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Teaching Life: Letters from a Life in Literature Hardcover – April 1, 2008

5.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“I loved all of the incidents from Salwak’s own experience as a teacher. They are richly described. There is a lively sense throughout of a working classroom instructor, a passionate man, and a well-educated one, a committed reader who communicates his love of literature to his students. I was applauding as I read these (numerous) passages.”—Jay Parini, author, The Art of Teaching

“Dale Salwak has written a profoundly thoughtful and moving meditation on the joys and sorrows of the teaching profession. This book should interest all who teach and all who have had the privilege of learning from a caring teacher.”—John Halperin, University of San Diego

Teaching Life is a fascinating blend of practical advice on teaching, moral inquiry, and personal experience. Its focus moves from the obligation to return exams promptly, to Christianity and Judaism, to Kingsley Amis, to experiencing a parent’s death. The unusual range of subjects makes Salwak’s book by turns instructive, inspiring, and poignant.”—Kenneth Silverman, professor emeritus of English, New York University

“In this remarkable book, Dale Salwak masterfully distills the lessons of thirty-five years of college teaching, weaving them together with illustrative episodes from literature and life. It should be required reading for anyone embarking on a teaching career—and many veterans would surely benefit as well.”—John McLaughlin, senior fellow at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, and former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency

About the Author

Dale Salwak is a professor of English at southern California's Citrus College and a recipient of Purdue University's Distinguished Alumni Award as well as a National Defense Education Act fellowship from the University of Southern California where he earned his Ph.D. He is the author of numerous books, including Kingsley Amis: Modern Novelist and Carl Sandburg: A Reference Guide, and the editor of The Wonders of Solitude, Anne Tyler as Novelist (Iowa, 1994), Philip Larkin: The Man and His Work (Iowa, 1989), and The Life and Work of Barbara Pym (Iowa, 1987).
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Iowa Press; 1 edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587296306
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587296307
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,648,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book has an incomparable value to me that is hard to explain with words. It has provided me with very valuable insight that I certainly could not obtain from any other source. As a future teacher, it was very important to me to experience through Dr. Salwak's words all what this wonderful profession of teaching involves. Before reading the book, I certainly thought of teaching as my career goal, but now, I have come to realize that it is my vocation and my passion.

I enjoyed each and every single chapter in this book, from the interesting classroom anecdotes to the sad and reflective moment that the death of a father represents. However, I think that for people like me, whose journey into the wonderful profession of teaching has just began, the chapter about "Transition" is a must read because it explains in detail the challengeable "transition from feeling like a student to living fully as a scholar-teacher." The book also covers other important subjects for early teachers, such as the art of lecturing, reading, and, the most important (I think), how to connect with students.

I would definitely recommend this book not only to anyone in the teaching profession but to everyone who wants to learn more about life from this wonderful professor and person: Dr. Salwak. As his former student, he has changed my life in ways that I would never imagine and I am pretty sure that anyone who could have the chance of reading this book will certainly agree with me that his knowledge and wisdom are without comparison.
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By GG on May 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"Teaching Life: Letters from a Life in Literature" is sure to leave an indelible mark on you, whether (or especially if) you are a teacher (first-year or veteran) or simply a lover of books, literature, and learning. I doubt I will ever be as well-read as the author, or acquire such rich and varied life experiences. But reading this book has inspired me to try. Reading this book was also a way of renewing my own vows to my students: to honor and respect their time, to be an example of curiosity and knowledge, to listen and learn from them. When I finished the last page, I was eager to find a quiet place to sit and reflect on everything I'd read. I'm sure I'll continue to do so for a long, long time.
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Format: Hardcover
In a recent interview with Samantha Bravo the author of TEACHING LIFE answers some questions about his writing of the book:

Bravo: In TEACHING LIFE: LETTERS FROM A LIFE IN LITERATURE, each letter to Kelly addresses a different aspect of education, literature and life. How did you decide which topics to address? How do you think the book's organization of these topics affects the reader?

Salwak: The topics suggested themselves to me as I moved ever deeper into the project. I knew I had to write "When a Parent Dies," for example, because the day after my father's funeral I returned to my class to discuss "Hamlet" and saw my father sitting in the back of the room. The chapter on "Marriage" suggested itself because I was struck by how many of my colleagues across the country wrestle with balancing the academics with family life. Many questions emerged over the years from discussions with my parents, both educators, as well as from my students. Overall I answer questions that many teachers (and students) ask of themselves and that I continue to ask of myself.

Bravo: Why did you choose to format the book as a series of letters?

Salwak: To avoid the risk of coming across as "preachy" or dogmatic. That's not my style. Writing letters "to" a former student was an indirect way of reaching my potential reader. Also, this format helped me to establish a warm, personal tone that is the voice I try to maintain in the classroom. I am speaking to teachers, yes, but I am also speaking to students as well as to the general public - and I don't want to alienate them.

Bravo: In the book's summary it says that "'Teaching Life" is an effort to impart lessons to the next generation
of teachers.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
I am an elementary school teacher and School Board member for the Claremont School District. I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Salwak give a presentation about this book. The parallels between educating the college student and grammar school student were striking.

As a classroom teacher for over 20 years, I deeply appreciated this book. Dr. Salwak's perspective and insights gave me a new look at teaching. The advice to any educator and the interplay between instructor and student are thoroughly enlightening. His light touch on the role of pedagogy in education during a time of increased concern over test scores portrays many of the highs and lows involved in teaching. Many K-12 school districts adopt curriculum where all teachers must be on the same page on the same day regardless of their class's composition or achievement. Such an approach is anathema to instilling the love of learning that is portrayed in this book.

Dr. Salwak is an antidote to the factory worker approach to teaching. His passion for education and his passionate reflections on teaching should be required reading for all policy makers who shape education. The letters addressed to Kelly also include good advice for students and their families. His love of reading is a great model for his students and all of us.

Letters from a Life in Literature is a must read for anyone who loves books, values education, or is involved in learning. Dr. Salwak is a shining example of the "lifelong learner" so many schools and college want to produce. This book is a real treat.
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