TEACHER was first published in 1963 to excited acclaim. Its author, Sylvia Ashton-Warner, who lived in New Zealand and spent many years teaching Maori children, found that Maoris taught according to British methods were not learning to read. They were passionate, moody children, bred in an ancient legend-haunted tradition; how could she build them a bridge to European culture that would enable them to take hold of the great joy of reading? Ashton-Warner devised a method whereby written words became prized possessions for her students. Today, her findings are strikingly relevant to the teaching of socially disadvantaged and non-English-speaking students. TEACHER is part diary, part inspired description of Ashton-Warner's teaching method in action. Her fiercely loved children come alive individually, as do the unique setting and the character of this extraordinary woman.
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This book is not a tough read, but it will be hard on people not ready for messy redemption stories. Once I read this story I kept coming back to it in many conversations and gave several copies away to others over the years. I eventually got the local movie theatre to play the film about her life story. The reason I found this work so intriging is that she describes how children discover language reading and writing in an environment where they have less than nothing. These children value stories that express their fears, excitment, power, sex and violence because thats all they know. Those things are their lives. Undersatnding that this is what they want to express she uses their drives to let them make stories and tell their lives. In this way they are interested and compelled to express more and more. Their abilities broaden and they are able to read and write in all areas. Acceptance and eventual redemption are the themes.
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Foreword by Maxine Hong Kingston
Life in a Maori School