Letters to a Young Teacher
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Letters to a Young Teacher

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  1,288 ratings  ·  138 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...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 21st 2007 by Crown (first published January 1st 2007)
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Melissa
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.
Anna
May 04, 2008 Anna rated it 2 of 5 stars
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...more
Sarah
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
Erica
Sep 13, 2007 Erica rated it 3 of 5 stars
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...more
Kim
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...more
Jennifer
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...more
The
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
Laurie
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.
Stephanie Conklin
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
Hannah
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...more
Dena Lake
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
Kathryn
Jul 24, 2012 Kathryn rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Willow
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...more
Anne
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
Lindsey
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...more
Liam Dillow
When I emailed one of my greatest mentors asking for career advice, one of the first things he said was to read anything by Jonathan Kozol. I love Kozol's direct approach, although he tends to come from a philosophical place and relies less on studies. He will occasionally rant on what are to me pretty trivial matters which takes away from his credibility for me, but it is a very honest book & an interesting format.
Katrina Best
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
Ryan
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
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
Deirdre
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
Matt
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
Gretchen Mary
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.
Jenny
Kozol is a masterful educator and author. Back in my education class at college, I remember it was Kozol's books that left the deepest impressions on me. This latest book of his is a joy to read and it imparts lessons about the American school system that are valuable to anyone who cares about our youth, their education, and public policy. The lessons take the form of letters that he writes to a young teacher beginning her career in Boston's public school system. The letters are warm and humorou...more
Thomas
This is generally well read, although the narrator's use of a high-pitched voice for quotations was somewhat irritating. Kozol's arguments are put forward succinctly, clearly, and forcefully. This is no small accomplishment, given his use of letters already written.

While I found the book straightforward and interesting, I do not feel myself capable of evaluating the truth of Kozol's claims. In this book, his support is entirely anecdotal. I do not have enough experience with inner city schools...more
Adina
Mar 01, 2008 Adina added it
Bridging the gap between policy and the practice of teaching, Kozol weaves in and out of the teacher and the policy maker. If you only read one chapter, read "Jargon" which reminds us how the language we use as adults can be so far and irrelevant to the language most effective with our students and our colleagues. This book puts the real struggles of teaching out there. What impressed me most was Kozol's humility, after so many years in the classroom (including a large break from it) he is not t...more
Kristin
Kozol was a major part of my undergraduate education so when I saw this book I had to pick it up. It was slow going because I didn't read very much at a time and I actually returned it to the library, then picked it up again when I had more time to read. Kozol loves going for the sensational pronouncements about children in America's schools, often (rightly, sometimes) indicting school districts, administrators, and even whole communities for not taking better care of the children entrusted to t...more
zaki
finally started reading. welcome departure from kozol's other works as he gets deeply personal with his own experiences as a first time teacher (in one big auditorium divided into 5 classes!) and offers powerful insight in dealing with disadvantaged and left behind students. "You often hear stories about super teachers who leave kids in awe the second they enter the room. I wasn't one of those." Instead, he talks about building trust and ditching prescribed curriculum as the best ways to bond wi...more
Colleenish
I don't think this is a perfect book, but I really loved it. Kozol is very political which is inspiring, but also makes him harder for me to trust. The issues of segregation and poverty which are addressed in this book make it seem like it was written in the sixties. It wasn't, and that is sad. This book encouraged me to be more human in my teaching. Teaching is about enjoying students, not just about classroom management. My favorite chapter was the one about educational language. Kozol's disda...more
Pam
I randomly picked this up from the library, and I'm glad I did. The format of the book has Kozol (who has written pretty extensively about education) writing letters to a new teacher who is working in a Boston inner-city school. It has some really interesting things to say about being a young, white middle class person teaching in schools where most of the kids are poor and black or latino. It challenges a lot of current thinking about diversity, community involvement, and about vouchers and tes...more
Katy
Aug 16, 2013 Katy rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: student teachers
Is Jonathan Kozol getting a little preachy in his old age? Some of his previous books quite literally inspired me to become a teacher, but I was disappointed with this book. I think he romanticizes his own teaching experience, and he is quick to judge others in the education system without posing possible solutions.

One thing that I do like about Kozol is that he has never lost his love for children and the beautiful and insightful way they think. In this book, he continues to do an excellent job...more
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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
More about Jonathan Kozol...
Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America Ordinary Resurrections

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“Young children give us glimpses of some things that are eternal.” 12 likes
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