781450250986

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