Publication Type: Web Article
Year of Publication: 2008
Nancy Feigenbaum, a former newspaper journalist, decides to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher at the age of 41. This easy-to-read, short book (52 pages) is an honest, humorous, realistic reflection of her first-year teaching Spanish in a middle school in Virginia. Reviewer Laurie Wasserman, a veteran middle grades educator, says Feigenbaum’s classroom strategies "and honest sharing of mistakes make this book a worthwhile read for any teacher new to the classroom."
More than I Ever Imagined: A First-Year Teacher’s Discoveries
by Nancy Feigenbaum
2008 (paperback/54 pp.)
National Middle School Association
$12.00 ($9.60 for members)
Reviewed by Laurie Wasserman, LD/NBCT
Middle Grades Special Education
Nancy Feigenbaum, a former newspaper journalist, decides to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher at the age of 41. This easy-to-read, short book is an honest, humorous, realistic reflection of her first-year teaching Spanish in a middle school in Virginia.
Feigenbaum takes us on a journey through that difficult first year of teaching, as she shares stories, self-doubts, mistakes and her joys when she makes a successful connection to her 160 Spanish I and II students. She writes in short, succinct chapters, with such wonderfully told stories as “How Strict is Strict Enough?”, “What Young Adolescents Won’t Do”, “What Young Adolescents Will Do”, and the ever important, “First Days.”
She honestly shares some of the lessons she learned along the way that will help her in the future: “I plan to start with a different golden rule for controlling my class than ’start strict.’ Instead, I will keep ‘build relationships’ as my motto.”
She describes the importance of respecting students’ feelings, encouraging them when they need it most; analyzing common conflicts such as changing and enforcing policies about lost pencils, incomplete homework or tardies, and then helping your students succeed once you’ve established them. My favorite: “Remember, they are still children. The worse the behavior, the more the student needs a good teacher to guide him through.”
In light but heartfelt detail, Feigenbaum describes the students who would rather paint their nails, play poker on their cell phones, or simply come to class unprepared with no interest in participating in her well thought-out activities and lessons. She accurately relates the frustrations of not having enough time to plan her lessons, as she is torn between her personal life and her professional commitments.
Feigenbaum reflects on where all her time goes and how can she do things differently so she can “have a bit of my private life back.” She walks us through a typical day, arriving at school at 7:00 a.m. and leaving at 5:40 p.m. so she can eat dinner with her family, then working at home for another 3 hours. She makes us smile as she shares the story of a custodian who guessed that she doesn’t know how to cook, and another who asks, “Don’t you like your family?” She explains how easy it is to put in 20-35 hours a week on top of her classroom instruction time, planning periods, and working on the weekends.
Feigenbaum compares her 14 years as a writer for various daily newspapers, where she had an audience of 400,000, with the nervousness she felt the first day she faced 27 young adolescents. She reflects on how she decided to “test the waters” by substitute teaching, and how the responsibilities of running a classroom are very different.
I thoroughly enjoyed her sharing of activities she previously used as a substitute teacher and later utilized when she had to cover for colleagues who had to leave the room briefly, like Family Feud, classroom style, where the class tried to predict the results of a survey they could relate to (calling on students who followed class rules). Another favorite was Hot Seat, in which a volunteer sits in front of the room and asked audience members whose hands are raised to try to stump them with a question about recent classroom studies. What a great review activity before an upcoming test!
Although geared for teachers who work with middle school students, or who may teach a single subject, Feigenbaum’s classroom strategies and honest sharing of mistakes make this book a worthwhile read for any teacher new to the classroom.