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Garry Jones
London (Ont.), Althouse Press, 1991. 83pp, paper, $10.95
ISBN 0-920354-30-0. CIP


Reviewed by Gail Lennon.

Volume 20 Number 2
1992 March

Rapid changes are occurring in Primary Canadian classrooms today as ministry and board mandates to implement active learning, whole language and activity-centered pro­grams and mainstreaming continue to tax teachers. Add to these strains the problems related to single-parent homes, reconstructed families, availabil­ity of drugs and the AIDS scare, and it is little wonder that the public wonders what is going on in classrooms. Some­times the teachers have to stop and pause upon this same question!

What Carry Jones has given us in Crocus Hill Notebook is a precious opportunity to look at the day-to-day happenings in a typical Primary class­room. He reminds those of us who have been in leaching for a long time what it is really like to be a teacher in a modern, urban school. Crocus Hill School, as the author points out in his foreword, is any school anywhere.

Crocus Hill Notebook is a collection of anecdotes about a typical classroom. The author has organized his stories chronologically to simulate a school year. Teachers will laugh and cry with the author over such incidents as beginning the school year {'The rooms that look prettiest arc inhabited by teachers who spend a couple of hundred dollars of their own money ... the classrooms of the nation being held together with coloured paper and tape"}, an understanding of how children learn ("I let them follow their interests and 1 run along behind"), yard supervision ("Guard Duty is on the famous list of Things They Didn't Tell Me at University"), and parent inter­views ('Their parents are convinced that school is all play and no work, so the children complete workbook pages at night").

Through the author's concise, intuitive descriptions, several students come to life. Like the school itself, these students are symbols of children in every class: "Laura and Steph, raised to be pretty, stand by as Jason and Shawn dig holes for them"; "John is absent again and his mother will not under­stand why it is not easy to send work home"; "In my teddy-bear childhood with the white-fenced family home, filled with warm baths and good suppers, I had not known about un­wanted children living in our institu­tions and 1 was not prepared for Dianna."

No sacred educational institution is spared from the author's careful scrutiny. He devotes an entire land­mark chapter to the uselessness of report cards and is his most insightful in concluding, "I have spent hours with these reports, weekends at my dining-room table with student work, tests, notebooks and my files. I thoughtfully and carefully wrote my comments but when I read them over they still sounded trite and sterile, but I folded the report forms anyway and stuffed them into the folders and became part of the problem." As well, he paints with razor-sharp clarity pen portraits of colleagues, administrators and parents.

This gentle tribute to teaching reminds the seasoned veteran why he or she went into teaching and assures us that we are not alone in coping with today's educational issues. It should be a special graduation gift for every young person launching a career in teaching and a precious retirement gift for every teacher who is leaving the profession. Every administrator should receive a copy of this delightful text with directions to re-read it monthly. Reading and re-reading Crocus Hill Notebook is a painful yet satisfying experience.

Gail Lennon, Lambton County Board of Education, Sarnia, Ont.
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