Robbins, who actually works as a substitute teacher in her own local district, gets it.
I approached my review copy of this book with some trepidation. Would this be one more book about education by some writer who dipped her toes in the waters and came away with Startling New Observations that every teacher already knew or, worse, that every teacher already knew were wrong. It was great to discover that this was not That Book at all.
The book follows three teachers month by month through the school year, but it is also packed with the voices of other teachers.
What a radical notion-- a book about teaching that is filled with the voices of teachers!
Teachers from all across the nation, from every grade level (even friend of the Institute Steven Singer), talking honestly about what the job is like, what it takes, what it takes out of you.
Robbins is unapologetic in her respect for the work:
Teachers are among the most vital, hardest working, passionate, and selfless members of the workforce--yet they are among the most disrespected and undervalued.
The three "close up" stories capture all the ups and downs of classroom teaching--the supportive and not-so-supportive colleagues, the work of finding ways to get students to progress through the year, the struggle of balancing personal and professional existence, the increased demands on time, the difference between a toxic and healthy school environment. Along with the month by month stories of those three teachers, Robbins provides in depth examinations of the larger issues-- violence, problematic parents, pandemic fallout, anti-teacher activists, the problems of understaffing.
To simply list the topics makes the book seem like a downer, but I found it an encouraging and uplifting read, capturing how teachers find ways to rise and meet the many challenges they face--not like the kind of imaginary super-teachers we see in media, but like human beings with their own strengths and weaknesses and struggles who manage to rise up and do the work. In many ways, Robbins captures not just the human reality of teaching, but the ways in which teaching is a deeply human endeavor, centering on the best of what human beings can be.
Or to put it another way, in my fifth year of retirement, nothing has made me miss the classroom more than reading this book.
Anyway-- you should read this book. It officially drops on Tuesday, March 14, and you should get a copy (or pre-order now). In her blurb, Diane Ravitch calls this book "a beautiful testimony." I agree. Do not miss this book.