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Posts from the The Myth Category


I still haven’t read A Smile as Big as the Moon: A Special Education Teacher, His Class, and Their Inspiring Journey Through U.S. Space Camp or Teaching in the Terrordome: Two Years in West Baltimore with Teach for America, but maybe I’ve had enough teacher stories.

Ah. Never!

Where do we go from here? The series concludes Monday with Part III, and I hope you’ll join us. I hope too you’ll check back here for stories about teaching written by real teachers, and join us on Facebook for silly and serious ed-related news. Check out some of these movies and books for yourself.

If you’re looking for a HILARIOUS memoir, check out Educating Esme.
If you’re looking for touching, literary non-fiction, it doesn’t get better than Among Schoolchildren by Tracy Kidder.
If you want schaudenfraude, watch Teach: Tony Danza.
For nostalgia, you can’t go wrong with Summer School (with Mark Harmon from JAG).
For all you professors, Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution by Derrick Jensen offers some critical mid-quarter (or mid-career) kick-in-the-pants inspiration.
Donald Barthelme’s short story “The School” is beautiful and true-to-life (from Sixty Stories).

The revolutionaries should read religious texts and maybe something about fishing.

Derek Smith


I spent a couple of years reading memoirs written by teachers and watching movies inspired by teachers’ work, yet I barely scratched the surface of the genre. As we continue our journey, let me point out areas I’d like to pursue further:

1) I didn’t look much at fictional teachers. Are fictional teachers’ experiences generally as exaggerated as they are in Summer SchoolThe Ms. Hempel Chronicles feels real to me, and I’m betting other fictional portrayals feel real too.

2) I didn’t talk much about the media’s obsession with bad teachers… and how news reports of lawbreaking teachers might reflect or impact the portrayal of bad teachers in fiction. I want to read these three books on scandalous teachers, especially The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

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This website is called Magical Teaching, and the site features real teachers’ thoughts on their work—on the magical teaching they find in paper-clipped bundles in the back seats of their cars or hanging around after school for extra help. Magical teaching is something that happens.

But sometimes when I hear the phrase “magical teaching,” I imagine some urban classroom turnaround tale from the movies, some implausible story about a well-meaning teacher who gives up everything to save students. At those times I feel like a hoax, like the gap between what I’m supposed to be and what I am is too big. I’m not some magical teacher, I think.

But rather than get bogged down by comparisons to myths and stories, I spent time investigating them, looking at portrayals of teachers in books, television shows, and films. Tomorrow I’ll share the first part in a three-part series called ‘The Myth of the Magical Teacher” that came about as a result of that work.

I hope you like it.

Derek Smith

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