Do you know and love a future – or new, or veteran – elementary school teacher? The perfect Back to School gift (or sugar-free Halloween treat) is Phillip Done’s Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood.
Like his first book, the hilarious and tight 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny (which I reviewed last year), this book follows Done through the school year. The format allows readers to have a sense of the arc of the year and to hear funny vignettes and poignant stories along the way, hung on holiday and seasonal milestones.
For anyone who doesn’t remember what it’s like to be eight or who thinks his or her child is the only kooky kid out there, this book gives readers insight into the inner workings of the third-grader mind – and to their teacher’s mind. In an era where kids in college can rate their teachers online, everyone could use a dose of the “we are all just human beings” reality-check that this book provides. It’s hard work to be the daytime parent of thirty-some kids, day in and day out, in one small little room.
My favorites in Done’s first book were the insights that went beyond the elementary school – the pieces that reflected on personality and caring and bigger issues that all people – and certainly all teachers – could relate to. This book feels more rooted in, well, encounters of the “third-grade” kind, including more set-ups for one-liners of the “kids say the darndest things” variety. All parents have those stories to tell, and here we get to hear what comes out at school (leading this mom of a preschooler to wonder if I really want to know!).
Despite the heavy sprinkling of sillies, the book also shared a lot of touching moments that I could relate to as a former high school teacher for whom the drama outside the classroom is perhaps not always clear to the teacher but is always unquestionably present. I especially enjoyed the story of Rebecca, who learned to read with the help of a smart canine-related plan hatched by Done, the chapter “Wrapping Paper” about a Christmas Done spent in
It’s too easy for parents to get lost in a world that revolves around their own kids. We could all use a little context! This book gives parents an important clue what it’s like to be a teacher – and to be a kid.