Becoming the Difference in a Hopeful Classroom

Non-Fiction - Education
Kindle Edition
Reviewed on 08/10/2015
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Tracy Slowiak for Readers' Favorite

A wonderful guide for the new teacher, Felicia Saffold’s Becoming the Difference in a Hopeful Classroom is an insider’s look into the true reality of entering the classroom as its leader. Peppered with her personal experiences, starting as a child with a true love of school and teaching, then leading into her first teaching experience in a very much less than desirable position, this book is a treasure trove of information and advice for the new educator, and even to those of us who are veterans in the classroom.

As an elementary school teacher for more years than I care to admit, I can certainly attest to the challenges that Felicia Saffold reports. Burn-out, leaving the profession, and feelings of under-appreciation and inadequacy unfortunately prevail in our profession, and at the very inopportune time in which the educational system as a whole in our country is going through tremendous upheaval and change. While I do not work in an urban environment, and I understand the very specific complexities of educating in that environment, I felt that Becoming the Difference in a Hopeful Classroom can truly assist the teacher in any setting. Saffold’s focus on the four traits that define a great teacher - empathy, patience, flexibility and a sense of humor - are universal in their necessity in the classroom. Her examples are fantastic and real-world based, her writing style is easy to read and engaging.

I can definitely recommend Becoming the Difference in a Hopeful Classroom by Felicia Saffold to any new or returning teacher. I look forward to reading more by Ms. Saffold, and hope that she is working on another guide for educators as we speak.

Jack Magnus

Becoming the Difference in a Hopeful Classroom is a non-fiction education work written by Felicia Saffold. The author loved school as a child; she relished the experience of learning even when the classes were boring or dull. Her enthusiasm for school and teaching, however, hit a high point when she was in seventh grade. Her social studies teacher gave his students the assignment to create their own countries, and it rocked her world. She determined then and there that she would become a teacher herself and get her students as excited about learning as that teacher did for her. She even began to host informal teaching sessions at her home for other kids in her neighborhood who were having problems in class. After graduating from college, Saffold was ready to be that teacher for her first class, and, when a vacancy was offered to her for the January semester in an urban school, she jumped at the offer, even while pondering the significance of a mid-year assignment. Armed with guidebooks and the accumulated knowledge from her teaching classes and practicums, Saffold arrived at her new school and was disappointed to find no administrators waiting to welcome her and a classroom that was in poor condition. But then the students began to come in, and Saffold’s real love affair with her occupation as a teacher began.

Felicia Saffold’s non-fiction work, Becoming the Difference in a Hopeful Classroom, reads like a memoir and to a great extent it is that and more. It’s a chronicle of her hopes, expectations and actual experiences as a new teacher, and it’s written with candor and honesty. Saffold eloquently argues for teachers to avoid what seems the easier route of teaching more privileged students, and she shares the rewards and excitement she’s felt each time she reaches a kid and gets them feeling good about school and themselves. It hasn’t always been easy from what Saffold writes, but I think the challenge of adjusting her lesson plans to adapt to the students behind the desks each year, and the stories she tells about those special students she’s been privileged to teach is in no small measure what keeps this very dedicated and caring teacher doing what she does. Becoming the Difference in a Hopeful Classroom should be required reading for education majors and anyone who’s ever considered teaching as a profession. It’s most highly recommended.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Becoming the Difference in a Hopeful Classroom is written by Felicia Saffold. Being a teacher in this era is hard work in the best of circumstances. The so-called tough ghetto schools that sparked the popular movies, To Sir With Love and Music of the Heart (among others), present the illusion that teaching can be very rewarding for both the teacher and the student. Well, teaching can be rewarding, but for the teacher it is a lot of work. First the teacher must come to terms with his/her students. He/she must know them, perhaps even know them inside out. Then, he/she must respect them. Yes, respect the students. How can a teacher expect a student to respect the teacher if the teacher doesn't respect the student?

Teachers also need to be sensitive to cultural differences. That should be obvious, given the world in which we live today where cultural differences are evident all around us. Unfortunately, this kind of sensitivity is not always present in the teaching profession or, for that matter, in other professions. After all, as teacher/author, Felicia Saffold says, "the true meaning of diversity: an organization or individual that values the difference within other people." In other words, a teacher needs to be the one who cares, the one who really cares about his/her students.

All of this, according to the author, assists the teacher in creating a positive classroom and a positive learning environment, essentials in relating to a classroom of very diverse young individuals, many of whom don't even want to be there. "Inspiring students to learn is a challenge," Saffold writes. Whilst the author is relating to her experiences teaching in the urban schools, the so-called ghetto schools, her advice is pertinent and relevant to all teaching environments. With so much competition distracting students' attention (cell/smart phones, TV, etc), even schools in wealthy neighborhoods have classrooms full of unresponsive, uninterested, and often very difficult students.

Saffold has written a very useful resource, citing other sources, but also sharing personal experiences from her work in the classroom, all in the hopes of inspiring other teachers to be a positive inspiration, a guiding light, in their classrooms. After all, "knowledge is the key" and without that key students lack the tools to excel in their lives. This is a very useful treatise for teachers everywhere.