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Letters to a Young Teacher

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,595 Ratings  ·  154 Reviews
In these affectionate letters to Francesca, a first grade teacher at an inner-city school in Boston, Jonathan Kozol vividly describes his repeated visits to her classroom while, under Francesca’s likably irreverent questioning, he also reveals his own most personal stories of the years that he has spent in public schools.

Letters to a Young Teacher reignites a numberof the
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 21st 2007 by Crown (first published January 1st 2007)
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Savage Inequalities by Jonathan KozolThe Shame of the Nation by Jonathan KozolThe Death and Life of the Great American School System by Diane RavitchLetters to a Young Teacher by Jonathan KozolMultiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner
A Primer for Education Reform
4th out of 41 books — 5 voters
Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher HitchensLetters to a Young Novelist by Mario Vargas LlosaLetter to a Young Teacher by Joseph V. Landy, S.J.The End of America by Naomi WolfA Letter of Serious Advice to a Young Poet. by Jonathan Swift
Letters to the Young
9th out of 46 books — 7 voters

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Jun 17, 2008 Melissa rated it it was ok
Meh. I agree with Kozol on so many points, but I just couldn't stomach how mutually congratulatory he and this newbie teacher were. An honest account of the difficulties and ambiguities in starting to teach would have been more helpful and rewarding to read.
May 04, 2008 Anna rated it it was ok
Recommended to Anna by: my sister
I really was not that crazy about this book, which was my first full Jonathan Kozol read (previously I read excerpts of Savage Inequalities and expected this book to be more fact-heavy like that one). As a first year teacher in an urban school district, I thought I'd like Letters since it's basically a series of letters that Kozol sent to a first-year teacher in Boston throughout her first year of teaching. But, honestly, most of the book just seemed way too preachy to me.

Although parts of it w
Aug 23, 2008 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: teaching-related
Throughout the reading of this book I had a running dialogue in my head as though I was responding to Kozol, offering my two bits about the subject matters he touched upon. Although I did not agree with his view on some of the education issues he raised I did appreciate his impassioned stance and the depth of personal experience. Having said that, it was frustrating to me that he proposed no solutions. Much of his lamentation is legitimate but after several pages I thought, "Yeah, you're right. ...more
Sep 13, 2007 Erica rated it liked it
Recommends it for: teachers
Shelves: summer2007
This was a very quick read. Not so much because Kozol's writing is to easy and light but because I had read it before. Like, in his OTHER books.

In the beginning of the book, he tells you that these "letters to Francesca" are edited to include some snippets of his previous books on educational policy (Shame of a Nation)and poverty in the Bronx (Amazing Grace). While I have not read Savage Inequalities, I feel like I don't really have to, now that Kozol has conveniently packed all of his ideas in
Jan 04, 2014 Kim rated it really liked it
It's hard to describe my admiration for Jonathan Kozol and his passion for real education, and, more importantly his appreciation for children and their promise.

I started reading Kozol's works in college, and I find myself going back again and again. While much of this was somewhat of a retread from previous books, it was well-organized, and a makeshift guide for teachers new to the profession - a guide on how to try to provide an authentic education for children in today's world. Kozol's voice
Jul 17, 2011 Jennifer rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I have had an interest in the education system and its downfalls for quite sometime, so I feel this book offered good insights and resources.

I would recommend this book to any teacher, anyone interested in education and public schools, and ALL politicians and lawmakers.

This is the first book by Kozol I have read, but it seems to me that it offers a basic background of many of his other books. From that, I would suggest reading this book first, and then you can read
Oct 28, 2009 Mallory rated it it was ok
Shelves: teaching
I agree that Kozel's tone is self-congratulatory throughout. He also simply laments upon situations and does not propose any concrete solutions. His prose is laced with contempt for any person who may deign to disagree with him. On the surface he argues against indoctrination for students, yet used phrases akin to molding them into "agents of change." I agree, but present all viewpoints and allow them to choose that change. Choice does not seem like it has a place in this version of education. I ...more
This is a sort of Best-Of, in which Kozol takes a victory lap on an extraordinary career of shining a light on those darkened places in American schools and communities which the majority of the nation would prefer not to see. In it, Kozol communicates by letter with "Francesca", a first-year teacher in inner-city Boston -- as he once was himself, back in the 1960s -- to reflect on hot topics in education as reflections on conversations they have had. Francesca sounds like a stellar teacher; one ...more
Aug 02, 2009 Laurie rated it did not like it
I liked the beginning of this book...although from the start Kozol is too self-focused, then sure enough he switches over 2/3 through and it becomes a political soapbox. I was disappointed and realized there is still a need for an honest book like this one seemed to start out as, a mentoring book for a first-year teacher working in the urban setting. Maybe I'll have to write it some day, since Kozel failed.
Carly Mccurry
Mar 03, 2015 Carly Mccurry rated it did not like it
Take it with a grain of salt. Jonathan Kozol's stories do not match actually events. He has a tendency to exaggerate--even lie about certain events. I found this out after reading some dubious passages and some research. He also has this smug sort of lone prophet mentality, as if it is him against the world. Kozol has a bad habit of bad mouthing principals and teachers, pretending that he and Francesca (his friend) are the only good/non-racist teachers in the inner-school systems. He at times ca ...more
Daniel S

