Waltzing the Magpies ; The Best of Pickering

LETTERS TO A TEACHER

Samuel F. Pickering, Author . Atlantic Monthly $19.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-87113-699-2

Pickering, an English professor at the University of Connecticut and personal essayist (Waltzing the Magpies ; The Best of Pickering ; etc.), serves up pedagogical advice couched in folksy language and peppered with personal anecdotes, tall tales and family stories. In 10 letters (on "The Good Teacher," "Truth," "Pressure" and more), he ranges over the educational map, considering his education, the schooling of his children, and the middle school and college students he has taught in places as varied as Tennessee, Connecticut, Western Australia and Syria. Modest reflection ("I marvel at how superficial and fragmentary my knowledge seems to be") coexists with firm suggestions ("Instead of humiliating a child, you should talk to parents, generally the force pressuring a child to cheat") amid discussions of the practical matters of teaching (handling committee work, dealing with grade pressure, testing, preparing assignments, mentoring). Education controversies are mentioned gently ("The effects of classroom doings are always mysterious, something that should be pounded, intellectually of course, into every legislator in the nation") and sacred cows sometimes tipped ("question the emphasis education puts on writing," he says). Pickering's odd timelessness—his ideas seem simultaneously old-fashioned and up-to-date—and his warm wisdom (and occasional iconoclasm) will please educators and interested lay readers alike. Agent, Nat Sobel. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/29/2004
Release date: 12/01/2004
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