Beginner's Mind

From Shipyard to Harvard Yard - Embracing Endless Possibilities

Non-Fiction - Inspirational
230 Pages
Reviewed on 03/16/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Mamta Madhavan for Readers' Favorite

Beginner's Mind: From Shipyard to Harvard Yard: Embracing Endless Possibilities by M.B. McLatchey is an engaging and thought-provoking book that tackles the topic of teaching from the perspective of a ten-year-old. The author's reflections and observations as a ten-year-old and how years later, teacher Katherine Arthur Dunning, Miss D to her students, still left a spark in her mind as a beginner is spoken of throughout the book. The classroom stories shared are an eye-opener to readers and show how the teacher gives prime importance to teaching a child in body, mind, and spirit. The fourth-grade classroom scenes on how a teacher in a shipyard town in New England introduces her students to many opportunities while teaching and guiding them gives a peek into how daily lessons can be held, and how a teacher's love plays a key role when it comes to the growth of a child.

Beginner's Mind is refreshingly original and I like the way the author has tackled the subject, making it interesting to readers. Every chapter has a new story to tell that offers parents and tutors different ways to encourage children to enjoy learning new things. M.B. McLatchey is very expressive on the subject and Miss D's notes at the beginning of each chapter give readers insights into the various ways of her knowing her students. The book is also a good way to see what teaching looks like, and in what way teachers should inspire, educate, and guide children without making learning cumbersome for them.

Edith Wairimu

A skillfully written non-fiction work told through the perspective of a fourth-grader, Beginner's Mind: From Shipyard to Harvard Yard - Embracing Endless Possibilities by M.B. McLatchey examines effective and inspiring teaching. It is set in 1967, in the bustling, shipbuilding town of North Weymouth, Massachusetts. Known to her students as Miss D, Miss Katherine Dunning chooses to inspire her fourth-grade students by encouraging them to lean on their imaginations and take risks. To those in authority, her methods are strange and unpopular. But the remarkable positive difference in the children’s behavior and how they view themselves and each other is evident even to Miss D’s critics. Simply put, she is the teacher everyone wishes they'd had; eccentric, unfazed, affirming, and encouraging.

Beginner's Mind is a fun and invaluable tool for anyone responsible for the education and development of young minds. As children grow older, they are encouraged to lose their playfulness, adventurous spirit, and endless imagination to become adults. Beginner’s Mind, however, shows the deep flaws in this type of thinking. The work is as much about an innovative fourth-grade teacher as it is also about rediscovering one’s childhood self. It has important lessons about kindness, compassion, confidence, and bravery. It also explores the unique gifts and views of each child in the book. It is intelligent and humorous, with many thought-provoking scenes. Beginner's Mind by M.B. McLatchey is a must-read for all; for the teacher seeking knowledge on how to inspire their students, for the reader who wishes to rediscover their younger self, and for the caring parent who hopes to support their children. Beginner's Mind is well-written and equally inspiring.

Jose Cornelio

Beginner's Mind: From Shipyard to Harvard Yard - Embracing Endless Possibilities by M.B. McLatchey will revolutionize the way readers look at the education of the young. In this book, the author demonstrates how the so-called experts limit the endless possibilities that open the burgeoning mind of a beginner. The book features many stories, told from the perspective of the young and growing pupil. It is questioning, asking questions like why it should be subjected to a regime when it is expansive and adventurous and why it should trust the whims of others when it feels the throb of its own intuition. Each story, told in an utterly descriptive and captivating voice, gets a response from Miss D, who signs her messages with “Your Loving Teacher and Pupil.” She is the one who, instead of accompanying the kids back to class, allows them to find their way, saying, “You know your way back.”

Beginner's Mind is a book that every teacher and parent should read, one that offers a completely new approach, not only to education but to child upbringing. As I read this book, I could imagine the numerous instances I have stifled the growth of my own son with my outdated theories about growing up. The anxiety and questioning mind of the child is portrayed vividly in this writing: “My brothers have already established a steady stride ahead of me. I charter my course to school, fixing my eyes on their backs. There is no way I could know yet what it will mean to trust my own instincts or to cut my own path.” There is a dialogue that exists between the growing mind and the teacher, and that is established between the nameless characters of this book and Miss D. This memoir is rippling with wisdom and creative genius, picking realistic examples to reinforce lessons that everyone should learn. It is one of the best things anyone can read about growing up and learning, and it offers incredible tools to those who care for children, showing them the way to help children build confidence and grow within the limits of their own strengths. It is as engaging and inspiring as it is entertaining.

