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Learn Me Good

Learn Me Good

4.4 60
by John Pearson

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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


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.

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Date: Monday, August 18, 2003
To: Fred Bommerson
From: Jack Woodson
Subject: Opening Ceremonies

Hey Fred,
     School is in session! No doubt, everyone will be pleased to learn that I am finally once again among the gainfully employed. And now that my first day as a teacher is done, I can officially send a status report to the Duke Alumni office for them to put in their next magazine. It will read as follows:

Jack M. 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.

    I know what you're thinking - FORTY KIDS???!?? How do you have room for them all? And do you get paid on a per-child basis? Well, no. Let me explain the system to you. I teach two classes. Here in the Dallas Independent School Dis-trict (motto: We hire our teachers in mid-August!), we partner teach. I teach math and science, while my partner teaches reading and social studies. So no, since I don't teach language arts, we will not be reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or The Shining in class. It's a shame, but sacrifices have to be made. However, mathematics-inspired books such as Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians (with its valuable, real-world lessons on subtraction) are fair game.

    Back to the system. I have a homeroom with eighteen kids. Each day, I will do my best to mold them into respect-able citizens, learned scholars, and all-around math nerds from the time the bell rings until approximately 10:30. At that time, my partner and I will exchange classes, and I will repeat the morning's work with her class. She, in turn, will spend the day instructing both classes on the ways of the written word. My partner's homeroom has seventeen kids in it right now. Eighteen and seventeen don't quite add up to forty, I know, but I've used a little trick we in the third grade like to call "estimation." It's akin to what Larry does on his timecard. Work for thirty-five minutes, log an hour. Be sure to tell him hi for me.

    I'm lucky to have a really cool partner. Her name is Kelly Swanson, and though she's taught before, this is her first year in the third grade. She taught second grade previously, and from what I hear, she's a great teacher. Her husband, Frank, had been in her third grade position last year, but this year he's teaching first grade. They both seem like my kind of people. At least neither has any readily apparent ear fungus or reptilian traits, which, as you know, can be so distracting when meeting someone for the first time.

    There are seven third-grade classes here; it's a rather large school. As such, my section of the grade is 3E and Kel-ly's (my other class) is 3F. I am the only man on the team. No, before you ask, they're all spoken for. It's a pretty good team, I think. Because of the odd number, there is one self-contained class (no partner), but the rest of us are paired up. This means there is a math subset of the team, which is really quite a blessing because we can plan our lessons together. I'll be working with Mrs. Bird and Mrs. Fitzgerald, who have both been teaching for a number of years. It's always good to have someone with experience showing you the way, right? Wait, wasn't Tom Winter your mentor when you started? Oops. Sor-ry.

    Ok, now that I've given you enough generic infor-mation, let's get to a few things that happened on my first day. After a restless night, I arrived at the school at 6:45. This will NOT be a daily recurrence. Even though the district's "sum-mer dress code" allows for golf shirts, I opted to dress very professionally and wear a long-sleeve shirt and tie. I figured I ought to make a good impression on the first day. So no hock-ey mask or red tights.

Shortly before school started, I saw a couple of kids that I recognized from my class lists. Carlos in 3E and Juan in 3F are best friends, and they were waiting with Juan's mother. Juan's brother was in the fourth-grade class I student-taught last year, and his mother was hoping that I would be Juan's teacher as well. She speaks limited English, and Juan is the shy type, so Carlos translated for her. She was upset because Juan was not going to be in my class; he was in "Miss Kel-ly's" class. I explained to her, through Carlos, the partner teach system and how Juan wasn't in my homeroom, but that he would still be in my class. Hopefully Juan will be more mo-tivated than his brother, whose greatest feat last year was crafting the simile, "My room smell like pee-pee."

When the bell rang, I was standing at attention at my doorway. The third grade classrooms are in portable buildings out behind the school, and I guess it took a while for the kids to find their way back there, as GPS navigation systems were not included on this year's list of school supplies. After a while, the kids started filtering in slowly, most of them being accompanied by at least one parent. One boy's father ap-proached me with a twenty-dollar bill in hand, and for a second there, I thought I was going to receive my first bribe. "I know they're just coloring today, but an A would be ap-preciated," as he surreptitiously palms the money to me. But of course it wasn't a pay-off, it was for a set of school sup-plies, so I directed him to the office.

