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Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  72 ratings  ·  26 reviews
A captivating meditation on education from the author of The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop

In Blackboard, Lewis Buzbee looks back over a lifetime of experiences in schools and classrooms, from kindergarten to college and beyond. He offers fascinating histories of the key ideas informing educational practice over the centuries, which have shaped everything from class size to
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Graywolf Press
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3.61  · 
Rating details
 ·  72 ratings  ·  26 reviews

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Book received from Goodreads Giveaways. Read for #NonfictionNovember2017 Scholarship Category

This was a decent read. The author discusses how school was taught when he started in the early 60's I was actually shocked by how much things had not changed by the time I started school in the late 70's. I also liked how he contrasted it between how schools are taught in this day and age. I like it while I was reading it, but once I put it down I didn't really care if I picked it back up. It was intere
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Apr 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I very much enjoyed Lewis Buzbee's personal history partly because so much of it reminded me of my own personal history. He went to school in middle class suburban San Jose beginning with kindergarten in 1965, and so did I. I didn't go to the same schools he went to, but we were only a few miles away, so I found his descriptions quite familiar.

If this were just a big blast from the past, there would be limited appeal for the book, even from those of us who were there. Instead, Buzbee uses his o
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Creative writing that is autobiography posing as general truths is not my cup of tea. Despite being of that genre, this book was passably interesting as an audio book for background listening. However, the author's personal experience with public schools was not nearly enough to convince me of their glorious, magical powers upon the young. And it certainly was not enough to persuade me toward his thesis, which is that we need heavier taxation to pump more money into our public schools. His own e ...more
Oct 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Quite enjoyable and light.
Gary Lang
Aug 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is a warm meditation on what it means to go to school, to get an education, and to give one. It's clear that the author actually think these things are synonymous. His description of how California went from a ranking in U.S. of number two when I as in school to number 49 today is a replay of the heartbreak I witnessed as the years went by and the lunatics on the right systematically destroyed most of what made California great in our lifetimes. I remember a high school officer telling ...more
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is my third Buzbee novel. Buzbee both educates you on the history, structure and influences of the classroom in Blackboard, while he shares insights and first-hand experiences.

You guys, this is a five star novel. I rarely feel compelled to write reviews (I've never felt I was any good at writing reviews so I usually skip them and put my stars in), but this novel deserves a spotlight on the Goodreads Soapbox. So, pardon me for a few minutes, to take the time to explain why I'm stepping out
Fernando Pérez Pérez
Vs. The teaching brain and Vs. Louise Ammended, book on education and memoir on flashy issue respectively, neither of which is greatly written. Blackboard isn't, either, written in a compelling style, or showing mastery of structure, but the topic is important, the view, solid, and I gather his ideas are correct. Thus, three stars. That is, good if you care about education. If don't, don't read (at all, maybe).

