The following article is a guest post from Ryan De Guzman, a fellow writer and colleague. Visit his own blog Nevermore Nonsense to read more of his posts.
Admit it, shaping the minds of the children is one of the highest calling there is. It is the enormous responsibility teachers are bearing in the classroom daily. And since big jobs demand big relaxations, here are seven of the best books that pay tribute to that profession; best enjoyed on those weekend breaks from the class.
The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them. (The Freedom Writers, 1999)
A non-fiction authored by The Freedom Writers, a group of students from Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California, and their teacher, Erin Gruwell. Everything started when Gruwell first met her band of “unteachable, at-risk” students, and next is a story about violence, drug abuse, and racism, and how each student changed and overcame those obstacles. These are their memoirs.
Get this: This inspired the 2007 movie Freedom Writers, starring Hilary Swank.
Teacher: Anne Sullivan Macy (Helen Keller, 1985)
We all know how Helen Keller, a deafblind girl who worked her way to become the acclaimed author, political activist, and lecturer, through the help of her teacher. Well, Anne Sullivan Macy is that teacher.
The fantastic book tells the story of how the Irish-American teacher from Massachusetts conquered hindrances in her life to become Helen’s savior, instructor, and constant companion. Written by no other than the famous student herself.
Get this: Anne herself was also blind due to untreated trachoma.
Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom, 1997)
This modern literary classic undoubtedly put teachers and professors alike in the pedestal. Told from the perspective of one of his students, Morrie Schwartz is a retired, 78-year-old sociology professor from Brandeis University dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Being reconnected after 16 years, Albom, now a flourishing sports columnist for the Detroit Free Press, visited and met with Morrie during the last 14 Tuesdays of his life. The old mentor recounted the past, and imparted his student lessons about life, death, and the gem of acceptance, essential things that university life will never cover.
Get this: This non-fiction masterpiece topped The New York Times Non-Fiction Best Sellers of 2000.
To Sir, With Love (E. R. Braithwaite, 1959)
This autobiographical novel delves into racism and challenges the rules of conventional education, set in post-World War II Great Britain. Ricky Braithwaite is a British Guiana-born engineer struggling to find a job to no avail due to anti-black attitudes.
Once he found one, he faced with a group of utterly disconcerted, semiliterate, and semi-articulate students. Trying a new approach and with an ironclad persistence, he treated the students with much respect and eventually won their hearts.
Get this: The novel also tackles interracial marriages, another sensitive issue during the 1950’s.
Anne of Avonlea (Lucy Maud Montgomery, 1909)
We all had read (or watched) how Anne Shirley survived and made her way with the Cuthberts, and changed everyone in Green Gables. Now, follow the redhaired, freckled, and bright heroine as she expanded her sphere of enlightening from their humble farm to the local school of the town of Avonlea.
But teaching is not easy as she constantly faced repulsions and withstood prejudices from the community.
Get this: As with the first book, Anne has a lot of run-ins here; one including selling her neighbor’s cow, having mistaken it for her own.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips (James Hilton, 1934)
Set in Great Britain as it marches towards World War II. Mr. Chirping was a teacher to an all-boys British public boarding school, who needed to prevail over his apprehensions of teaching to a big class of 500 boys and married a young woman along the way.
The opening “When you are getting on in years… you get very sleepy at times, and the hours seem to pass like lazy cattle moving across a landscape.” will move you as it is poetic and foreboding as the entire book.
Get this: Hilton admitted that he modeled Mr. Chirping (or Chips)’s character after William Henry Balgarnie, schoolmaster at The Leys School, where the author attended college.
Pnin (Vladimir Nabokov, 1957)
A clash of culture and language disguised in a soft-hearted, funny, and otherwise convoluted facade of being a stranger in a strange land. Timofey Pnin is an old Russian professor teaching (in his native tongue, that is) at the Waindell College in upstate New York.
Emigrating from Soviet Union to avoid what he calls “Hitler War”, he found the school and the country an alien landscape. And next is a succession of hilarious, yet sympathetic episodes of dealing with language barrier and the complexities of American life.
Get this: Pnin also turned up as a minor character in one of Nabokov’s novel, Pale Fire.
Wonder Boys (Michael Chabon, 1995)
Not purely a book about academic life, but a brilliant novel about a teacher’s life nonetheless. Grady Tripp is a Pittsburgh professor and author on the way of completing another masterpiece novel.
Everything is fantastic, but the night before the college-sponsored WordFest, Tripp’s world turned upside down when his wife left him and her mistress (the Chancellor and wife of the College Dean) turned up to be pregnant with his child. To make matters worse, one of his students, a promising writer as well, was involved in a crime of killing the Chancellor’s dog and stealing the Dean’s most prized possession.
Get this: Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, and Robert Downey Jr. starred in a 2000 film based on this novel.
Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul (Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, 2002)
The Chicken Soup for the Soul series has helped countless with their inspirational anecdotes and moral values. Well, finally here’s one for the teachers.
The book is a compendium of essays and stories from teachers, educational consultants, administrators, counselors, and yes, former students. It unfailingly illustrates the importance of being a teacher, and why the principles they imparted will shape the future more than they can ever imagine of.
Get this: The Chicken Soup for the Soul series has already over 105 titles.
The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read: One Man’s Triumph Over Illiteracy (John Corcoran, 1994)
John Corcoran is fundamentally the Frank Abagnale Jr. of the Literacy World. He had gone through 12 years of schooling, graduated from college, taught high school for 17 years until he was fifty, and got away with all of this without ever learning to read.
Follow how the writer pointed out the flaws of American educational system, the fears he had due to past experiences, and how he conquered these insurmountable odds to be a popular teacher and a champion of literacy.
Get this: The scene where his primary teacher humiliated Corcoran for not being able to read is one of the most gripping moments.