In Among Teachers, Peter L. Fenninger has distilled a lifetime of experience into a positive book that would be excellent for those who would like to conduct an armchair archeological dig through the life of a teacher at the end of a rewarding career.
In the first of three sections, Fenninger recounts his 30 years in education (elementary to adult, as teacher and administrator, in both independent and public school settings). In the second section, Fenninger expounds on opinions he has developed over his career. Finally, Fenninger, ever the English teacher, includes a section of his own professional and personal writings.
While the sectioning provides for a somewhat disjointed and rambling reading experience, the reader gains great insight into Fenninger as a person and professional. Foremost in his concerns is that good teachers care for and respect students. He recounts both receiving and giving such care, and proves that one teacher can make a difference. He generously describes students as “people who want to succeed” and counsels teachers to make any assignment one from which all students can grow. He characterizes troublemakers as products of “our own making” who deserve the concern and attention they crave. He supports academic standards, close cooperation with the parent community and loves the “hands-on instruction” afforded by computers in the classroom.
Fenninger, however, has harsh criticism for many aspects of the educational world. Bigger, he notes, is not better; the trend of merging school districts, for example, rarely results in improved education. Furthermore, he loathes systems of tenure that preserve mediocrity in education. He makes the provocative suggestion that members of the school community (vs. a board of education) should develop criteria for teacher evaluation.
While the author’s look at his personal life seems limited in appeal and more suited for family and friends than a wide audience, many of his points about teaching carry the gravitas of rich life experience and are worthy of consideration.
Also available in hardcover.