This book by Peter Felton is both practical and informative. Felton's insights into the state of education in the US is balanced, measured, and full of useful examples born out of his personal experience, having taught in schools throughout the San Francisco Bay Area for over a decade.
Felton's book is a classic and comparable with Bloom's "Closing of the American Mind." If parents, educators, and aspiring school administrators want to keep their fingers on the pulse of the current state of education in the US, then Felton's book will provide them with that advantage. It's really that valuable.
The timing of the release of this book could not have been better. Next school year (2019-2020) is going to be a landmark year for our family. My husband and I have five kids. Our oldest will be going off to college; our second will be entering high school; our third will be entering middle school; our fourth will be beginning kindergarten; and our youngest will be starting preschool. Lots of new beginnings are on the horizon for our family! So, reading this book became a family affair for all of us, from start to finish!
We are SO GRATEFUL to Mr. Felton for writing this book and openly, unashamedly sharing his wealth of knowledge and firsthand experiences learning and teaching in such an impressive array of American schools--located within one of the most culturally diverse regions of the country! We live on the east coast, and our oldest was considering re-locating out west to California for his college experience. After reading this book and learning of Mr. Felton's take on the different types of schools located in the Golden State (the UCs, CSUs, community colleges, and private universities), our oldest now feels more confident than ever in his decision to apply to colleges located in the third-largest, most populous, and wealthiest State in the Union. Having had enough of the private school experience for nine years all the way from Kindergarten-8th Grade, our incoming high schooler is now begging us to apply for admission to our local charter high school to expand his education for the better over the next four years. Our soon-to-be middle schooler is interested in spending his next three years at a parochial school after having enjoyed his elementary school experience at our assigned public school and wanting to leave the system on a high note. Given what Mr. Felton says about the value of single-sex education, my husband and I are now content with our mutual decision to enroll our rising Kindergartener in our local all-girls school next year. And since our fourth child (the same girl) had a terrific experience in our local cooperative preschool, we have no problem in doing the same for our youngest in the school year ahead! Thank you once again, Mr. Felton, for opening our eyes as to the beauty and value of gaining a truly necessary multidimensional general education during one's childhood.
As for what my husband and I each took away from reading this book: my husband says he now has gained a completely newfound respect for teachers everywhere. "If only more teachers were as inspired, motivated, and innovative as Mr. Felton," he says. For me, a lot of the anxiety I once had when it came to finding good schools for my children has now fully evaporated thanks to Mr. Felton's encouragement through his prolific yet soothing writing. The two chapters in the book that stand out in my eyes include the chapter in which Mr. Felton pays detailed tribute to his 5th Grade teacher who inspired him to become a teacher to begin with; followed by the chapter about Mr. Felton's public school experiences that actually say more good than bad about that form of education so heavily maligned in the United States. In each instance outlined extensively in both of these (and many of the other) chapters in his book, Mr. Felton proves that if one puts their mind to it, one can truly beat the odds and create happiness in the unlikeliest of situations one gets put in by chance.
Mr. Felton's students are fortunate to have him!
A teacher offers personal commentary in his exploration of various types of U.S. schools.
This is an unusual book: It presents a lengthy record of a teacher’s own experiences with the American education system as a basis for an examination of public, private, charter, and cooperative schools. The author appears to have a unique background for an educator, as indicated in the “scholastic resume” he includes at the beginning: He attended both public and private schools, some parochial and some charter, and held a variety of positions, primarily as a substitute teacher, at public, private, parochial, charter, and cooperative schools. He also continues to work as a tutor, which adds another dimension to the story. In an opening “letter,” Felton (Tommy Wrought, 2015) suggests he wrote this volume to assist parents in evaluating and selecting appropriate schools for their children, yet as the book unfolds, it seems that teachers and administrators might actually be a more suitable audience. The sheer amount of specifics associated with the description of each school and every classroom experience, including discussions of teaching methodologies and materials, may only excite a professional educator. Still, the author’s firsthand observations of various types of schools are not without broader appeal. Also enticing, if a bit too flowery at times, is Felton’s expansive, engaging writing style and a strong storytelling element that makes the book read like a memoir. This autobiographical approach considerably enhances the content, but at times it can be unnecessarily detailed, particularly when the copious, lengthy footnotes overwhelm the text itself.
The volume opens with a lovely, heartfelt tribute to an instructor “without whom there would no ‘Mr. Felton,’ ” evidence that the author was inspired to teach at a young age. The book then breaks into chapters, several of which address particular types of schools: parochial, public, private, charter, single sex, cooperative, and immersion (multilingual/multicultural). In each of these chapters, the author uses his own direct experiences with the type of school to comment on it, adding a very personal touch to the content. For example, Felton shares the surprising fact that he has been both a student and teacher at Hebrew, Roman Catholic, and Quaker parochial schools but has “never belonged” to any of these religions. The final two chapters concentrate more specifically on the author’s experiences as a tutor, substitute teacher, and, ultimately, a “lead” teacher. He observes that all of these roles allowed him to view and understand the educational process from significantly different perspectives. Felton’s glowing appraisal of his most recent school position is intriguing as a contrast to some of his less desirable employment situations; however, delving into the fine points of the curriculum may simply be too much for average readers to bear. Despite these occasional informational transgressions, the book exudes an enthusiasm and respect for education as a calling that are hard to ignore.
Overly detailed at times, but an impassioned insider narrative about American education.
Schools of Thought: Well-rounded Education In The Lands of Opportunities is Peter Felton’s third book. Reflecting on the outcomes of his own experiences as a student and teacher–from his preschool days to his most recent teaching jobs in 2018, Felton chronicles the merits and challenges of his scholastic adventures in each role, and also highlights distinguishable characteristics of the different types of schools comprising the world of American general education from notable academic, social, and professional angles, in a well-informed manner. Felton even takes the liberty of paying extensive tributes to noteworthy educators, students, family members, and peers of his who helped to pave the way for his desire to make teaching his permanent profession, in a heartwarming manner.
All throughout the book, Felton’s inspired tone and passion for teaching, learning, and working with children never falter. His levelheaded viewpoints on the respective outlooks of schools spanning the entire United States of America and its national academic backbone, representing the following classifications: public, independent private, parochial, single-sex (for boys and girls, respectively), cooperative, charter, immersion, and special needs, provide current and aspiring teachers, students, parents, and administrators with a refreshing, entirely unbiased look into the synthesis of the standout operations exercised by each exemplified academic institution.
To top it all off: Felton provides his readers with an acute glimpse into how one can make the most of one’s education during both childhood and adulthood, in the present and future–via elaborating upon acute examples of enlightened original lessons, activities, projects and accompanying student presentations carried out with his pupils of elementary, middle, and high school ages over the decades in the 21st Century.
For anybody wanting to learn of ways in which school(s) and the people behind their foundations really can and do succeed, this truly is the book for you!