Waking up to learning
Edmundson captures minor miracle
By Anne Bromley
25 years of teaching, English professor Mark Edmundson said he
woke up to a startling realization. As he approached 50, he found
himself thinking more about a high school teacher who had only
crossed his mind before.
realized that Franklin Lears had affected a minor miracle,
Edmundson said about a teacher he had his senior year. Suddenly,
he understood what Lears had done for him, how Lears had led students
to literature and stirred no, shaken their minds.
Edmundsons memoir, Teacher, was published in August by Random
House and has received enthusiastic and thoughtful reviews in
newspapers from The New York Times to the Rocky Mountain News.
message of the world-changing importance of good high school teaching
is more than ever one we need to hear, said Maria Russo
in an Oct. 6 review in The New York Times. Its rarely
delivered with such passion, good humor and sympathy for our floundering,
faltering, yearning adolescent selves.
For those who know Edmundson as the tall, shaggy-haired literary
and philosophy critic in Bryan Hall, it may come as a surprise
that he describes himself as a thug in high school.
Growing up in a working-class neighborhood outside Boston and
dragging himself to Medford High each day, he was a teen who would
rather pound and tackle guys on the football field or outside
a bar than open a book and think about it.
Teacher, he recounts how Lears (the pseudonym Edmundson gives
his former teacher in the book to protect his privacy) exposed
mediocre students to the world of literature and ideas of selfhood
richest part of it was he had no aim to convert us to his point
of view. His aim was to get us to think and to ask questions,
said Edmundson, who teaches the Romantics, Freud and the like,
as well as publishing articles in magazines such as Harpers.
In fact, he compares Lears to a late-60s Socrates
this small, slight man who gently overpowered the students
apathy by constantly questioning their assumptions.
the time of writing the memoir, Edmundson discovered he wanted
to spend more class time not just interpreting books and authors,
but also discussing what bearing they might have on his students
lives, he said.
the years, his graduate students have often asked how to teach.
Edmundson tries to share the lessons hes learned through
the Teaching Resource Center.
Similarly, he wrote his book to show how a teacher can make a
difference in a students life.
tried to illustrate rather than just give commentary, he
said. He hopes people find good stories when they
read the book.
from its success, hes gotten his wish. But young people
might be the ultimate test.
be delighted if high-schoolers would read it, he said.