I was recently asked to write the foreword to a newly published book titled Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales. I was a bit reluctant to write the foreword because I have not used my blog Road Diaries to discuss some of the many wonderful books I have read about the art and beauty of teaching. My fellow bloggers on this page do a wonderful job reviewing such books and writing about the many challenging and complex issues facing educators. I am given the less strenuous task of describing what I see and feel as I travel the country. But when I was told that the book would be written by and for teachers, I felt compelled to visit the book’s editor. I agreed to write the foreword under one condition: my fellow 2009 state teachers of the year would have a story included in the book. This was a bold request because the book had received over 3000 submissions from authors seeking to be published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. If the editor agreed to my request, more than half of the 101 stories would be written by my friends and colleagues, teachers who are actively teaching in classrooms. The editor agreed to my request and now I was faced with a new challenge: what should I write about in the foreword? Why is this particular book important to teachers? And then I thought about a teacher I had met in Mississippi. This lovely and compassionate woman had been teaching for almost forty years and now wanted to...
Foreword to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales.
A veteran teacher told me recently that she was considering leaving the teaching profession. “I don’t wakeup with the energy I once had,” she sighed. “It’s taking me longer to get dressed in the morning and that’s not good for my students.”
Sadly, this teacher is not alone. I have been meeting many teachers who are spending too much time getting dressed in the morning. Some no longer bother to get dressed anymore because they have left the classroom. But I had a nagging feeling that the arduous task of teaching was not the culprit responsible for sapping her morning energy.
“What’s really causing you to want to leave teaching?” I asked.
She paused for a few moments before responding. “I feel that I work in a profession people no longer respect or value,” she replied. “My school measures the value of everything I do around test scores. I have never seen it so bad; each week I am being told a new way in which to raise test scores. I am slowly losing my ability to both teach and nurture my students.”
What has become of the noble profession of teaching? From the perspective of an experienced teaching professional the state of American education has become a data-driven system concerned more with standardized test scores than the social and emotional needs of children. A profession designed to better the human condition is losing its humane characteristics.
And that is why Chicken Soup for the Soul:Teacher Tales is such an important and timely book. Teacher Tales is a book written by and for teachers. It is a different type of book because it does not try to promote a new method of pedagogy or try to reinvent the wheel. How refreshing. This book is about the heart and soul of teaching and why we have committed our lives to helping children.
Teacher Tales is filled with wonderful stories about teachers and children. Some of the stories will make you laugh and some of the stories will make you cry. A few will make you want to scream at an educational bureaucracy seemingly blind to the needs of children and teachers. You may get the urge to throw this book at a bureaucrat. That’s okay; just don’t break the book’s spine.
When I was asked to write the foreword to Teacher Tales I needed to know if the book could reinvigorate teachers who are suffering from mental and physical exhaustion. Could it be used as a balm for the weary teachers I encounter while traveling across the nation? The book’s editor, Amy Newmark, quickly answered my question. Amy is a soft spoken lady but when she speaks about the welfare of teachers her voice elevates to a higher octave. Amy stressed the need for a book that can inspire novice and veteran teachers alike, a book written by classroom teachers who know how to tell a meaningful tale. I left Amy’s office feeling reinvigorated and eager to share my excitement with colleagues.
The faces of my fellow 2009 state teachers of the year soon flooded my mind as I thought about the purpose and importance of Teacher Tales. I have been a lucky and privileged teacher, and one of the greatest privileges being named National Teacher of the Year has been meeting so many gifted colleagues. Amy and I talked about the possibility of each state teacher of the year submitting a story to the book. The idea had a lot of merit because these teachers represent some of the very best teachers in our country; educators who understand that what we teach is not as important as whom we teach. I proposed the idea to the 2009 state teachers of the year and the response was unanimous: We need this type of book! Writing a story for Teacher Tales became a means for them to express their passion for teaching and restoring the value of teachers in our lives. The stories written by these teachers are included among the many wonderful stories contributed by outstanding teachers.
Living in a fast paced world flooded with technology has taken something away from the essential human desire to enjoy a story. The 101 stories in this inspirational book will provide the reader much time to relax and enjoy a good tale.
Thank you, America’s teachers, for sharing your stories.
And thank you for helping us get dressed in the morning.
The opinions expressed in Road Diaries: 2009 Teacher of the Year are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.