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The Teacher's Survival Guide: Real Classroom Dilemmas and Practical Solutions

reviewed by Eleanor Vernon Wilson - July 29, 2009

coverTitle: The Teacher's Survival Guide: Real Classroom Dilemmas and Practical Solutions
Author(s): Marc R. Major
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham
ISBN: 1578868165, Pages: 360, Year: 2008
Search for book at Amazon.com

All teachers want not only to survive in the classroom but also to thrive. Marc Major’s accessible and informative new book The Teacher’s Survival Guide: Real Classroom Dilemmas and Practical Solutions will help both new and experienced teachers do both. This unique, highly readable addition to the literature is organized around frameworks to help teachers build a learning culture, organize themselves, communicate effectively, and proactively manage student behavior. Woven through it all is a series of related “teaching dilemmas” – mini-cases describing those myriad daily challenges that can derail effective teaching and learning – along with multiple suggestions for solutions. The overall outcome is a thoughtful, flexible, and engaging work, which promotes a positive and realistic vision of students and K-12 education.  

The Teacher’s Survival Guide starts with the premise that all teachers can be “extraordinary” teachers. Major urges teachers to create an initial vision of what classrooms should encompass and set clear, high expectations in order to establish positive learning communities based on open communication and recognition of children’s varied needs. The book emphasizes the need for teachers to create a culture of respect and trust with their students, which requires getting to know students holistically and not only from an academic perspective. Based on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, this philosophy is further extended with findings from Multiple Intelligence and other psychological and learning research. Through it all, the book reminds readers that most students “are not like you” – underscoring the growing diversity which is a critical aspect of teaching in the twenty-first century.

Subsequent chapters address universal teacher needs such as preparing for the first week of school, creating classroom management strategies which prevent trouble rather than waiting for it to arise, and establishing open communication with students, parents, and colleagues. Both new and experienced teachers will appreciate the clarity and immediate utility of the frameworks presented. Each reminds the reader of the importance of ever-evolving student needs, as well as the power of every teacher to influence his or her own destiny. In the author’s words, “Whether in the classroom, in the school office, or in a conference with a parent, you have a capacity to make your own ‘luck.’ Treat others as you’d want to be treated and they will tend to reciprocate” (p. 343).

Each chapter includes findings from current research supporting the ideas discussed, and the figures and tables accompanying the text are extremely helpful and provide useful summaries of key topics. Most chapters also include several real-life teaching dilemmas that illustrate the realities of classroom life from the mouths of teachers and describe literally dozens of situations which teachers may realistically face. The recommended solutions synthesize practitioner experience with extensive current teaching and learning research and could be applied immediately, while also providing frameworks for thoughtful and productive teacher decision-making. Instead of prescribing “one size fits all” answers, the author invites readers continually to reflect on their own teaching strengths and select the methods which may work best for them.  

Overall the text is well written, grounded in research on effective learning techniques, and enjoyable to read. Major makes his case in a highly readable and comprehensible way that will leave the reader with many insights and useful suggestions about how to approach life in the classroom, and teachers who follow the author’s advice will be well on their way to building effective and harmonious learning communities.  

While the writing sometimes focuses more on secondary than elementary classrooms, the contents are equally applicable in either setting. The book also is appropriate to use with teacher education classes, especially during student teaching placements, as preservice students will recognize many of the issues described and find engaging in a discussion of these issues applicable to their future classrooms.  

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: July 29, 2009
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15730, Date Accessed: 10/26/2021 4:52:36 AM

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About the Author
  • Eleanor Wilson
    University of Virginia
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    ELEANOR VERNON WILSON is Associate Professor at the Curry School of Education, University of Virginia.
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