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Book Review: Entertaining an Elephant

Attention teachers!

Your worst nightmare as an effective teacher is when the elephant in the closet is you. The second worst nightmare would be to find out from the janitor.

Entertaining an Elephant
Entertaining an Elephant

Written by William McBride, the book documents the metamorphosis of a seasoned, but a jaded teacher, who encounters a new janitor who changes his life.

Reaf wasn’t allowed to leave for a half hour, and he decided not to let the janitor run him out. p. 7

His tired attitude helps you dislike this teacher right from the start.  He thought he knew what the kids needed, and I can just hear his gruff voice speaking to the peon janitor.

“You see, I’ve been in the business for a long time, and even though these kids have had a lot of schooling, they still don’t have the basics.  I don’t know what those teachers are doing at the lower levels, but these kids can’t tell a participle from a noun.  So I take it upon myself to make sure they understand grammar.  None of the other English teachers spend that much time with it, so it’s up to me to hammer it in.”

If that wouldn’t make a student want to take his class, I don’t know what would!  I’m sure the other teachers loved him just about as much as the kids did.  Every teacher loves to think their teaching taught the kids all they were expected to learn that year plus a little more.

The janitor, a wise, wily fellow, though, had some strategies to deal with this difficult teacher.

“Unfortunately, most of them don’t use the grammar.  That’s why they’re going to be failures, which proves my point.  But that’s between you and I,” said the experienced teacher.

“Me,” the janitor said.

“Yes, you.”

“Who else would I be talking to?” thought Reaf.  …then suddenly (he) realized the janitor had corrected him.  It is between you and me. … the teacher threw the grammar book he had been holding …”

I have to admit that, as a teacher, I want to make sure my kids learn grammar, but I’ve also made MY share of grammar errors as an adult.  

What did the janitor do to cause the teacher to change?  What made the teacher uninteresting in the first place?  Why would you want to find out?

I’ll answer the last question for you.  Reaf learns and practices some new teaching and relationship strategies as the book progresses, which change his life, but most of all HE changes and the story is heartwarming.  Common sense strategies are easily employed by anyone, teachers or non-teachers, who want to see improved relationships and motivate others to learn.

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Suzanne Marsh I read novels – This site is dedicated to book reviews. She organizes her reviews chronologically on a page. She has additional links in her sidebar. Check out her site!

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Marsha

Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

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