Friday, August 21, 2009

Close Encounters of the Third Grade Kind, It'll make you laugh and cry

This month the entertaining Phillip Done is coming out with his second book, Close Encounters of the Third Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood. I reviewed his first book here. He wants to add the word teacherhood to the lexicon, after all motherhood, fatherhood and parenthood are all words. In 11 chapters, one for each school month (just like pregnancy, the school year is longer than we think) he made me chuckle, tear up, appreciate teachers even more, and thoroughly enjoy reading about little kids from a teacher's perspective.

I've heard that he's taking a break from teaching to promote his books, which is sad because you can tell from his writing he'd make a great teacher. Just like his first book (with the even better title of 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny), this new one is full of little anecdotes from 30 years of teaching third graders, such as a heartwarming tale of a troubled little girl reading to a dog, which made me cry both times I read it, or a student's dad bidding $210 at a school auction so his son could go trick or treating with his teacher. It was a battle between two boys who really knew their trick-or-treating, leaving Mr. Done with a list of TRICK-OR-TREATING LESSONS for his October chapter.

  • After being handed a piece of candy, always look back in the bowl to see
    what you did not get.

  • Old people are very generous or give you one peanut, there is no in

  • Men don't care what their handing out. Women give

  • Cute costumes = more candy.

  • His book is full of these "teaching truths" which of course are not always 100% true. I give out organic chocolate or toys, thank you very much. We can forgive him these generalizations, despite being a teacher, because they are clearly written out of love of teaching and many, many years of experience. Besides the funny and poignant parts, he covers the areas children love, like learning cursive, laughing at the teachers foibles and conducting messy science experiments. I see my son obsessed with learning cursive, but I affect the whole experiment when I'm in the class, so I don't often see first hand his spontaneous joy of learning.

    My only critique is I think this book could have been shorter. Each chapter covers different aspects of his hilarious and trying life as a teacher, but in some ways it's a lot of the same. I think both his books would make great gifts for teachers and parents of young kids.

    I've got two boys who started 2nd grade and kindergarten this year. I have absolutely loved all their male teachers and am glad there are teachers like Phillip and like the wonders in our school who have the patience and humor to teacher our little ones. This book comforted me in the knowledge that 3rd graders are still such little girls and boys, making mistakes, acting silly and being allowed to act like kids.