Review | Memoir of teaching in America yields universal insights
Tom Rademacher’s experience includes things not much seen outside the US, but he addresses issues relevant wherever children are instructed
by Tom Rademacher
University of Minnesota Press
Tom Rademacher stresses repeatedly that teaching is hard. Although few would disagree, it is clear his 10-year experience is an American one. As an English teacher in Minnesota, he had to face the possibility of gun- and gang-related violence. In one high school where he taught, students were patted down and walked through metal detectors every morning. However, the problems surrounding the job of making “kids better at things” appear universal, and issues of race, gender and sexuality are always on the table because, as he says, “in a job full of humans, human issues are always a priority”. How Rademacher handled discipline, student crises, office politics and educational blind spots are recounted with humour and not a little care. On the subject of technology, he argues that new tools are often used to fix old problems but, worse, some schools’ Luddism forces children into tech-free zones that exist nowhere else in their lives. Also interesting is Rademacher’s take on essay-writing skills, yelling in the classroom and whether teachers should instil order through fear (he says they shouldn’t).