Harvard Educational Review
  1. A Passion for Teaching

    Edited by Sarah Levine

    Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1999. 209 pp. $23.95

    In this anthology of teachers’ poems, short stories, dramatic readings, and photographs, editor Sarah Levine captures common themes in teaching, while also reflecting the individual voices and experiences of veteran teachers. Levine drew the written and constructed pieces included in this book from a national audience of teachers who responded to a question posed in advertisements in educational journals: “What ideas and experiences have kept you vital and alive to teaching and learning?”

    The varied media and messages that teachers used in answering this question reflect the complex dimensions of teaching that are sometimes difficult to express in written language. These artistic forms draw the reader into these teachers’ classrooms, interactions, and thoughts. As one submissions reviewer commented, “Reading the submissions has been both exhilarating and humbling, far more than I can express. I am renewed by the incredible spirit, creativity, and love expressed in these offerings” (p. ix). Photographs of each teacher, taken by Kit Frost, provide additional layers to this text.

    The authors in this volume are diverse with respect to gender, ethnicity, and grade level taught, and each writes about equally diverse topics. Fausto Sevila, a middle school art teacher from New Jersey, poetically contemplates “the mystery that every person is” (p. 87); Diane H. Close, a high school classics teacher from Boston, compares classroom discipline to a baseball game; and Margaret M. Wong, a high school Chinese teacher from Minneapolis, traces some of the paths her former students have chosen, “peaches and plums all over the world” (p. 90). Yet while these teachers uniquely express their own perspectives on teaching through varied media, their collective depictions of teaching and learning create an impressionistic image of teaching with multiple, overlapping layers and intertwining themes. The idea of teaching as a relational interchange in which students and teacher have an impact on one another’s thinking and learning emerges as one particularly strong theme in many of the pieces. Bettye T. Spinner, in “Sustaining the Wonder of Teaching,” asserts that teaching requires reciprocity between teacher and student, “each role creating re-visions of the other” (p. 7). In “Transparencies,” Robin Alexandra Beach describes a curriculum developed around the concept of light, one that “sprang from the children, not me” (p. 37). And Ronald Newburgh, in “A Shared Approach to Teaching: Education as Dialogue,” observes, “Teaching, to be effective, must be a dialogue, not a monologue. The reward is that we all learn” (p. 114). For many of these teacher writers, there seems to be little difference between the acts of learning and teaching.

    This collection, in which teachers’ words remain unfiltered by a researcher’s analytical lens, allows the teachers to speak for themselves and, just as importantly, allows the reader to connect directly with the teachers’ words and images. This artistic presentation of teachers’ varied ideas of learning and teaching is both refreshing and inspirational. While the absence of any analytical interpretation frees the reader to construct meaning among the stories, a short self-analysis detailing the criteria for selecting the pieces would have enhanced the depth of this rich and descriptive text.

    This tiny flaw aside, the strength of A Passion for Teaching lies within the resounding voices of teachers, important voices that don’t often carry beyond classroom doors. Speaking passionately and introspectively, these teachers express, inspire — and teach — about what it means to teach.

    C.L.M.
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    Abstracts

    Tribal Sovereigns
    Reframing Research in American Indian Education
    K. Tsianina Lomawaima
    Symposium: "Habits of Thought and Work"
    The Disciplines and Qualitative Research
    Reba N. Page, George Spindler, Lorie Hammond, Shirley Brice Heath, Mary Haywood Metz, Annie G. Rogers, and Magdalene Lampert

    Book Notes

    Imagining to Learn
    By Jeffrey D. Wilhelm and Brian Edmiston

    New Perspectives on the Holocaust
    Edited by Rochelle L. Millen, with Timothy A. Bennett, Jack D. Mann, Joseph E. O’Connor, and Robert P. Welker

    Natives and Academics Researching and Writing about American Indians
    Edited by Devon A. Mihesuah

    The Struggle of Latino/Latina University Students
    By Felix M. Padilla

    Inside a Head Start Center
    By Deborah Ceglowski

    Students as Researchers
    Edited by Shirley R. Steinberg and Joe L. Kincheloe

    Arts and Learning
    By Merryl Goldberg

    A Passion for Teaching
    Edited by Sarah Levine

    The House of Joshua
    By Mindy Thompson Fullilove

    Charter Schools
    By Seymour B. Sarason

    Many Faces of Mexico
    By Octavio Ruiz, Amy Sanders, and Meredith Sommers

    Debatable Diversity
    By Raymond V. Padilla and Miguel Montiel