How a teacher learned to live a better life through interaction with her students.

Co-founder, executive director and language arts teacher for the Ron Clark Academy, Bearden shares the important life lessons she learned from teaching for three decades. Grouped into 17 categories—including tenacity, bonding, generosity, creativity and love, the author brings readers into her classroom and into the lives of the students she taught, using real-life examples to deliver the overarching message that adults often have as much to learn from their students as vice versa. Having designed the academy to emphasize “passion, creativity, and rigor in the classroom,” where “the halls are filled with the sounds of the students’ happiness—the music of laughing, singing, hands clapping, and drums beating in celebration,” Bearden’s stories are full of the magic and playfulness that can occur when a teacher strives to connect with each individual pupil. She transformed her classroom into a Chinese restaurant to teach students about gerunds, had her scholars become Grammar Police and hand out citations for comma splices, run-on sentences and faulty parallelism, and built an entire lesson centered on fishing, just so one particular student would be engaged. Humorous and sensitive, Bearden’s narratives bring to life the many issues inherent in public school teaching—e.g., how to engage and interact with students who come from broken homes, who feel invisible, who are shy or who believe that they are worthless. Thousands of superintendents, administrators and teachers have visited the academy to learn these techniques, and Bearden provides helpful “class notes,” which summarize each lesson, and “homework” so parents and teachers can use the lessons she learned in their own situations.

Thoughtful and entertaining tales of how students influenced and changed one teacher’s perspective on life.