Despite holding degrees in medieval English history and a PhD in philosophy, Philogia Prima struggled to land a high school teaching job. But when a Catholic school hires her, she begins a journey leading to an epiphany about the value of teaching.
In Part I of this reflective treatise, the author describes the difficulty in defining the act of teaching, in terms of purpose and outcome. She discusses the value of the teacher-centered classroom where the power of language, style, performance, and personality must be front and center for teachers in order for them to become desired role models. Drawing exclusively on personal experience and observation, Prima concludes that “the teacher must rely on her own sense of what constitutes good teaching” to build a community of learners.
Part II focuses on learning, a concept equally challenging to define. What can teachers do to create engaged and independently thinking students? They must accept the notion that “the process is the product”; the desired outcome is not test score data but something harder to quantify. In this section, Prima also explores the dichotomy of being a Jewish teacher in a Catholic school, where students generally have little contact with Jews. She never encountered anti-Semitism, she notes, and, in fact, experienced an ongoing “epiphany”—that “teaching is an act of faith”—through the situation.
Prima’s prose is akin to a collection of diary jottings, disparate axioms, and terminology strung together somewhat randomly; italicized words are excessive and footnotes often seem superfluous. The narrative is pleasantly conversational but frustratingly disjointed. As such, it can be difficult to discern the exact points she is trying to make.
Still, her overall focus is to relay insights gained in the classroom, and she makes some interesting observations within the text’s organizational challenges. Although not necessarily new or groundbreaking, these ideas are sound and should interest any educator willing to overlook the narrative flaws.
Also available in hardcover.