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Among School Children [Hardcover]

Tracy Kidder
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 11 1990 Picador Books
Only the names of the people involved have been changed in this study of a teacher and her problem class. This book describes a year that a student teacher sat in on the class, most of whom were underprivileged, half were from minority groups, and two thirds needed free lunches.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Experience is key Jan. 15 2003
When I did my student-teaching, I spent the entire year in the same 3rd grade class. The final 3 months was when I student-taught. In reading Tracy Kidder's Among Schoolchildren, I was consistently reminded of the ups and downs that progesses throughout a school year. Kidder was able to capture Chris Zajac's experiences and weaved it into a compelling story that kept me hooked. Her students reminded me of my own experiences teaching and the difficulties & triumphs you can have. At the end, Zajac was tired but happy. Thus she gave creedance to the phrase, "happy-tired". Teaching is not a type of job that once you go home, you don't think about it. This is a profession where your life is affected by those you interact with 9 months out of a year. Then you wonder, just as Chris Zajac did, "Did I make a difference?", "Is he or she going to make it?", "What else could I have done?". One thing I have to say is this is not a book of solutions in dealing with troublesome students. It's more about life as a teacher in a poverty-stricken community that could very well be your own.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Accurate but poorly written Dec 24 2002
By A Customer
Kidder leaves out important parts of Ms. Zajak's story. Why, for example, would a teacher let a child like Robert stab himself, hit himself, and commit other self-destructive acts, without sending that child for an evaluation? Too much of this book is praised without looking seriously at Kidder's failure to cover the entire story. Ms. Zajak spends too much time with the Clarence issue and not enough time with her other students.
As a teacher in a small, inner-city, 99% Hispanic school in Chicago, I agree that the issues addressed in this book are real. The students in today's classroom have the same problems as Ms. Zajak's students had in the 80's. This book offers few productive solutions. This book was assigned reading for both my undergraduate and graduate education classes. Most of the students in my graduate classes; many of whom are adults with children of their own, rather than young, recent graduates; felt this book was poorly written, mildly depressing, and written in such a way as too make Ms. Zajak look like a woman on the verge of "teacher burn-out". What parent would want their child to be taught by a woman who has never left her home town for more than one month? Is that an example for her students?
Most of my graduate class agreed that this book is too freely praised, and that another perspective on teaching should be offered in contrast to Kidder's.
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5.0 out of 5 stars YES, this is what teaching is really like Sept. 30 2002
As a former schoolteacher and the wife of a teacher, I can tell you that Tracy Kidder's "Among Schoolchildren" accurately and soberly depicts what teaching is really like, day to day, year in and year out.
Mrs. Zajac, the grade school teacher on whom Kidder focuses his detailed narrative, is what every teacher should be: tough in a loving way, disciplined, self-aware, willing to admit to her own faults (and when she's boring herself and knows she needs to shake up the lesson next time to avoid boring the students), brimming over with ideas. She's a wonder, and the kind of teacher every child should have at least once in their grade school career.
Kidder leaves no stone unturned. We see here not only the joys and sorrows of teaching, but the accumulation of detail that leaves us feeling we understand, from the inside out, what teachers go through in order to get through to their students. We see how "problem students" and "good students" present different challenges, how teachers and administrators deal with each other (and deal with the parents, the superintendent, and the school board), and even such mundane concerns as how to keep the class in Kleenex (they go through about twenty boxes a year). Though the book is over a decade old, it's prescient about some things. The majority of students in Mrs. Zajac's class are Hispanic--a growing truth throughout the United States--so along with the everyday frustrations of every teacher, we see that Mrs. Zajac has an additional workload imposed merely by the presence of a language barrier:
"Horace, are you all done?"
"Then why are you talking to Jorge?"
She turned back around and said to Felipe and Jimmy, "What's the matter with you two? The minute I turn my head, you have to talk?
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5.0 out of 5 stars a Mrs. Zajac student Sept. 15 2001
By A Customer
I was inspired to write this review not because I loved Among Schoolchildren-of course I did; I had Mrs. Zajac for a teacher. I was in the 6th grade when Mr. Kidder spent a year at The Kelly School. My motivation was from reading another review-someone questioned if Mrs. Zajac really had a LASTING impression on these students. I would compare myself to Alice-I had a loving family, intelligence, motivation. . .whether or not I had Mrs. Zajac for the 5th grade I would have attended college. But a lasting impression. . .to this day she remains one of my top three teachers-including college. She is unique-and maybe from reading the book the reader doesn't see that, but she is not the average teacher. And I think parents would feel the same way. She is a very wonderful teacher and a true friend. Please, don't read this book and think her students "forgot 5th grade" it's scarey how much I remember of 5th grade. Her mix of humor, toughness and compassion make her a great role model; and now that I too am in education I hope my students remember me as fondly as I remember her.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving story of a teacher and her students
This is an excellent book, realistic, moving, and inspiring. I would highly recommend it to teachers, parents, and even young adult readers. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Mary Grace Kosta
4.0 out of 5 stars A real insight into education
I felt like I was in the classroom with Mrs. Zajac. Tracy Kidder describes a real teacher and her students and takes the reader with them through the school year. Read more
Published on July 5 2004 by Diana
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I've read on education.
In all the talk about education issues these days, it's easy to forget that what's really important is the relationship, the energy, between students and teacher. Read more
Published on May 13 2003 by A Teacher
4.0 out of 5 stars The Realities of Teaching
I chose Among Schoolchildren as a supplemental text for an Introduction to Education class. I had read the book some time ago, and remembered it as being a realistic portrayal of... Read more
Published on Sept. 25 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Emotionally Charged!!!!
I had to read this book for my Education Class and it was probably one of the best books I have read in a long time! Among Schoolchildren takes a birds eye look into Mrs. Read more
Published on March 30 2002 by AC
4.0 out of 5 stars Quick reading ethnography
I enjoyed reading this book and found it to be beautifully narrated by Kidder. Although written in 1989 I would imagine a lot of the issues addressed in the book are current... Read more
Published on Feb. 17 2002 by Mya Martin-Glenn
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for anyone who wants a real view into our schools
As a graduate education student, I read this book for a class and would highly recommend it to anyone considering a career in education or just wanting to know more about our... Read more
Published on March 27 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Mrs. Zajac is not all that
I recently read "Among Schoolchildren" for an assignment at grad school. I have to admit I have never read a book like this. Read more
Published on Dec 23 2000 by alexis
4.0 out of 5 stars Among Schoolchildren
I am a college student at Macon State College. I was given an assignment in my education class to read a book. I chose Among Schoolchildren by Tracy Kidder. Read more
Published on Nov. 29 2000 by Melissa
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