In this post, I share with you a collection of some of the best teacher memoirs that will bring you closer to the lives of some beloved and hardworking teachers. From Phillip Done’s 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny to Robert Wilder’s Tales from the Teachers’ Lounge, these memoirs explore stories of teacherhood with humor, insight, and appreciation.
Whether you are a teacher yourself or simply looking to gain insight into the amazing teachers that have impacted our lives, this collection of best teacher memoirs reveals the enduring promise of school as a powerful antidote to the cynicism of our times.
These teacher memoirs are sure to provide invaluable insight into the power of teaching, allowing you to gain valuable guidance and motivation from these remarkable individuals. If you are a new teacher you may want to check out this collection of the best books for new teachers.
1. The Water Is Wide: A Memoir, by Pat Conroy
“In this poignant memoir, which Newsweek called “an experience of joy,” the New York Times–bestselling author of The Prince of Tides plumbs his experiences as a young teacher on an isolated South Carolina island to reveal the shocking inequalities of the American education system.”
2. The Red Pencil: Convictions from Experience in Education, by Theodore R. Sizer
“This engaging and important book is a critique of American education wrapped in a memoir. Drawing on his fifty years as teacher, principal, researcher, professor, and dean, Theodore R. Sizer identifies three crucial areas in which policy discussion about public education has been dangerously silent. He argues that we must break that silence and rethink how to educate our youth.”
3. A Life In School: What The Teacher Learned, by Jane Tompkins
“Here one of our leading literary scholars looks back on her own life in the classroom, and discovers how much of what she learned there needs to be unlearned. Jane Tompkins’ memoir shows how her education shaped her in the mold of a high achiever who could read five languages but had little knowledge of herself. As she slowly awakens to the needs of her body, heart, and spirit, she discards the conventions of classroom teaching and learns what her students’ lives are like. A painful and exhilarating story of spiritual awakening, Tompkins’ book critiques our educational system while also paying tribute to it.”
4. Losing My Faculties: A Teacher’s Story, by Brendan Halpin
“In his first nine years as a teacher, Brendan Halpin goes from wide-eyed idealist to cynical, heartbroken idealist. Unique among teaching memoirs, Losing My Faculties is not the story of a heroic teacher who transforms the lives of his hardbitten students; rather, it’s the inspirational and often unpretty truth about people who choose to get up ridiculously early day after day and year after year to go stand in front of teenagers. It’s also a rarely-seen, all-access view of both suburban and urban education, including the ugly truth behind the mythology at a much-hyped charter school.”
5. Tisha: The Wonderful True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness, by Robert SpechT, Anne Purdy
“Anne Hobbs was only nineteen in 1927 when she came to harsh and beautiful Alaska. Running a ramshackle schoolhouse would expose her to more than just the elements. After she allowed Native American children into her class and fell in love with a half-Inuit man, she would learn the meanings of prejudice and perseverance, irrational hatred and unconditional love. “People get as mean as the weather,” she discovered, but they were also capable of great good.
As told to Robert Specht, Anne Hobbs’s true story has captivated generations of readers. Now this beautiful new edition is available to inspire many more.”
6. Holler If You Hear Me: The Education of a Teacher and His Students, by Gregory Michie
” Weaving back and forth between Michie’s awakening as a teacher and the first-person stories of his students, this highly acclaimed book paints an intimate and compassionate portrait of teaching and learning in urban America. While the popular notion of what it’s like to teach in city schools is dominated by horror stories and hero tales, Michie and his students reside somewhere in between these extremes—“between the miracles and the metal detectors.””
7. Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt
“Now, here at last is McCourt’s long-awaited book about how his thirty-year teaching career shaped his second act as a writer. Teacher Man is also an urgent tribute to teachers everywhere. In bold and spirited prose featuring his irreverent wit and compelling honesty, McCourt records the trials, triumphs and surprises he faced in the classroom. Teacher Man shows McCourt developing his unparalleled ability to tell a great story as, five days a week, five periods per day, he worked to gain the attention and respect of unruly, hormonally charged or indifferent adolescents.”
8. Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher’s First Year, by Esmé Raji Codell
“A must-read for parents, new teachers, and classroom veterans, Educating Esmé is the exuberant diary of Esmé Raji Codell’s first year teaching in a Chicago public school. Fresh-mouthed and free-spirited, the irrepressible Madame Esmé—as she prefers to be called—does the cha-cha during multiplication tables, roller-skates down the hallways, and puts on rousing performances with at-risk students in the library. Her diary opens a window into a real-life classroom from a teacher’s perspective. While battling bureaucrats, gang members, abusive parents, and her own insecurities, this gifted young woman reveals what it takes to be an exceptional teacher. “
9. Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56, by Rafe Esquith
“Perhaps the most famous fifth-grade teacher in America, Rafe Esquith has won numerous awards and even honorary citizenship in the British Empire for his outstandingly successful methods. In his Los Angeles public school classroom, he helps impoverished immigrant children understand Shakespeare, play Vivaldi, and become happy, self-confident people. This bestseller gives any teacher or parent all the techniques, exercises, and innovations that have made its author an educational icon, from personal codes of behavior to tips on tackling literature and algebra. The result is a powerful book for anyone concerned about the future of our children.”
10. 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny: Life Lessons from Teaching, by Phillip Done
“From the nervous first day of school to the hectic Halloween parade to the disastrous spring musical, Done connects what happens in his classroom to the universal truths that touch us all. 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny is for anyone who has ever taught children—or been to third grade. It is a testament to the kids who uplift us and the teachers who make a difference. With the perfect mix of humor and wisdom, Done reveals the enduring promise of elementary school as a powerful antidote to the cynicism of our times.”
11. Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship, by Michelle Kuo
“In this stirring memoir, Kuo, the child of Taiwanese immigrants, shares the story of her complicated but rewarding mentorship of one student, Patrick Browning, and his remarkable literary and personal awakening. Convinced she can make a difference in the lives of her teenaged students, Michelle Kuo puts her heart into her work, using quiet reading time and guided writing to foster a sense of self in students left behind by a broken school system. Though Michelle loses some students to truancy and even gun violence, she is inspired by some such as Patrick. Fifteen and in the eighth grade, Patrick begins to thrive under Michelle’s exacting attention…”
12. Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood, by Phillip Done
“A twenty-year veteran of the classroom, elementary school teacher Phillip Done takes readers through a lively and hilarious year in the classroom. Starting with the relative calm before the storm of buying school supplies and posting class lists, he shares the distinct personalities of grades K-4, what he learned from two professional trick or treating 8-year-old boys, the art of learning cursive and letter-writing, how kindergartners try to trap leprechauns, and what every child should experience before he or she grows up.”
13. Tales from the Teachers’ Lounge: An Irreverent View of What It Really Means To Be a Teacher Today, by Robert Wilder
“In Tales from the Teachers’ Lounge, Robert Wilder charts life’s learning curve with a warmth and humor you don’t find in textbooks. By turns heartwarming, eye-opening, and uproariously funny, these pitch-perfect essays offer priceless lessons in life, family, learning, and teaching from a true lover of education.”
14. Confessions of a Bad Teacher, by John Owens
“When John Owens left a lucrative job to teach English at a public school in New York City’s South Bronx, he thought he could do some good. Faced with a flood of struggling students, Owens devised ingenious ways to engage every last one. But as his students began to thrive under his tutelage, Owens found himself increasingly mired in a broken educational system, driven by broken statistics, finances, and administrations undermining their own support system―the teachers…”