Monday, May 18, 2009

Show and Tell: Learn Me Good

Meet Mr. Teacher. He teaches 3rd grade, somewhere in East Dallas. That's Big D. In Texas. He's got students named Pilar, Marvin and...

...Lucifer. Well, that's only when her head is spinning & vitriol is spewing from all angles.

Engineer John Pearson (aka Mr. T) graduated from Duke & invested almost 4 years in his chosen career. But then the economy started to go down the drain and John met that nasty little invitation called the Pink Slip.

But he had a backup plan. And it involved teaching math to 3rd-graders in Inner City Dallas.

Mr. Teacher chronicles the ups, the downs, the bathroom breaks, the field trips, and, yes, the dreaded TAKS tests in his fun and even funnier, Learn Me Good.

(As an aside, TAKS stands for Texas Assessment of Knowledge & Skills. This native Dallasite-yes, Mrs Scribe herself is a product of the Dallas Independent School District-thinks the test's name is slightly oxymoronic, but what do I know?)

I know that if I had a 3rd-grader registered in the DISD, I'd send her to Mr. Teacher's class. His hilarious account of his first year in the classroom will tug at your heartstrings, make you scratch your head more than once, and even send you into peals of gut-wrenching laughter late at nite, when you're reading in bed & the Hubz is trying to catch some shut-eye.

Contained in these often humorous, sometimes serious, light and easy 209 pages are the anecdotes all teachers come to know: The child who blurts out all the wrong answers, thinking that the louder he is, the more correct he will be; the child who knows a little too much a little too early about the Birds & the Bees (although in Mr. Teacher's case, that child is an 8-year-old, and she performs a provocative pole dance at the end of the line one day); the child who will never learn her multiplication tables, but keeps trying, anyway.

But Mr. Teacher's Cherubs are also those who started life a little behind & are forever playing catch-up. Many of them move thru a single school year like those candies on Lucy Ricardo's assembly line, and if Mr. Teacher doesn't catch them quick, they'll fall off the belt.

He writes about kids who enroll in October, only to leave the school in November; students whose parents have no phones (Mr. Teacher & his co-teacher make "house calls" at the apartments of those kids, meeting with the parents face-to-face); one girl whose uncle reeks so badly of smoke (turns out to be reefer) that he has a difficult time standing, much less speaking.

I really enjoyed Learn Me Good's format, as well. Each vignette is written as an e-mail to a former engineering co-worker. Each of Mr. Teacher's "posts" smacks slightly of sarcasm & often of silliness. At the same time he imparts an important message: Clichés aside, a hard-working teacher who cares about his students can make a difference.

I won a copy of this fast & entertaining read in a giveaway over at Mr. T's Place. But Mr. Teacher's first-year memoir is also available at And you don't have to be a teacher to love this book. Humor is a universal language, don't you think?


Mister Teacher said...

Scribe, thank you so much for the glowing review! I'm glad you liked it!

Could I trouble you to post this review on Amazon?


Tori_z said...

Sounds good. I bet they don't have it on audio or in braille though. You find that with most books.

Marrdy said...

A student named Lucifer, I like him already.

Great review...I'll have to check this out.

I'm about half way through The Opposite of Fate. Really like it so far, just no time for reading.

Columbia Lily said...

I loved this book.

Mister Teacher said...

Tori, my book is self-published, so it's not in audio or braille. YET. However, I would be happy to read it aloud and save it to CD for a nominal fee of, oh let's just say, $250? ;)

And Scribe, thanks for posting on Amazon!

Koe Whitton-Williams said...

Melissa - thanks for posting this. . . and Mister Teacher. . . it sounds like a wonderful read. I'll have to stop by your site.

(sorry I haven't been around lately. . .I'm trying to keep up / trying to tattoo the wind.)

Blog Stalker said...

Will totally have to check this book out now. If Scribe reccommends it, It has to be good

Have a great day!

Tori_z said...

Mr T:
I didn't think it would be available in braille or on audio. But, if you do decide to read it on to CD then let me know.

Mister Teacher said...

Tori, we could probably come to some sort of agreement. . . Summer vacation IS coming up, after all, so I'll have time on my hands for a project. . .

Blank said...

the child who will never learn her multiplication tables, but keeps trying, anywayShe might, one day. The internet is now full of self-learning resources. Even crazy stuff like Sudoku, times tables edition.

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