Thursday, July 7, 2016

I Wish My Teacher Knew

Title:  I Wish My Teacher Knew:  How One Question Can Change Everything for Our Kids
Author:  Kyle Schwartz
Publication Information:  De Capo Lifelong Books. 2016. 272 pages.
ISBN:  0738219142 / 978-0738219141

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Doull Elementary is not much different from schools across America."

Favorite Quote:  "As educators, we are teaching more than subjects and concepts; we are teaching people."

"I Wish My Teacher Knew" is completely not the book I expected, in terms of structure, content, target audience, format. That may be the result of the book publicity and the ebook format. Either way, the publicity and format make an unfortunate combination.

The book descriptions states, "Schwartz’s book tells the story of #IWishMyTeacherKnew, including many students’ emotional and insightful responses, and ultimately provides an invaluable guide for teachers, parents, and communities."

#IWishMyTeacherKnew is a lesson Kyle Schwartz uses in her third grade classroom. It is a writing prompt that asks students to finish the sentence that begins with I wish my teacher knew. It is a lesson she shared in a tweet, and it is lesson that then went viral. Given the diversity of our population and the candor of children, I can image the responses ranging from laugh out loud funny to heartbreaking. In a book based on this lesson, I expect to see a large collection of these responses. The book does have some, but only a handful. The individual notes come as breaks between the sections of the book, and no more. The same ones also repeat from section to section (I wonder if this is an issue with the galley version I received?). The responses are not the focus of the book; they are a mere tangential launching point for the actual content of the book.

The content of the book is issues facing school age children that can hinder their ability to engage in school. Each section of the book speaks to an issue such as student mobility, poverty, abuse, and grief. Each section presents a summary of the issue, different causes, some research, and then some techniques teachers can use to mitigate the impact of that issue. The discussion appears an introductory, simplified look into these serious societal concerns. This book is the start of a conversation about these topics, not a culmination of results.

Warranted, I am clearly not the target audience for the book. This book is written by a teacher for other teachers. Perhaps, their reaction would differ. Since Kyle Schwartz's experience is in elementary school, the techniques she shares are suitable to an elementary environment. A middle and high school level teacher may get ideas but would have to modify the techniques to be more age appropriate for the students.

I typically don't include book format (paper, ebook, etc.) in my review, but in this case, the book format made a huge impact on readability of the book. The ebook version has a number of issues. First, the student responses are presented as images; unfortunately, the images are light grey on a white background. Some of them are almost impossible to read. In fact, I saw some blank cards throughout; I am not sure what I missed. Second, the same student responses repeat multiple times throughout the book; those responses are what I expected to see when I read this book, and I see only a few. Third, within the text, the book also includes some case studies of individual students. I imagine that they are meant to be set off from the main text as a text box or aside; unfortunately, in this version, they begin mid-sentence in the main text and then are intermingled with the main text over the next few pages. It took me a while to notice that the font color is slightly different; even then, it is confusing throughout. I received an ebook galley so I do hope the issues are resolved by the time the book is released.  Otherwise, I might suggest a print version.

Unfortunately, a confusing format and a misleading book description leads to an unfavorable reaction to this book. On the other hand, if the book impacts even one teacher's ability to teach one student, it will change a life for the better. And, for that, I wish it success.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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