I’d love to be able to say that I hear no echoes of my own classroom experiences in John Pearson’s Learn Me Gooder stories, which follows a fictional teacher throughout the year in a series of email correspondences with his friends and relates all of the odd things that go on inside of a high-energy third grade elementary classroom. But I do, darn it. I hear those echoes and I can clearly see the students as if they were standing right in front of me, with off-kilter insights, emotional baggage and wide smiles at the fun of being part of a classroom where anything goes. (Note of disclosure: Pearson provided me with a free ebook version of Learn Me Gooder in hopes that I would do a review, but we had not arrangement regarding positive or negative review).
Luckily, my own experience in the classroom is not quite as odd as that of the teacher in Learn Me Gooder. Educator Jack Woodson, whose teaching tales formed the narrative of the first Learn Me Good novel by Pearson, survives the turmoil of teaching in a Texas school beset by standardized testing, immigrant families arriving and departing with little notice, language barriers and more by using humor to lighten the load. Pearson entertains, but also educates, as he explores the daily life of a teacher through the wide-eyed lens of humor.
So, yes, I laughed at much of what goes on with Jack Woodson. I laughed hard and loud.(Plus, Woodson finally gets a girlfriend in this second book. See? Even teachers have lives!)
The use of the email correspondence with friends from Woodson’s past job is a smart narrative touch by Pearson, as we see the back-and-forth emerge with playfulness, and some wistfulness of Woodson sometimes regretting leaving there for teaching but never enough to leave his kids behind. And in the end, it is Woodson’s nurturing nature and understanding of his wacky students that anchors this book firmly into the ground, and those very qualities of Woodson the teacher make Learn Me Gooder a recommended read for any teacher or any parent or anyone who has ever been in a classroom that made you just want to shake your head and smile.
Peace (in the learning),
PS — You can also follow John Pearson’s blog for Learn Me Good, and see where some of the stories come from.