Learn Me Good by John Pearson

April 19, 2012

Summary (from the publisher): Jack Woodson (Duke Engineering, class of ’95) is currently living and working in Dallas, TX. He has forty children, and all of them have different mothers.

Jack Woodson was a thermal design engineer for four years until he was laid off from his job. Now, as a teacher (dealing with those forty children), he faces new challenges. Conference calls have been replaced with parent conferences. Product testing has given way to standardized testing. Instead of business cards, Jack now passes out report cards. The only thing that hasn’t changed noticeably is the maturity level of the people surrounding him all day.

Learn Me Good is a hilarious first-person account, inspired by real life experiences. Through a series of emails to Fred Bommerson, his buddy who still works at Heat Pumps Unlimited, Jack chronicles a year-in-the-the life of a brand new teacher. He holds a March Mathness tournament, faces a child’s urgent declaration of “My bowels be runnin’!” and mistakenly asks one girl’s mother if she is her brother. With subject lines such as “Irritable Vowel Syndrome,” “In math class, no one can hear you scream,” and “I love the smell of Lysol in the morning,” Jack writes each email with a dash of sarcasm and plenty of irreverent wit.

Liked:

  • Pearson made it clear that he was laughing with the children, rather than at them (for the most part). It would be easy to turn a book like this into a diatribe against today’s bratty youngsters, but Pearson doesn’t do that. He actually enjoys being a teacher despite the challenges, and I’m glad he was able to make that feeling come across clearly in the book.
  • Third-graders are amazingly funny! Although Pearson admits to embellishing certain parts of the book, he states that every communication attributed to the kids themselves was supposedly legit. I have no reason to doubt Pearson on that point, and was constantly surprised at the gems his kids came up with.
  • “I told her to shout the fouk up” still has me laughing!! (When one of Mr. Woodson’s students gets in trouble, he has the kid write down what he said. This is how the kid transcribed “Shut the fuck up.” Yikes!)
  • Another wonderful line I liked was, “Hopefully Juan will be more motivated than his brother, whose greatest feat last year was crafting the simile, ‘My room smell like pee-pee.'” Ha! If my kid ever wrote that, I’d call the best house cleaning services apex nc has to offer and get them to come in immediately.
  • The chapters, each in the form of an e-mail to a former colleague, were short and easy to read. This was just a fun book overall.
  • Edited to add: One more terrific part I forgot to include was when Mr. Woodson made his kids write notes about why they think the class wastes so much time every day. One new student, who hadn’t said a word all day, wrote, “I am sorry I talked. I will never do it again.” Those lines give me the giggle fits every time I read them!

Disliked:

  • The cutesy nicknames Mr. Woodson used to sign off each email got to be a bit old after a while. Nobody does that for EACH AND EVERY message. That must have been one of the “embellishments” he was talking about.
  • This book really could have used a proofreader. There were some errors throughout (maybe this was a self-published effort; I have no idea), including the utterly cringe-worthy “Great, so now in addition to severe ADHD, he’s got Turret’s Syndrome, too?!?” Wow. (Edited to add: It was pointed out to me that this error was corrected years ago in the paperback version, but still persists in the Kindle edition for some reason.)
  • It was rather shocking how often the kids seemed to come and go in Mr. Woodson’s class. I don’t know if that aspect was played up for the purposes of his book or not, but I feel bad for kids who can’t seem to get any stability in their lives.

Rating:

Overall, I thought Learn Me Good was a surprisingly enjoyable little book. I managed to snag the Kindle version when it was offered for free, so I guess that might also color my opinion of the content. This free book was significantly better than some of the other free stuff I’ve gotten for my Kindle. It’s not a literary achievement or anything, but it’s fun, interesting, and more original than a lot of the other titles I’ve read recently so I give it 4 stars out of 5.

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