Among Schoolchildren (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
Every August, Christine Padden Zajac, the real-life heroine of Tracy Kidder’s Among Schoolchildren, prepares herself with mixed enthusiasm and anxiety for another year of teaching fifth or sixth grade at Kelly School. Her feelings, as well as the varieties of teaching experience she has, are fairly typical for teachers in American elementary schools. Kelly School, at which she teaches, is not an inner-city school in the popular understanding of that term. Though it is located on the edge of the impoverished “Flats” of Holyoke, Massachusetts, it also draws its students from the affluent “Highlands” section of town. Kelly School in general and Mrs. Zajac’s fifth-grade class in particular constitute a microcosm of American elementary education in the late 1980’s.
Mrs. Zajac, as her young charges respectfully address her (except when in confused innocence they call her “Mrs. Ajax” or, much more rarely, when in bold insolence they call her “witch”), always refers to herself in the third person when addressing her class: “Mrs. Zajac means business, Robert. Mrs. Zajac knows you didn’t try. You don’t just hand in junk to Mrs. Zajac. She’s been teaching an awful lot of years. She didn’t fall off the turnip cart yesterday. She told you she was an old-lady teacher.” She is actually thirty-four-old enough to remember more homogeneous classes in her first years of teaching, but also young enough to adapt her skills tirelessly...
(The entire section is 1976 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
Insight. V, October 9, 1989, p.63.
Library Journal. CXIV, August, 1989, p.142.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. September 10, 1989, p.1.
The New Republic. CCI, November 1, 1989, p.40.
The New York Times Book Review. XCIV, September 17, 1989, p.1.
Newsweek. CXIV, September II, 1989, p.67.
Publishers Weekly CCXXXVI, July 21, 1989, p.45.
The Washington Post Book World. XIX, September 3, 1989, p.3.
(The entire section is 49 words.)