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Among Schoolchildren Paperback – September 1, 1990

4.3 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

" Christine Zajac teaches fifth grade in a racially mixed school in a poor district of Holyoke, Mass. . . . Through Kidder's calmly detailed re-creation of Zajac's daily round we come to know her students' fears and inmost strivings; we also share this teacher's frustrations, loneliness and the rush of satisfaction that comes with helping students learn," wrote PW. "A compelling microcosm of what is wrong--and right--with our educational system."
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Tracy Kidder, whose most recent book is Home Town, is also the author of Among Schoolchildren and Old Friends. He has won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He lives in Massachusetts and Maine.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (September 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380710897
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380710898
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on September 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
I am an African-American teacher, and I highly disagree with the one star review that this book received -- that it is nice for 'white women' teachers. Good teaching is not a black and white issue. Caring is not a black and white issue. It is irrevelent if the teacher is black, white, brown, etc.. It is attitudes such as these, the elevation of ourselves in terms of educational importance, I believe, that lessons the teaching profession and is a major contributor, I believe, to why people do not want to be teachers. I became a teacher because I love to see my students grow mentally, intellectually and physically. The minority and white teachers I work with are outstanding, and I am happy they are my co-workers. Mr. kidder's book is one shining example of a beautiful teacher who is a representative of all of us who do teaching for the right reasons. Thank-you, Mr. Kidder!
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Format: Paperback
Kidder's examination of a 5th grade classroom is a fascinating study of the complex little societies that every child interacts with every day. His descriptions of the dynamics of Mrs. Zajac's class brought me back to my own elementary school days and the familiar roles that the children here seem to have-- the troublemakers, the smart students, the space cadets... Until, that is, his close observation of the children's behavior reveals how complex each of these young people actually is.
Mrs. Zajac, as the ruler of this mini-society, is a fascinating character in herself. Her tough-love compassion for her students and her attempt to address all of their needs provides a fascinating up-close look at the way a teacher with the best of intentions can both draw out students or send them hurtling back into their shell. The well-documented phenomenon of teachers spending much more time with their male students is seen here-- clearly an unconscious thing on her part because she mentions her desire to interact with all of her students consistently throughout the book. In short, a fascinating text for anyone interested in education or in child psychology. The minute observations that Kidder makes of the various reactions the students have to events in the classroom are fascinating. My only criticism-- he sometimes seems to tend toward large generalizations and sometimes to interpret a little too liberally what the students might be thinking and experiencing. When he allows the children to speak for themselves the text is much more engaging.
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