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Letters to a Young Teacher

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  2,039 ratings  ·  186 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. ...more
Amy Finley
Nov 28, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021
Though I’m not a k-12 teacher, this still has some important lessons for us all. Good read.
Sep 13, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Esther | lifebyesther
May 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction, education
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
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. ...more
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." ...more
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
Aug 07, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I picked this up years ago and decided to finally read it even though I am not a grade school teacher. I was expecting a dry collection of essays with predictable but good points on how to improve one's teaching, but this book was so much more. Jonathan Kozol himself is an amazing figure. He became a teacher for the Boston Public School System in the 1960s and was fired for reading a Langston Hughes poem to his class of predominately black students. He then devoted the rest of his career fi ...more
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
Jul 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up on a whim from a used bookstore. It had to have been one of the best decisions I made. As an education major, I am eager to enter the classroom as a teacher. However, I have so many fears and doubts about my ability to be the teacher I want to be. This book didn't eliminate these fears, but it helped put them in perspective. I am now feeling my passion for teaching, especially for social-justice-oriented teaching, totally and utterly refueled. All because of this book.

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. ...more
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.
Rylen Lemons
DNF’ing this. It’s not a bad book by any means, it’s just not what I was looking for. Kozol gives good advice from his own experiences, there just aren’t really many solid strategies beyond the advice. He says things like “it’s important to get into contact with parents,” then gives only his own story & no other strategies beyond that. Again, that’s fine, just not what I wanted.
Jun 24, 2022 rated it it was amazing
A motivational read for any young teacher. Though it lacks practical applications for new teachers, this text does discuss theoretical, philosophical ideas for educators which can be just as important. I actually read this after my first year of teaching and I'd encourage others to do the same, as this text isn't really a blueprint but more of a reflective piece. ...more
Oct 12, 2021 rated it liked it
Would have rated it higher but it was filled with advice for mainly elementary school teachers not secondary education teachers. So if looking for advice for teaching middle or high school I would choose another book.
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. ...more
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teaching-books
This book makes me cry every time I read it.
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Books for a new teacher 2 9 May 14, 2013 07:03AM  

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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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