Alexandra's Reviews > The Water Is Wide: A Memoir

The Water Is Wide by Pat Conroy
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Aug 28, 13


This is probably more of a reflection than a"review" I read this book when I first started teaching, and my naive and much younger self wanted to be exactly the kind of teacher Pat Conroy had wanted to be-one who worked with children who needed me and whose lives I could touch in some way-only I would do it better of course! My first teaching job plunked me down in a non-air-conditioned overcrowded school in Little Havana (in the heart of the city of Miami, FL for you non-natives) with 100% of my students hailing from Cuba, South America, Puerto Rico, etc.

Well, life imitates art, I guess. My first year was a pretty miserable failure and I did not achieve my glorified vision of "the Great White non-Hispanic Hope" (Hey, I said I was naive, right?). They ate my upper middle class white butt for lunch! But, man did I LEARN from my kids. Hard lessons to be sure, but critical to my nascent years as a teacher.

That's what this book popping up in my Goodreads wanderings makes me realize. Once I learned that I wasn't the only one in the room with something worthwhile to teach, I really became a teacher. Sometimes it's better to close your mouth and open your ears and hear what the kids have to teach you. I'm still naive, thank goodness, and still hope to make a difference with the teachers I prepare to teach-I just never assume I'm the only one with something to say.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Rhonda I find it interesting that we seem to share an experience of a sort. A friend suggested I read this book after I had begun teaching in a little school in Little Havana just off SW 8th street. Although I was in graduate school at U of M in the sciences at the time, I taught English, Social Studies, and even French to the moctly Cuban kids. It was a marvellous experience and although very naive, I am cognizant that a group of us made significant inroads by doing things in unorthodox fashion...especially me.
I never much liked the book all that much and found it too simplistic. Ultimately I disagree with the heart of it because the man decided to go against the superintendent:then again, maybe I didn't like it because it was more like the way I am than I cared to admit. Maybe we just need more people to do this. Perhaps if we did demand performance and come up with unorthodox ways of teaching, we wouldn't have the junk in our schools today and our kids failing and dropping out.


Tracy Reilly I had a similar experience at Catholic (rumoured--Mafia run/banked) boarding school in Tampa (now defunct), but in the end I quit crying every night and got to know some kids. My first day I got 20 paper airplanes thrown at me, and realized they never heard of the Beatles--there goes my cool lesson plan!

But the other thing that interested me about this book was it's exploration of long forgotten, isolated languages fostered in a unique environment. I followed up with PBS' The Story of English, and became a fan of weird dialects/ minicultures.


Gordon I taught for 30 years. I considered it a bad day when I didn't learn more than anyone else.


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