Harvard Educational Review
  1. In the Company of Children

    By Joanne Hindley

    York, ME: Stenhouse, 1996.186 pp. $19.50 (paper).

    In the Company of Children is a story of one elementary school teacher and how she lives and learns in the company of her thirty students. The author, Joanne Hindley, is a third/fourth-grade teacher and one of the founders of the Manhattan New School, a public school on the upper east side of Manhattan. Through this book, Hindley uncovers her continual meaning-making about reading and writing as tools for learning. She invites the reader to explore the evolution of her classroom as a place for learning that is built on choice, predictability, interaction, and, of course, the need for time.

    The book is filled with examples of children’s writing, teacher observation notes, and teacher and student reflections. These artifacts illustrate the seriousness about learning, high expectation, and extraordinary depth of reflection by teacher and students. The many photographs, both black-and-white and color, provide a vision of how extraordinary classrooms can be.
    The book is divided into two parts: Writing Workshop and Reading Workshop. In the first section, Hindley illustrates how one-to-one conferences, careful observation, and note-taking inform her teaching, and how each has the potential to raise the quality of writing in the classroom. She reveals how drawing from her own experience and exposing her vulnerability as a writer influence her teaching:

    Putting myself on the line, sharing what it’s like to go through some of the same struggles and successes the students experience…has been helpful in getting me to talk to kids in the voice of a writer, not a teacher. (author’s emphasis, p. 20)
    In the second section, Reading Workshop, she explains how, what, and when she teaches. Drawing from her own life as a reader, Hindley examines how her thinking process influences her talk with student readers. In the last section of the book, she addresses how parents and students participate with her in assessing student work.

    What makes this book powerful is that it is Joanne Hindley’s story—an honest portrait of how one teacher continues to evolve as a teacher and learner. She says it best:

    My job is to marvel at all that unfolds right before me, to recognize the strengths and needs of individual readers and to wonder about the implications of what I see for whole class instruction. This job is easiest if I am always ready to learn something from my students. I too am a student, and I have become comfortable in this position and appreciate all my students have to teach me. (p. 102)
    Although this book is a story of one third/fourth-grade classroom, I recommend it to educators of diverse interests and backgrounds: teachers of all grades who care to learn through another teacher’s classroom research; college professors who are seeking a thoughtful, artful, and rigorous account of what it means to teach; and administrators who value passion, excellence, and taking risks.


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    Book Notes