"Allow me to digress again, schoolboyishly, aping Jonathan Swift. Here is my Immodest
Jan 18, 2015 rated it liked it
This book is both a walk down the educational memory lane of the author and a reflection on the past and present state of public education in the U.S. The first half is about the author's elementary school experience. It was okay. The second half was far more interesting, as it became more personal. As a teacher, I appreciated his total enthusiasm for the importance of quality, free, public education, and particularly his honoring of the special relationship between teachers and students, especi ...more
Oct 18, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting for teachers and educators, not for me I don't quite remember what drove me to pick up this book, but it sounded interesting. The author takes us through a journey of his experiences in the classroom as both a student and teacher. We read about his teachers, his classmates, the rooms themselves, what he learned, etc. Then we read about his own experiences as a teacher.
I have to say, I don't get the great reviews. I know it's what it says on the cover but wow his writing is tedious.
Dec 10, 2014 added it
Shelves: non-fiction
I got this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads program, and so had very little pre-conceived notions, other than this was a book about education, a favourite subject area of mine. I really enjoyed the beginning sections about elementary education, and the last few sections on higher education and the authors thoughts on improving education. I really loved how the author weaved his personal story into some history of education. I felt like I both learned something about the author and about ...more
L. Holland
Apr 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an enjoyable, meandering book where the chapters are framed by the author's own educational experience. I particularly enjoyed the history and commentary on California's system, seeing that I didn't grow up in CA or in Buzbee's era. I also appreciated the author's eloquence - many of the metaphors about education and classrooms aren't mind-blowingly original, but they are carefully crafted and artfully done, and I enjoyed those moments of elevated tone. While I didn't learn a lot of new ...more
Lily MacKenzie
Oct 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Most of us who have been teaching for some time need periodic reminders of the important work we’re doing in the classroom. It’s easy to become insensitive in our relations with our students and let automatic pilot take over. Also, since our salaries usually don’t reflect the value of what we do, the central role we have in students’ lives, it’s easy to stagnate. Being one of those teachers, it was uplifting to read Blackboard: A personal history of the classroom by Lewis Buzbee. A moving and th ...more
Apr 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Despite its length, this book is a lot of things! I found it to be nostalgic (despite having attended school myself in a different era than the author), but also a great commentary on the current state of education and the politics that surround it. I thought it was odd how the author brought it together as a sort of "call to arms" at the end, though. Not that I disagree with the sentiment but it felt wrong for this book. It is why I read Teachers Have it Easy and, frankly, didn't feel the call ...more
Molly Ewing
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
A lovely, thoughtful memoir of one person's experience moving through the public school system in California from kindergarten to graduate school. Buzbee' s journey to his past was instigated by his young daughter's very different educational experience a generation later. As many memoirists, he occasionally teeters on the edge of nostalgic sentimentality; to his credit he never topples. His final chapter is a clear-eyed set of recommendations summarizing what our schools need to successfully sa ...more
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book caused me to think hard about my public school education. In learning about the golden age of California's education system, I found myself, for the first time, upset about getting the short end of the hickory stick. I wrote a little about that here:

Buzbee does a nice job of connecting the dots, too. Education is not a parent-of-school age-children issue, it's a societal one.
Kate Schwarz
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Loved this thoughtful, well-written personal account of one man's journey through the public school system in California in the 1960s. Buzbee's appreciation for the many teachers who took the time to educate, inspire, and mentor him shines through each and every one of his sentences. What a shame that not all Americans have his experience, especially nowadays--"raise my taxes," Buzbee writes, so more students of today can have a rich educational experience like his.

Oct 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
Lewis Buzbee, a writer and a teacher, has written sort of a history of education in America, based mostly on his own experiences in his own schooling from elementary through college and beyond. It was interesting to read but I really didn’t learn much from it, and I finished it feeling that I really wanted more.
Dec 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Lewis Buzbee goes on a trip down nostalgia road of all of his school experiences since elementary school. It takes the reader back to a time when the American educational institutions were actually effective. Interesting read.
Sep 10, 2014 added it
Shelves: 2014-reads
Sweetly nostalgic. What a good time of year to release such a book.
Matt Neely
Jun 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Voice filled and fueled memoir of classroom, schools and education, with a dose of educational history and some family musings.
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
LOVED this book. If you are feeling nostalgic about or grateful for education, you'll love it too!
It's an interesting blend of memoir and history of education.
Jill Crosby
Jan 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
Eh. Not exactly what I was expecting. A mash-up of the author's education and his development as a writer. Pick one. Focus.
Nov 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Elegant, heartfelt, nostalgic and intelligent.
David F.
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Feb 18, 2015
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Oct 02, 2017
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Nov 03, 2014
Alysha Gaskins
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May 18, 2017
Marcelino Urioste
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Feb 12, 2015
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Oct 14, 2014
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Lewis Buzbee is a fourth generation California native who began writing at the age of 15, after reading the first chapter of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Since then he’s been a dishwasher, a bookseller, a publisher, a caterer, a bartender, and a teacher of writing. He and his wife, the poet Julie Bruck, live with their daughter Maddy in San Francisco, just half a block from Golden Gate Pa ...more