Monday, January 8, 2018

A Review of 'Zen and the Art of Public School Teaching' by John Perricone

Please note: this is a book I read in 2017.  Due to starting a new job, I kept up in reading but fell behind in blogging.  Reviews for 2018 reads will begin after the remaining 2017 reviews are posted.  Thank you for your patience!

"This book is based upon two assumptions.  The first is that 'we teach who we are.'  The second is that one's philosophy of life is intimately tied to one's identity, and that it is one's 'philosophical identity' (conscious or otherwise) that ultimately dictates one's teaching style and also what distinguishes those who find joy and passion in the teaching profession from those who find drudgery and then simply pick up a paycheck every two weeks.  In his book Zen and the Art of Public School Teaching, Mr. Perricone compellingly invites his reader to participate in an introspective journey that is designed to help the reader better know themselves and the professional path upon which they have embarked.  This book is for those who are just beginning their careers in teaching, for veteran teachers who are still very open to personal and professional growth, and to those who are thinking about becoming teachers."

After I was hired to my school, we soon had our first all-school meeting where all of the teachers and paraprofessionals got together to celebrate the start of the school year.  I learned that it's pretty typical that they ask someone to come and speak and so we had the author of this book come to speak.  Even though I was super excited to get started with my teaching life, I was a little bit unsure about this John Perricone fellow.  And then he began to speak, talking about his previous students and about how he felt about teaching and how he managed to keep himself so fresh from year to year, even after he had been teaching for some time.

This is a fairly short book, but it's meant to help you figure out what you bring to your teaching life and how that can shape you as a teacher.  I thought that this was an interesting way to approach teaching.  At least in my experience, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who will tell you to approach teaching as you are and find out what makes you passionate about teaching.  In my teaching program any way, it was just assumed that you were passionate about the job you were setting out to do.  Sure, we'd talk about teaching as a cohort, but it wasn't part of the curriculum to help us figure out how to get started (not really) and more importantly, keep us going.  One statistic that I heard (and maybe it was from John Perricone) was that a large percentage of new teachers (just entering the field) average about 4 years of service before quitting education.  A big part of that is lack of proper preparedness and just plain old burn out (which I believe).  It's time to help new teachers adjust and build their practice so that we can keep them around.  There is definitely merit to having a less experienced teacher, but there is truly no replacement for experience.

If you're looking for a way to remind yourself why you want to teach (or find that reason in the first place), this is a good read to start.  You'll be very inspired and will feel ready to hit the ground running when the students arrive (shout out to teachers returning from winter break... I'm told this is a good time for transition and reteaching of the students.  I'm just experiencing this now).

I give 'Zen and the Art of Public School Teaching':
Thanks for Reading!


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