for Library Journal
Kohl, Herbert. Painting Chinese: A Lifelong Teacher Gains the Wisdom of Youth. Aug. 2007. Bloomsbury
Wilder, Robert. Tales from the Teacher’s Lounge. Aug. 2007. Delacorte Press. 309 p. ISBN-13: 978-0-385-33927-8; ISBN-10: 0-385-33927-5. $23.00.
Robert Wilder, having left behind an advertising career to work as a teacher, presents classroom tales so tall that they function less as reliable memoir than dramatic parody of classroom-as-asylum, with much of the (laugh-out-loud) humor derived at the expense of young students’ attitudes, actions, and disabilities. Each of the four thematic parts (teacher training, student days, family and education, and a final selection loosely bound by the idea of a teaching community) depicts more stammering, twitching, swearing, and screaming than the average school could abide without being shut down. So while the essays in Tales from the Teacher’s Lounge exhibit the author’s knack for hyperbole and well-timed, outrageous hilarity, that entertainment value is boldly derived from disturbing classroom scenarios.
Worlds apart stylistically and thematically, Painting Chinese shows Herbert Kohl as he retires after forty-seven years as a professor and director of the Center for Teaching Excellence and Social Justice at