c.2020, Atria
272 pages

A new pencil sharpener.

It felt like a small thing but when you were a student, it was a treasure, along the lines of a 64-count box of crayons and an unsullied notebook. Nothing suggests a new beginning quite like a first day with fresh school supplies but in the new book “Why Did I Get a B?” by Shannon Reed, the instructor may be worn.

Being a teacher was never an option.

Not really; Shannon Reed figured that she’d be called to the ministry like her father and his father. Yes, her maternal line featured lots of teachers but that profession didn’t hold much interest to her — until she needed a job and was hired at her father’s church’s preschool, and she realized how much she truly enjoyed it. She became a preschool teacher and, one day, she realized that she’d “been working with kids for years.” She headed back to college.

“And then, just like that,” she says, “I was a teacher.”

Of course, though, it wasn’t that easy. There were lessons to learn: about the tricks of landing a job; about preparing parents for a “Your Child is Broken” talk that gently lets them know Junior isn’t perfect; and about trying to teach the child who needs more than an overwhelmed teacher can give. Then there are the really hard things: working through racism and making regretful assumptions about your school’s students; embracing small lies as class motivation; and knowing how to find support when everyone else needs it, too.

There are, of course, benefits to becoming a teacher: the time a student finally “gets it.” The memorable Christmas gifts, including “eighty-seven… handprint mugs…” The day you see a student as a civilian, and it’s weird; and the day you realize that you could be friends one day. These are things Reed savored but any teacher, she says, could tell you more.

“And I’d bet they’d love it if you asked.”

Your child adored her most recent teacher because, chances are, that was you. Now fall semester is up in the air, it’s only decided-ish, and new backpacks hang in the closet, just in case. So maybe this is a good time to see what a pro says about the classroom by reading “Why Did I Get a B?”

With a wide-ranging look at grades pre-K through college, author Shannon Reed gives readers a funny, factual, forceful look inside the teacher’s lounge, behind administration doors, and literally under a desk, in tales that are filled with candor and sometimes pain. Yes, you may laugh but given recent events, you may also find meaning after months of school-at-home. For parents-cum-teachers, in fact, it’s not hard to envision using this to help launch the new school year. It’s not hard, either, to envision giving this to your favorite teacher.

Indeed, college freshman with plans of lesson-planning will want to read this book quick, before they start the new semester. Anyone with plenty of class will see that “Why Did I Get a B?” is sharp.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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