From the title you’re probably thinking this is some kind of gossipy expose on the lives of teachers, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that was kinda what I wanted it to be. (I know, I know. Please don’t judge me.) It was totally not that. It’s basically a book of what the author calls interlocking essays, all of which are really either meditations or vignettes on teaching. If that’s what you’re looking for, it’s a worthy read. Fortunately, that’s also a thing that I would enjoy, so I did more or less enjoy it, just not what I was expecting.
I had a little bit of trouble picking this book back up after setting it down each time, but it’s a fast read once you sit down with it. My favorite thing was the author’s eloquence. He has a lovely command of the English language, and writes/probably speaks in a way that most people just don’t. I sometimes feel like that manner of speaking is almost a dying art – it’s unapologetically academic (though far from inaccessible) and a bit pretentious, but you can sort of get lost in it. I don’t know – your mileage may vary, but I enjoyed it.
An aside that I can’t decide how I felt about – the author teaches at an affluent private school that does not lack resources at all. Every problem described is pretty much a first world problem, but – he is so, so aware of it. He very regularly stops to acknowledge that his perception of something as a middle-aged straight white guy teaching in an upper class community is limited. On one hand, what more do you really want from him? He has every right to share his perspective, and it’s commendable in a sense that even writing anonymously he takes care to recognize the limitations of it. On the other, it sometimes feels like someone went through his rough draft with a red pen and wrote “Did you check your privilege?” every third page, and that kind of made me wonder. Did someone? Was an earlier draft of this a bunch of mansplaining and grossness and he went back and shoe-horned that all in? Alternately, is all this privilege-checking done resentfully with an eye-rolling “Oh, better make sure I steer clear of the PC police” attitude? Or is he really just an intelligent, self-aware guy who’s doing his best to adapt in his ways of thinking as his world has gradually placed a much stronger emphasis on diversity than he grew up with? I think it’s the third. But there was just so much of it, I can’t quite tell.
All in all, not a bad book. Maybe a little self-indulgent – you can’t avoid the sense that this is a guy who’s been teaching for decades and is approaching the end of his career and wanting some of the ruminations that have been bouncing around in his mind that whole time to be recorded for posterity. If he were a lesser writer, he couldn’t get away with that, and as it is there are flaws. But worth a read if you’re interested in education.
As discussed here, I am going to be adding a content warning at the end of my reviews so that anyone who wants to be aware of certain content can look for that. I will place it at the end so you can skip it if you’d rather, and place it lower if it could be considered spoilery. If there is anything you’d like me to add to the “Things to Warn About” list, no matter how obscure or irrational, please feel more than free to either leave it in a comment or e-mail me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will be more than happy to add it.
Content warning for The Secret Lives of Teachers: I really can’t think of anything.