Just the title alone, How to Lose Your Self of Steam & Other Teaching Lessons I Never Learned From Professional Development by Carol Richtsmeier was enough to engage me. The lighthearted title that began on the front cover continued throughout the book as the author shared bits and pieces of her teaching experience.
The book is a look at what students are capable of doing despite school interference. The book is loaded with ‘richie-isms’ that come in handy when needed. A richie-ism is a quip or utterance made by the author (Richtsmeier) and kept alive by continued use. One that made me chuckle was “Big Fat Stupid Head”. When in the mist of anger, deadlines, frustration and perhaps during moments of clarity this richie-ism can everything up in a nice little package.
When a richie-ism is used, it’s important to see behind the person and understand where she is coming from at the moment. To shout, “If you don’t get this paper done, I’m going to cut off your heads and put them in the freezer, and you won’t like it, not one bit,” gets you to wondering how the stars were aligned for Richie at that instant. And yet, getting the words out, regardless of how silly they were, Richie created an atmosphere of equality in the room. The frazzled statement leveled the playing field and it became clear they were all nuts. Sometimes a student needs to know her teacher is koo-koo!
The layout of the book weaves clever illustrations, cheat sheet snippets, chapter terms, a bit of art here and there into a book that flows like a lesson plan. Regardless of who is teaching or learning the lesson, the message unfolds in an easy writing style.
Carol Richtsmeier won the 2005 National Courage in Student Journalism Award from the Newseum and in 2002 she was awarded the Texas State Journalism Teacher of the Year.
This book will not teach you how to be a better teacher, person or educator nor will you get any sort of professional development ideas. But you will get a glimpse of students who continue to win awards and publish top notch papers. I just wish Richie had shared some of her journalism lessons/secrets with me. As long as she doesn’t pull out her red pen when she reads this, I think I’ll be okay.
* Originally posted in Blogcritic on December 13, 2009