Grace Masso

Beginner's Mind: From Shipyard to Harvard Yard - Embracing Endless Possibilities by M.B. McLatchey is an engaging book that had me mesmerized, captivated, and mulling over the salient points it raises. It is written from the perspective of the mind of the beginner. The author doesn’t name these characters, but they interact with Miss D, a teacher who seems to have just the right words for every situation and who seems to understand the anxiety and perplexity of the minds she is forming. Each story has a response from her; always reassuring, encouraging, and inspiring, and I found it interesting that she could provide input without hindering the child’s mind from exploring.

This book should be placed alongside books like Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, because of its timeless message and wisdom. The author has the gift of unveiling the tenets of child psychology while providing guidance that is ground-breaking. The words echoed by Miss D had me thinking how, quite often, we obstruct the growth of young minds in the name of a dull-witted kind discipline and how, most often, teachers become obstacles instead of inspiration to beginners. The book is filled with insightful and wise sayings, and I would like to share two of my most favorites: “Being young is so torturously difficult. It breaks my heart. But, never take the easy course, darling, the plusher path because it’s plush. Keep on questioning, doubting, and being frustrated, if you must, but never lose your sense of wonder.” The second is this: “You can be gloriously alone on a mountaintop, but in the valleys, you walk with mankind.” This is one of those books that you read and find yourself wanting to read again.

A book to pass onto others. Beginner's Mind is inspiring and packed with wisdom and practical guidance for raising the young. M.B. McLatchey is a terrific writer with a unique gift for prose and storytelling. The voice is hypnotic, irresistible, and clear like the sound of a bell.

Romuald Dzemo

Beginner's Mind: From Shipyard to Harvard Yard — Embracing Endless Possibilities by M.B. McLatchey is a spellbinding book filled with lessons for educators and anyone interested in child upbringing. It is set in the town of North Weymouth, Massachusetts, where generations of fathers and sons would learn their trade at The Yard, the Quincy Fore River Shipyard, and follows the life of a teacher who leaves a positive imprint on the lives of her students. She is Katherine Arthur Dunning, Miss D. to her students, and for her, the training ground will be the classroom. The book is filled with stories, and the reader follows stories about students and how they look at the way they are educated. Why would the playground have so much significance in this book? The reader will quickly understand its exploratory character, but there is much more than that in this book.

This is an inspiring book that is exquisitely written. The author has the gift of making the narrator’s point of view come across powerfully to readers. Each story begins with an incisive, thought-provoking, and inspirational message from Miss D. I just adore how she signs her notes. The imagery is captivating and the way the author describes the small town is just gorgeous. Scenes are written with skill, like the picture of men in hard hats, heads bowed, lunch pails in hand, passing through the Yard’s heavy gate. The prose is exceptionally good and very descriptive. Beginner's Mind by M.B. McLatchey entertains readers and proposes a path to education that will not limit the potential in students to grow and discover new skills. Written from the perspective of a pupil, it is filled with wisdom and insight; it is a book that spells out an empowering way of interacting with students.

Tammy Ruggles

Beginner's Mind: From Shipyard to Harvard Yard - Embracing Endless Possibilities by M.B. McLatchey is an inviting how-to book to inspire teachers to discover or rediscover their purpose and passion for teaching. This book relays that message of affirmation and hope through the lens of a 1960s fourth-grader living in a shipyard town. Miss D. is the special teacher that, according to the author, all teachers should aspire to, as her teacher Miss D. made an unforgettable impact on her life with nurture and care. This template is the one the author encourages today's teachers to use. McLatchey's enthusiasm is infectious, and her concern for today's teachers, parents--and especially students--is more than evident.

Teachers, fairly or unfairly, often get the brunt of criticism when it comes to student performance, but this book isn't about placing blame or deconstructing the education system. It's about how teachers can have a lasting impact on students, and how they can help children reach their potential and beyond. Is there a certain way teachers should act, think, and lead students? The author attempts to answer this question through childhood experiences. I like the way the book demonstrates teaching then and now, and how teaching today seems to be more results-oriented than whole-student-oriented (mind, body, soul). The message is touching, perhaps calling up memories of a special teacher in the reader's mind. I especially like the notes from Miss D. that are included in the narrative. They really give insight into her character and teaching style. The way the author weaves art and music into the text is nice too. Fans of inspiring teacher/student stories like Good Will Hunting and similar works will love Beginner's Mind: From Shipyard to Harvard Yard - Embracing Endless Possibilities by M.B. McLatchey.