cover image What I Didn’t Know: True Stories of Becoming a Teacher

What I Didn’t Know: True Stories of Becoming a Teacher

Edited by Lee Gutkind. In Fact, $15.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-937163-27-3

Gutkind, the founder and editor of Creative Nonfiction, has selected 20 essays from teachers who write about the challenges and joys of teaching. The teachers discuss subjects as different as teen pregnancy and school shootings, but many of the essays follow a similar narrative: A “white woman” or “a skinny white woman,” or a “short, skinny, white” woman eagerly explores how “stiff-upper-lip WASP training” and being “white and middle class” created tension at first but later allowed her to get to know an unfamiliar population—Muslims, African Americans, Latinos, Africans, Chinese. The teachers communicate the hard nature of their work, describing the threats and violence against them and the process of trying to engage students who struggle with poverty or dangerous, unstable homes, and the essays occasionally generate sympathy. Still, the similarity of the selection does a disservice to the essays (such as “Teacher Edit” by Lynn DeFilippo and “Joe” by Jane Bernstein) that describe student-teacher interactions with genuine warmth, compassion, and thoughtfulness. [em](Oct.) [/em]