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Letters to a Young Teacher

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,958 ratings  ·  178 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 t
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 21st 2007 by Crown Publishing Group (NY) (first published January 1st 2007)
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Jun 06, 2008 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.
Sep 13, 2007 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
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
Apr 20, 2008 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 02, 2008 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
Aug 02, 2009 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.
Esther | lifebyesther
May 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: education, nonfiction
When I first started reading, I was very excited. Kozol is a very respected writer and advocator, and I found his writing refreshing. In addition, since I'll be a first-year teacher in August, I need all the advice I can get.

Kozol certainly had great points: connect with families, encourage students' creativity, no vouchers, don't teach to standardized tests. However, I've heard all these before. I was also disappointed that he didn't offer a lot of practical solutions to the pitfalls he was lis
Mar 31, 2010 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 15, 2011 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 16, 2009 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
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lovely book for those who feel frustrated of being a teacher. I loved this book because of the simple way of sending very crucial messages to young teachers.
Can really be a teacher without having difficulties in adapting your lifestyle and your personality to be more humanistic and vital during the whole day... the writer had great explanations and answers to some of the twisted wonders...? The book draws the readers' attentions to the build personal educational philosophy and set future goals
Hannah Darr
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"There's something deeply hypocritical in a society that holds a child only eight or nine years old accountable for her performance on a high-stakes standardized exam but does not hold the Congress and the president accountable for robbing her of what they gave their own kids six or seven years before."
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed Kozol’s book. It made more of an impact on me now that I will be teaching to a student population with living conditions similar to those he writes about. This book is necessary for all teachers, not just young ones.
Michelle Elizabeth
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Well where do I start? I have recently been doing substitute teaching at the public school in my area. I do well with high school but was feeling less than for elementary school. I saw this book at the library and checked it out. By the time I started reading it I had thought that at any age children are better perceived by administration when they follow the rules outside of class. I was glad the author hit that same ideal right away. With high school students I can say, "Here is your assignmen ...more
Jun 19, 2020 added it
Shelves: 2007-08
This book is a compilation of a series of letters than Kozol wrote to a first year teacher in an inner-city Boston elementary school. Each letter addresses a different issue facing new teachers in urban settings or about a current struggle or policy issue in public education at large. Some of the topics and reflections made by Kozol which stand out most to me were:

Being a part of a community—including elder teachers, students, and parents—which you don't belong to. The book was largely aimed at
Hilary Whatley
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, education
When I first started this book, which was a gift from another teacher, I was a bit surprised when halfway-in it turned to a political nature. I suppose my first reaction was, "Hmph." I have to admit, I was probably a bit biased against him in the first place - not because of his views, but because he so strongly expressed them. I don't like feeling manipulated into believing another person's views, especially when I suspect they have an "agenda."

That said, I did like most of his book, and I ver
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Quote: "When it comes to courage, my best teachers have been children."

"When they begin to teach, they come into their classrooms with a sense of affirmation of the goodness and the fullness of existence, with a sense of satisfaction in discovering the unexpected in their students, and with a longing to surprise the world, their kids, even themselves, with their capacity to leave each place they've been (a school, a classroom, a community of learning) a better and more joyful place than it was
Gerald Regep
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a first year teacher, this book was a source of medicinal relief, guidance, and empathy.

In "Letters to a Young Teacher" Jonathon Kozol shares the letters he wrote to a young, first-year teacher named Francessca. He gives her advice, offers praise, and explains the different challenges that educators across the country have faced in our inner-city schools.

Many of the problems Kozol mentions are eerily similar or exactly the same as the problems that many inner-city schools face today: high-s
Chris Wejr
Jul 15, 2017 rated it liked it
There are some decent reminders in this book about showing empathy to where families come from and the impact on the system on students of poverty. He also continues his critique of the US system that pushes school choice and standardized testing. I did find the book having quite a negative tone (and perhaps this was his point) and this book is not one that I would share with a new teacher unless they were perhaps working in an inner city school in the US. I have heard Savage Inequalities is a g ...more
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great book. Reminds me of Deborah Meier's "The Power of Their Ideas" as each chapter tackles a different theme of education, using anecdotes from his own teaching experience, visits to schools across the country and visits to the teacher the letters are to. The book takes the form of letters he writes in response to a new teacher, whose classroom he visits (altered for the purpose of the book). Kozol's writing is passionate yet friendly and engaging.
Megan Nielsen
Jun 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book was more about the politics of the public school system than about anything else. It was very discouraging that our schools are so rigged for failure.

The good note: I was reminded to revisit the reason that I started to teach in the first place. I also gleaned a couple of classroom ideas.
Sophie Vigeant
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book reads as a beacon of hope (and a gentle warning) for aspiring teachers :)
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So thankful to have an author like this to remind us all about what's important, in the immediate and global sense, in education. Feel lucky to have "known" him for fifteen years.
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teaching-books
This book makes me cry every time I read it.
Patrick Cook
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education, epistolary
Exceptionally humane and compassionate.
Jens Hauge
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! Kozol’s letters are inspiring for all teachers (and everyone). I highly recommend this book. This is a pretty generic review, but I find this book very valuable.
Feb 03, 2009 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
Jun 24, 2012 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
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
Oct 15, 2007 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
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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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