No doubt, Cathine Gilchrist Scott knows her field. Her background in education includes teaching in public schools and developing district-wide mathematics curricula; earning both a master’s and a doctorate; and serving on the faculty and as dean at a number of teaching colleges and universities. Scott imparts this knowledge in her memoir-cum-how-to guide that recounts her personal journey and aims to show today’s teachers steps to classroom success.
Scott writes with an enthusiastic, conversational style refreshingly free of “educatese.” Since first grade in 1947, Scott knew she wanted to become a teacher, although she was a self-professed “average student who had to study very hard.” Math always vexed her; in college, she flunked Calculus I twice. True to her nature, though, she persisted until she had completed more math courses than her elementary education major required. She went on to teach math to children the way she wished she’d learned: by incorporating concrete objects, such as boxes or spoons, to explain abstract concepts. “I believed that students had to understand geometric concepts first, and then they could understand other branches of mathematics.”
Scott thought this progression would help math teachers as well, reiterating this often in the book’s first half. This repetition, along with two nearly identical paragraphs regarding gifted education, is noticeable in a relatively short book.
Toward book’s end, Scott’s writing seems to flag. While her discussion of the qualities of a “born teacher” is fascinating, her chapter for prospective teachers merely rehashes earlier information, and her epilogue is a lackluster account of returning to work after retirement. Additionally, the chapter devoted to her mentors would be more appropriate in an acknowledgements section.
Scott’s book might have worked better as a straightforward memoir rather than a teacher primer. Some of her accomplishments, such as improving the success rate for teachers testing to get into university teaching programs, are impressive, but her passion for the profession might be her greatest contribution to interested readers.
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