I don’t have a lot of time to read these days. So when I was offered the opportunity to read “32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny”, I almost said no. Boy am I glad I did not pass this one up! Since having my triplets, not only do I not have much time to read, but I can only read or watch things that are not bittersweet and/or sad or too dramatic. I don’t know what it is about hormones from pregnancy, but they have had an effect on me physically, and in turn, emotionally. Having children changes your perspective in ways you cannot imagine. It’s one of those things that you just cannot know until you are there.
Reading through Phillip Done’s book, I could feel his love for teaching and for his students leaping out at me from the pages. In one chapter, he humorously but poignantly describes to a student what goes on in ‘teacher school’. Learning how to put stars on papers, how to read upside down during story time and how to write in a straight line on the chalkboard. I have no doubt Mr. Done was the valedictorian.
Helping others seems the natural outcome of teaching. But through Done’s career, he realizes that he is also a student of those he teaches and their families. Done’s humor is evident in all of his well written and chuckle producing chapters. But more than humor, his heartfelt passion for teaching and making a difference to and for those around him shines through clearly. Done’s “Frog and Toad” chapter is inspiring to readers, during which the illiterate mother of a student learns to read due to Done’s efforts with her child. But more deeply, it is evident that Done is the one who was surprised by how he himself was inspired.
His passion is also there on a journey outside of the classroom when Done encourages experiential learning while teaching his third graders to write. Rather than put words to paper, Done leads them outside on a drizzly autumn day to “feel” what is happening in their world.
Teachers are sometimes vilified by parents as not doing ‘enough’ for their children. But what those parents do not understand is that learning begins at home. Amidst the chaos of a daily classroom full of someone else’s children, a teacher can easily become stressed. It can be hectic spending nine months with a group of children every day. But teachers like Done lead and enhance students’ lives in ways that need to be appreciated. Inspired by his own childhood teachers, a teacher like Mr. Done offers a relationship with learning to small children, creating imaginative thoughts and inspiring mental growth. He believes that “teachers are the third parent”, reflecting on what he has taught his students, and pondering what they will retain as his chronicle of a year in third grade concludes.
Often teachers do not have the benefit of seeing the results of their work. It can take years for their lessons to sink in. Recognizing the gift a teacher like this is, is a parent’s first step in helping their child succeed. I can only hope as a mother of four that my children are lucky enough to experience even one teacher like Mr. Done during their academic years.