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Among Schoolchildren (thoughts)

April 27, 2007

Among Schoolchildren by Tracy Kidder tells the story of a fifth-grade teacher in Massachusetts through one school year. Chris Zajac (a woman) teaches in a poorer region of Mount Holyoke, where most of the class lives in decrepit housing and has parents who don’t have time to participate much in their children’s lives. Throughout the year, she sets goals for herself concerning various students (whether to draw them out of their shell, or have them master long division). Sometimes she meets the goals, sometimes not; in the latter case, she tends to beat herself up.

The story is told a little strangely; Kidder acts as an omniscient third-person narrator (sometimes taking on the point of view of one of the students), but the reader never really discovers how Kidder found out all of this information. Especially when he’s discussing Ms. Zajac’s internal dialogue, this makes the reader jump out of the story a bit.

All in all, however, I felt that the book treated everything fairly. It certainly makes you realise just how difficult teaching is!

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Bybee permalink
    April 28, 2007 6:48 am

    I read this twice, the first time when it first came out. Tracy Kidder sat in Mrs. Zajac’s classroom all year long. At the back. A silent observer. He said the kids looked at him strangely at first, but gradually forgot about him.

    I love Mrs. Zajac. She reminds me of my beloved Mrs. Lemmon. If I could be even half as good as either one of them for even one day, I’d truly feel like I’d kicked pedegogical ass.

  2. January 18, 2011 8:00 am

    This wasn’t my favorite Kidder but I am always impressed with how he seems invisible; he captures so much!
    I also was bugged with how the teacher referred to herself in third person. :)

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Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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