"They could see that I did not condemn them for the chaos and confusion they been through, because I told them flatly that they had been treated in a way that I thought unforgivable." [pg. 11]

"No curriculum, no rules, no list of "standards," no externally established regimens, however good or wise they may appear to some, can substitute for this. That bond of trust and tenderness comes first. Without that, everything is merely dutiful-and, generally, deadening. It is not for dutiful aridi
Stephanie Conklin
Nov 09, 2013 Stephanie Conklin rated it it was ok
Typically, Jonathan Kozol offers a frank and reverent account of schools and challenges that teachers face in schools. Although this book did, I felt as though it failed to focus on current issues that teachers deal with day in and day out - the politics of teaching, technology issues (or lack of technology access) and how hard it can be to work with urban students. I don't know how helpful this book would truly be to new teachers or teacher trying to gain a fresh perspective on teaching in toda ...more
Aug 25, 2012 Hannah rated it it was ok
This wasn't technically for a class, but a number of people and professors had either alluded to or recommended Kozol, and since I'm starting student teaching this fall, I figured this would be an apropos place to start. I read some very non-impressed Goodreads reviews about it, but decided to shrug them off, thinking, hey, even if he is just recycling material from his other books throughout this a lot, it'll still be new to me, so it's fine.

Fellow reviewers, I should have listened to your advi
Dena Lake
Jul 15, 2012 Dena Lake rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
This was a gift from my mom before I began my first year of teaching and after I fell in love with Kozol by reading "Savage Inequalities," but I didn't get to reading it until the end of the year. I have to say, I was a little wary because of the format, but this book did not disappoint. Focusing on different aspects of navigating the public school system, Kozol offers invaluable advice and offers quite a few anecdotes from his own early career that are not present in his other books. I've been ...more
Jul 24, 2012 Kathryn rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Joanna and my teacher friends!
Recommended to Kathryn by: Erik W.
Shelves: teacher-books, memoir
I wish that someone had given this book to me when I started teaching (except it wasn't published until I after I started). I think Kozol does a really great job at addressing some issues and pitfalls that as a new teacher its easy to fall into. Kozol also makes it very clear where he stands politically on some of the major issues of the day, which I don't always 100% agree with, but I love his passion and enthusiasm for kids. The thing that detracts from a 5-star rating is really the cheese fac ...more
Jul 21, 2013 Willow rated it really liked it
A wonderful book in certain ways...and a little bit frustrating in others. I loved the idea of the letters from Kozol in response to the letters he received from a new teacher...but I really wanted HER letters too! Her voice was sorely missed in this collection, but her emotions of love, frustration, fear, and success shine through.

His own stories, advice and anecdotes were funny, heartbreaking, and hopeful in turns, and sometimes all at once.

This is the second Kozol book I've read, the other b
Oct 15, 2007 Anne rated it really liked it
Kozol, a former teacher himself, has become one of the nation's leading critics of the American educational system. Through his books, he consistently lends his voice to the poor, minorities, single mothers, the working class - everyone who is trying hard to get by, but finding themselves jammed up against so many obstacles. Kozol's latest book is a collection of letters he wrote to "Francesca" - a first year second-grade teacher in Boston. His letters are filled with encouragement and support f ...more
Jun 28, 2013 Lindsey rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult, nonfiction
Kozol records his support letters he writes to a first year teacher in rough inner-city school. There were many words of wisdom and heart-warming stories with a seasoning of politics that surrounds all teachers' lives. I think the book would have been so much better if written as a dialogue to see letters on both sides, not just his letters to her. Often, Kozol refers a letter that the Francesca writes to him but the reader has no background on what she wrote exactly.

