Friday, December 4, 2009
As many of you know, I am in a state of despair about our broken education system. I do the Debbie Downer pretty much timed with every school board meeting and the fact that they are slipping a meeting in to raise our taxes AGAIN--sneaking it into the holiday season when my family is mulling the Christmas Hanukkah dilemma and no one has time to pay attention to board meetings has me seeing RED.
But then,in a little brown wrapper, it arrives in my mail. Close Encounters of the Third Grade Kind by Philip Done and this funny, poignant memoir of teacher and school gives me just a thimbleful of hope. I have children now that no longer love school, despite good grades and a well regarded system. I would read chapters aloud to them at bedtime and we all spent a little minute wishing they could have days like Mr. Done seems to have.
See, I said to my kids, teachers love and care for their students. And Done is not a starry eyes Teach for America recruit. He is a seasoned old fart who knows what he is up against and comes back every year, because this is what he was born to do.
I come from a family of teachers. I was an artist in the school, tough schools, for a decade. I did everything for a certification as a teacher except the final exam, because even then I was depressed about the soul deadening factories that schools had mostly become. I just couldn't spend my life there. Of course the irony is that I became a bureacrat and I send my kids there---but life has a lot of black humor in it!
I have heard from those that have read both that Done's first book is better constructed, but I found this to be a perfect holiday ho ho, for those of us who need a little good news, a belly laugh and a tear or two. It is not great literature, but it is an easy quick read that reminds one of the small jewels that lie in the everyday and ordinary. And it gave me that thimble full of hope that schools can be magical and transformational.