    Another little boy, Alex, came in with both mother and father, and once he was seated at a desk, his father asked if he could videotape his son. He had a little hand-held camera, and he shot a couple of minutes of his son hard at work. This being the first day of class, the kids were perfectly behaved. I only hope Alex's father has no reason to come back in two months to film "3rd Graders Gone Wild."

I think that Alex's father was happy that his son would have a male teacher. Several other parents made comments about that as well today, along the lines of "My child has never had a man teacher before." In most cases, I couldn't really tell if they thought that was a good thing or a bad thing. I mean, I'm sure their child has also never had a three-headed Martian teacher with no ears.

    The other teachers and I had put together little packets for the kids to work on while we spoke with the parents. These were really "profile" pages - name, age, favorite TV show, that sort of thing. There were also a few pages of very basic addition and subtraction problems, and then some coloring pages. One of these coloring sheets had detailed instructions on how to color it. "Color the flowers near the house blue." "Color the roof black." And so on. As I walked around the room, I saw several batches of red flowers near green-roofed houses.

    As their new teacher, I wanted to make an impression on the kids, so after the parents left, I felt I should give a short motivational speech. Something to tell them how much I love math and science and how I want them to feel the love as well. A speech that would open the floodgates of their desire to be the best mathematicians and scientists they could possibly be. I combined the most rousing catch lines from movies such as Mr. Holland's Opus, Stand and Deliver, and Animal House. I even ended with a hearty "Hi-yo, Silver!" Some might have read the look in their eyes as dazed, confused, even frightened, but I know I touched some souls.

    Well hey, today was a full day on hardly any sleep, and I am exhausted! I will write more soon and tell you about more of the kids.

    Say hi to everyone there at dear ol' Heat Pumps Un-limited for me. And tell them that I have a new credo in life now:
I teach, therefore I am... poor.

Talk to you later,
Mister Teacher

Meet the Author

John Pearson was born just outside of Washington, DC, but moved to Texas as quickly as he could. Growing up with a passion for science, math, and calculator watches, he obtained engineering degrees and basketball (watching) accolades from Duke University and Texas A&M. His first job out of college was designing small solid-state heat pumps, where his cubicle simply was not big enough to contain him. When the engineering market went sour, he decided to try his hand as a teacher, and he has been a 3rd grade math teacher ever since.
When he's not teaching, he's reading, blogging, or making YouTube videos like "Darth Vader Explains the Pythagorean Theorem."
Learn Me Good was born of the baptism-by-fire nature of Pearson's first year as a teacher.

