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The Teacher Diaries: Romeo & Juliet Paperback – February 12, 2018
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This is a book about being a teacher, and about being a mother, and, in its way, about being a writer. But it is most fully a depiction of living with a work of literature, about the conversations literature can spark and the memories literature can hold and reconfigure. The acknowledgments suggest that writing this book helped Callie Feyen remember why she loved teaching. Reading it made me remember why I love to read. —Lauren Winner, bestselling author and Associate Professor, Duke Divinity School
Callie Feyen’s warm, funny, and deeply felt reflections on teaching Romeo and Juliet to eight graders took me back to that moment where my own junior high teacher’s line-by-line slog through the play led to my conversion experience to the wonders of great literature. Here is a book that will not only encourage and inspire other teachers but thrill anyone who knows how profoundly literature can awaken and shape the soul. —Gregory Wolfe, Editor, Image
Callie Feyen is not just a writer, she is a weaver. She seamlessly threads her past, her students' experiences, and the timeless tale of Romeo and Juliet into a story of growth and remembrance. She brings the ache of early teenhood to life, and I was transported along with her students every step of the way. Honestly, 8th grade would have been better if she had been my guide. —Stephanie Stearns Dulli, Director Listen To Your Mother Show DC
Callie Feyen's students are blessed, as are the teachers who will read her book (and their own students, who will in turn benefit from it). But more than that, there's the special excitement of reading the first memoir of a young writer with a compelling voice. Brava! —John Wilson, Editor, Books & Culture, 1995-2016
Educators and parents alike are desperate for ways to engage students in meaningful ways, while also fulfilling their obligation to meet standards and produce outcomes. And this is why a book like this one matters. Feyen weaves memoir with educational strategy, presenting it with humor, empathy, and an urgency that helps us see the relevance of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy. Presented with love, kindness, and sympathy, the book is a valiant corrective for so many of the worst trends in contemporary educational policy. If you are a teacher who wants to do more than teach to the test, Feyen will give you hope: there is a way to give yourself fully, to be creative in the classroom, and to honor the material as well as the outcomes. —Cara Gabriel, Assistant Professor, Department of Performing Arts at American University
About the Author
Callie Feyen likes Converse tennis shoes and colorful high heels, reading the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, and the Twilight series. Her favorite outfit has always been a well-worn pair of jeans and a white T-shirt, but she wants hoop skirts with loads of tulle to come back into style. Her favorite line from literature comes from Sharon Creech’s Absolutely Normal Chaos: “I don’t know who I am yet. I’m still waiting to find out.” Feyen has been a middle school teacher, is the Teaching and Learning Editor and Children's Editor for Tweetspeak Poetry, and serves as the At-Risk Literacy Specialist in the Ypsilanti Public Schools.
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As a teacher myself, the classroom can be the loneliest of places as you wonder if you’re doing things right, as you wonder what to do with information that students drop in your laps from their own lonelinesses. Literature is a way out of the loneliness, but only if we can share it together. That’s what the Teacher Diaries reminds us.
But this book isn’t just for teachers. It’s for anyone who has ever been 14. Middle school is the time when you’re most afraid of being a “fail”—also why all the stories of mutants, demi-gods, and the uber-talented abound. Those stories have their place, but so do the stories that humanize our quirks, invite us into the human race by turning out our private lives into shared stories that help us map ourselves onto humanity, to help us find our place—another thing that The Teacher Diaries does. From the spiky haircut of her first kiss, to the Eddie Murphy standup routine blaring on the TV, Feyen’s childhood in Oak Park, Illinois, is there in unpredictable, hilarious and relatable detail—whether you remember the 80s or not.
And it’s for anyone who has been touched by literature, even if—especially if—you didn’t understand all of what you read but you knew it was beautiful. Shakespeare’s play isn’t just a cover band in this book; it has a starring role throughout, leading us through Feyen’s life into our own lives.
If most of us are honest, unless we had a guide like Feyen, reading Romeo and Juliet left us on the fringes. But Feyen’s prose, too, mirrors the openness of the best teachers. It’s both unpretentious and graceful and invites you in and puts you at ease. This is a book you will return to again and again. The Teacher Diaries: Romeo and Juliet will restore your faith in reading, teaching, learning, living!
“It is equally important to know what love does, and I only know how to do that by remembering what it’s done to me.” - p. 19
Callie shares her stories with us just as she has with her classes, and it is a gift for all of us this Valentine’s Day.
This is a book for teachers, for students, yes -- but I recommend this to anyone -- especially those who know how words can transform and transport and bring pleasure simply from the act of reading words put together so beautifully all you want is more. This is a gem of a book.