Favorite quote: "This kinds
Mar 25, 2015 Abner rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Here is why I appreciate Kozol and his books: They always shake me up. In the tradition of Freire and Postman and Weingartner, from books that I read in college and at Teachers College, Kozol shakes up our complacency to the inequities of today's K-12 system. I wish, in this book, he had identified some solutions - but I did appreciate the waking up that these kinds of texts engender.
I saw Jonathan Kozol speak at BPL. He was inspiring, gripping, humorous and above all, an ardent fighter for youth. This book and his correspondence with Francesca is awesome. He touches on so many important themes and values that an educator of children, or anyone who works with kids, will find themselves agreeing with and questioning, in their own systems of education.
Feb 27, 2015 Exavidreader rated it it was amazing
Kozol dispenses advice on how to teach with courage and determination in the face of so much injustice, ignorance and disrespect towards the 'Other'. He tells it in the form of letters to a young teacher, in a way that is heartwarming and inspiring. His words are simple yet sincere and the sarcasm he targets towards those who think they are educational experts but have never taught in a 'real school' makes this book a delight to read. Dotted with anecdotes from his own life and the lives of othe ...more
Katrina Best
Dec 02, 2012 Katrina Best rated it it was amazing
Jonathan Kozol is a brilliant man. I met him and spoke with him while he visited Illinois State University a few years ago. This book is a must read for any student teacher, new teacher or the teacher who refuses to be set in his/her ways. It is also a good read for any brave principal or school board member who wants to re-think 'the system'. Jonathan's insight into 'No Child Left Behind', public school vouchers, and the foundation started by Bill and Melinda Gates will leave you wanting to pac ...more
Apr 15, 2010 Ryan rated it really liked it
Its often depressing to read about the enormous challenges within our education system for those who the most disadvantaged. Its also disheartening to read about the inequality within our education system and the inequality that it creates. But despite the incredible impediments presented to children and teachers, Kozol finds the smallest glimpses of pure hope, happiness and ridiculous strength and insight in people named Pineapple. This book is easy to relate to for any first year teacher who w ...more
Sarah Pierce
Jan 03, 2009 Sarah Pierce rated it really liked it
I saw him speak in October at the University of Buffalo. He is very impassioned about the state of American education, particularly as it applies in inner-city neighborhoods. This book is part memoir, part critique of our educational systems, part instruction on how to get the best from students, all in the form of letters to a first-year grade school teacher. I am not a teacher, and I don’t have children of my own, but I do care about how children are learning, and I agree strongly with a lot o ...more
Jere Gobert-Blades
I would read his more popular books. I thought I would learn something but I didn' was more interesting reading some of the things Mr. Kozol went through. It wasn't an easy read because of his language. It almost felt as if I was reading a book required by a class.
Feb 25, 2009 Deirdre rated it really liked it
I really enjoying reading Kozol. This former teacher and current educational researcher and critic makes the pros and cons of public education and public education reform accessible. In this book, Kozol writes letters to a new teacher to affirm what she intuitively knows about teaching; to encourage her in the face of the assault on public schools and children, especially those in inner cities; and to inspire her and other teachers to keep going in the face of high-stakes testing, lack of fundin ...more
Alyssa Trumble
Sep 16, 2014 Alyssa Trumble rated it it was ok
I wanted a book that would offer me some insight into the teaching world. This book started off great but slowly progressed into political commentary with a very heavy bias. After a while, I gave up and just skimmed through the rest. Disappointing.
Dec 29, 2010 Matt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
This is a telling and engrossing journey into being an educator. I read this book on the recommendation of my girlfriend, who is a music teacher. I subbed for my high school Japanese teacher for a couple months, and will be teaching English in Japan beginning in late January. This gave me insight into what makes teachers tick, as well as what pisses them off. I come from a family of educators, but don't intend to retire as one. This book made me understand my lineage. Its written in anecdotal fo ...more
Aug 25, 2015 Sharen rated it liked it
Although the author is an intelligent, compassionate man, I cannot think of any first-year teacher - or any teacher - who has enough time to read and muse on a 300 (plus) page book of Kozol's reflections during the school year. He means well, but Francesca must have been hard-pressed to read and reply to his letters!
Gretchen Mary
Jul 15, 2014 Gretchen Mary rated it liked it
Being a first year teacher I chose to read as many books about teaching as I could. This book includes letters back and forth between a mentor talking about his experiences in a low income school and a new young teacher. I could not relate with this book as much as some of the others but it is interesting to see some of the plights he went through in the school that he taught.
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Jonathan Kozol is a non-fiction writer, educator, and activist best known for his work towards reforming American public schools. Upon graduating from Harvard, he received a Rhodes scholarship. After returning to the United States, Kozol became a teacher in the Boston Public Schools, until he was fired for teaching a Langston Hughes poem. Kozol has held two Guggenheim Fellowships, has twice been a ...more
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“Young children give us glimpses of some things that are eternal.” 14 likes
“Childhood does not exist to serve the national economy. In a healthy nation, it should be the other way around.” 5 likes
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