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Learn Me Good 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 60 reviews.
Pebbles92 More than 1 year ago
Even though this is well outside the usual genre I read, I took a chance and I am so glad I did. This was absolutely hilarious!! There were times I was crying from laughing so hard. Great book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Learn Me Good tracks the weekly correspondence sent between Jack Woodson and his former co-worker, Fred Bommerson. Having been laid off by Heat Pumps Unlimited, a thermal design firm in Texas, Jack pursues a new career path, spurred mainly by the enjoyment he's always derived from working with kids. With a natural knack for math & science, he becomes a third-grade teacher, embarking upon new adventures in the field of public education - the magnitude of which he can only imagine. Jack quickly adapts to his new responsibilities, even quipping to Fred about the status report he'll soon send to the Alumni Office at his alma mater, Duke University: 'Jack M. 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.' Thus begins Pearson's tale, an engaging study in the real education that goes on in the classroom, outside of textbooks, hall passes, and morning announcements. With its subtle cynicism, biting wit, and endless allusions to pop culture, Learn Me Good draws you in with just how easily Jack's everyday experiences with eight- and nine-year-old children parallels that which we experience with full-grown adults on the job, at home, and everywhere else. Without apology, Pearson takes jabs at every aspect of what passes for normalcy among today's childrearing practices. He even pulls off this commentary on the conduct of a school district representative assigned to check the students' eyesight with sardonic aplomb: 'She felt that some kids may not WANT to wear glasses, so she made her pitch, and I quote: 'I think glasses are SEXY!'...Should you really use the word 'sexy' around eight- and nine-year-olds? It's like airing a commercial for Bacardi rum in the middle of an episode of Sesame Street (Today's episode is brought to you by the letter B and the number 151!)' And consider this assessment of the real priorities of today's youth: 'Chassity had been caught writing a note to one of the other girls. The gist of the note was basically 'You're a witch. Who's a witch? You are, you witch.' And on, and on. Only, she didn't use the word 'witch,' instead preferring a more socially unacceptable rhyming word. Kelly and I had joked about the fact that nearly all of the words in the note were misspelled EXCEPT for that one word.' Pearson tramps the hallowed ground of public education with piercing wit and unrelenting irreverence, giving it a not-so-good-natured - but much needed - ribbing. He even takes a fair swipe at the current presidential approach to education: 'No Child Left Behind? No Child Left Untested Till He's Blue In The Face is more like it' It's not always fun and games, though. Throughout his narrative, Pearson does an effective job of pointing out the various nuances of public education that rarely bring about smiles and laughter. Chief among these is the concept of mobility rate: the tendency of students to enroll and withdraw at the school at an alarming frequency. He even goes so far as to make the point that merely weeks into the new school year some teachers could have an entirely different class of students, which often makes them ruefully aware of the attachments that come and go: 'Why can't the good ones stay?? I know, I'm being selfish, I'll admit it. I'm just afraid when a good kid leaves, because it just opens a hole for another Mark Peter to come in.' Considering the fact that Mark Peter routinely steals teachers' items and physically terrorizes other students, one can hardly blame Jack for this sentiment. Timely, insightful, and absolutely hilarious, Learn Me Good needs to be required reading for anyone considering teaching as a profession. Much like the crip notes for War & Peace, it's an indispensable guide to all the real training you'll never formally get.
JulesLewis More than 1 year ago
As an elementary teacher, I found this book to be spot on. It provided great amounts of laughter. It was also humorous to be able to say "wow, that happens in other classrooms, too, not just mine!" It is a must read for all educators, and those who love an educator!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! I was absolutely died laughing. Your first year as a teacher is always the hardest, but I love how the author made it enjoyable. Exceptional book and a must read for any teacher!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was ok. It's just a bunch of stories from what happened in his third grade class. Which were funny. I wasn't really driven to keep picking up this book, but when I did I was interested enough. I would have liked this book a lot more if I was a teacher. So, if your a teacher I definitely recommend this book to you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its funy and iteresting but it doesn't really make sense
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Brandy_Hunt More than 1 year ago
While the book could stand a little reformating, it is funny and fresh. The back and forth between the new teacher and his old friends in his old workplace really does underscore how little difference there is between adults and children. I laughed out loud, and the parts I read to my husband also made him laugh out loud. I'm going to have to see about getting the sequel.
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1000-Plus-Books-to-Read More than 1 year ago
Jack Woodson is an Engineer turned Elementary School teacher. Follow Jack through his first year as a Math Teacher as he emails former co-workers his funny and strange stories straight from the classroom. A funny look inside the classroom through the Teachers eyes. Lets Talk About It: This is a cute, funny book. I love the unusual format of reading 'emails' in the book as the way to tell the day to day antics of his classroom and students. Every single 'email' had a cute funny story about the children with a sarcastic twist and signed off in different pen names that were cleverly designed to reflect upon the emails story. As the emails went on I found myself cheering for the students in their quest to win Math Madness and the numerous testing they went through. I found myself laughing out loud at some of the stories and cringing on others. This book was great from start to finish. A humorous look inside the classroom and the mind of a teacher that has you quickly turning the page to get to the next days antics. I hope Mr. Woodson has a follow up to Learn Me Good in the works. Melissa Reviewer for 1000 + Books to Read
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The book I read was Learn Me Good by John Pearson. In this hilarious memoir first year teacher Jack Woodson describes almost every school day through a series of emails to an old coworker. Each email is filled with sarcasm and funny anecdotes of a first year teacher 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." This is a great book for teachers; it'll bring you back to your first year teaching days - both the good and the bad. Pearson describes each student of his class, both in class and out of school, with a little bit of hope, a little bit of sarcasm and a whole lot of love. Great summer read for any teacher!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My goodness this was a GREAT book! Once I sat down I could not get up. I would say this is a must read especially if you work in education:)
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Lucille Cogdill More than 1 year ago
retiring from the field of education i could definitely relate..was, at times, laughing out loud
Anonymous More than 1 year ago