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New Book Tells Teachers’ Tales
In a new book edited by Sam Intrator, assistant professor in education and child study, teachers across the country get a chance to express the inspiration behind their calling in heartfelt essays, profound ruminations and moving stories about their experiences and interactions in the classroom.

Stories of the Courage to Teach: Honoring the Teacher’s Heart, is a collection of submissions from teachers in a range of settings: public, private, secondary and elementary schools in urban, suburban and rural regions. Many of the stories the teachers tell in the book are unflinching and honest, some of them disturbing and unsettling, others funny and wise. All the stories illustrate the meaning behind the authors’ chosen vocation.

“This book is a collection of essays, written by teachers at every level of practice, that honors the hearts of all teachers who struggle to reconnect with the source of their vocation,” writes Intrator in the book’s cover notes.

“Speaking from my heart is one of the reasons why I teach,” writes Amy Symons, a high-school teacher of English and humanities in California. “I like speaking truthfully and working alongside students to make sense of our world, our literature, our lives.”
“Every day in the classroom, for me at least, cannot be one of deep introspection and exhilarating connections with others,” writes Robert Kunzman, who has been a high-school teacher and administrator in Los Angeles and Vermont. “There are theorems to prove, verbs to conjugate, dates to memorize, and dangling modifiers to mend. But the moments of authenticity and connection with my students and colleagues fuel the passion that brought me to teaching in the first place.”

The publication of Stories of the Courage to Teach was inspired by the 1997 book The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life, by Parker J. Palmer, a renowned writer on education and social issues.

Peter Temes writes in The New York Times that Intrator’s book looks “into the hearts of 25 effective teachers, knitting together their first-person narratives with his own ideas about great teaching. Dr. Intrator’s most important point is that these teachers are outstanding not because of their intellect but because of their emotional commitment to students.”

Intrator, the son of two New York City public school teachers and himself a veteran high-school teacher, understands firsthand the importance of a vocation that, in this country, often receives less than its due respect.

“If schools are to be places that promote academic, social, and personal development for students, everything hinges on the presence of intelligent, passionate, caring teachers working day after day in our nation’s classrooms,” says Intrator in the introduction. “Teachers have a colossal influence on what happens in our schools, because day after day, they are the ultimate decision makers and tone setters.”

In light of that declaration, Intrator’s collection, through his introduction and editorial remarks on each essay, aims to not only chronicle the stories of teachers in their own words, but to strengthen the national regard for teachers and the work they do.

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