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Teacher: 01/02/15

cover artTeacher by Sylvia Ashton-Warner is a treatise on teaching disadvantaged children based on a career of working with Maori children. I came across this book in my metadata cleanup at work.

Ashton-Warner describes in her book techniques she used to get reluctant readers, reading. Rather than using the same text book — text books in her case that were often imported from Great Britain — she customized her primers.

She had the radical (and I mean this in the revolutionary sense) idea of asking children which words they wanted to learn how to read and write. The sad thing is that the words many of the children chose were violent ones: ones associated with guns, domestic violence, alcohol, and the other ills that come with poverty and oppression.

For the older readers, Ashton-Warner encouraged her children to write their own stories. These were often done on the blackboard. The stories were then erased at the end of the week, allowing students to start fresh the next week.

But these reading and writing tips are only the first third of the book. The remainder is a mixture of her thoughts on teaching Maori children vs. white children. Unfortunately her observations fall into the idiotic cliches, and it appears despite her years of working with the Maori and learning their language, she never quite got to thinking of them as people — as neighbors, as equals.



Four stars

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