CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 20 . . . .June 9, 2006
55 Teaching Dilemmas: Ten Powerful Solutions to Almost Any Classroom Challenge.
Markham, ON: Pembroke, 2005.
96 pp., pbk., $21.95.
Elementary school teaching.
Review by Erin Daniels.
The ability to teach well and influence others comes from within. It is more than an exercise of techniques taught in teacher education classes… Teaching well is like kindling a flame and watching it blossom, creating learners who are so excited about learning that they seem to grow right before the teacher's eyes. These fortunate students can hardly wait for the day to begin and never want class to end. These are students whose teachers exhibit both personal and professional power.
I do not think that teachers can show professional power without first having personal power. Personal power might be defined as control over who they are, how they interact with others, what personae they present to students, and what their philosophy of education is. Professional power refers to excellence in instructing, leading, and influencing. It might be seen as power over teaching abilities, the effective use of strategies that encourage and support learning.
I believe that teachers who have personal power present personalities that are both positive and supportive and will see this reflected in the behavior of their students. Similarly, teachers with professional power will see this reflected in the academic successes of their students." (From the “Introduction.”)
Written by Kathy Paterson who has more than 30 years experience as a teacher, counselor, coach, curriculum adviser, and university instructor, 55 Teaching Dilemmas is a useful manual for all teachers, particularly for those who are beginning their teaching careers. This book will also serve to help teachers who may need new solutions to old problems. Placing the emphasis on developing one's personal power, as well as improving one's professional power, could be beneficial to teachers who feel powerless or on the verge of burnout. Many of the instructional techniques and strategies listed would be best suited to early or middle years professionals. However, the sections on inner strength, personal preservation, and organization may promote wellness for all teachers, regardless of grade level.
The book is organized so that a reader can easily select a topic of concern and read the top 10 suggestions for assistance, advice, and practical solutions. Much like using a menu, a teacher would be able to reflect on 10 different options and select the ones best suited to his or her professional situation or personal style. This book is like having a trusted mentor close at hand when you need it.
The 55 dilemmas are grouped under 11 main categories: Caring for Others, Inner Strength, Diligence, Personal Preservation, Organization, Teaching Strategies, Communication, Classroom Management, Motivation, Presentation, and Leadership.
Each dilemma is discussed on one page with an opening vignette or example followed by the 10 solutions. Critical questions appear as sidebars that help the reader to reflect on the topic.
Paterson avoids preaching to her audience, relying instead on affirming what teachers already do well and providing "proven, results based solutions to common classroom dilemmas." She reminds us to take time for personal wellness, putting ourselves as a top priority in addition to performing our myriad professional duties with excellence. The book's theme of interweaving personal power with professional power for the benefit of the students entrusted to us is one we should all take time to consider.
Erin Daniels is a grade seven language arts and social studies teacher at Charleswood School in Winnipeg, MB.
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