Vol. 1. No. 2 R-4/b> August 1994
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Teacher as Writer: Entering The Professional Conversation
Karin D. Dahl, ed. (1992)
Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Pp. xiv + 296. ISBN 0-8141-5268-6.
$19.95 ($14.95 members).

In Teacher as Writer, Karin Dahl has edited an impressive collection of articles offering valuable advice and reassurance for beginning teacher writers. The book is composed of six sections: From the Authors Perspective, Thinking Like a Writer, From the Editors Perspective, Essential Information for Teacher Writers, The Craft of Writing for Publication, and Teacher Writer Communities. Although designed for an audience of English educators teaching native speakers in America, the contents are still very relevant for teacher writers in other fields.

The information in Dahls collection covers a wide range of material. Anson and Maylath describe the extensive variety of publishing options ranging from small accessible regional affiliate journals to prestigious journals. Kibler explains how having several articles in progress simultaneously provides time to reflect and allows ideas to gel. Feathers begins by stating that revision is the heart of writing and then explains author-, reader-, and editor-initiated revisions in detail. While this article may seem simplistic to experienced writers, this is the type of explanation that beginning writers will find extremely helpful.

Tway affirms the necessity for using the authenticity of personal experience in writing and then continues to discuss using anecdotes, provocative questions, quotations, and challenges as effective starting points for writers. She concludes her article with various approaches for deciding which of the four techniques will work best. Heale demonstrates the unique perspective of classroom teachers.

Teacher as Writer is not the perfect book for the ESOL teacher abroad. It focuses on teachers in the American school system who have access to colleagues and libraries. Although Anson and Maylath show 100 publishing options, many of them may be inappropriate for ESOL teachers abroad. Still, writers can profit from their suggestion to write the editors and inquire about the relevance of their submissions.

Additionally, the book presents conflicting advice concerning cover letters. Donelson, an English Journal editor, suggests that cover letters sent with articles should identify only the article and the author. Nelms, a former English Journal editor, provides the same advice. He explains that the manuscript reviewers will probably not even read the cover letter. Tompkins, a teacher writer, advises including information about the manuscript and its appropriateness for the publication it is being submitted to. Swinger, a former editor of a less prestigious journal, recommends [-1-] mentioning recently published work and the authors qualifications for writing. The reader may be puzzled by this apparently contradictory advice and wonder if the information in a cover letter should vary according to editors personal tastes or the target publications prestige.

Many teachers abroad may lack the opportunity to participate in the writing communities that Healy discusses due to insufficient numbers of qualified participants. Although this is a book for beginning writers, Gorells story of her personal evolution as a writer still seems overly simplistic, especially when she writes that she had never considered professional writing before as she was busy teaching and raising small children. While Cochran-Smith and Lytles thought-provoking article on creating communities for teacher research is well researched and written, it does not seem to be directed at an audience of teachers entering the professional conversation.

In spite of these drawbacks, Teacher as Writer is an excellent book for any beginning teacher writer in the U. S. or abroad. As Nelms tells us, teachers write to help teachers. Teacher as Writer is an example of this. While it is not an instant recipe for success in publishing, it will help those who read it, reflect on it, and remember it as they write. The experience it contains can guide teachers around many of the pitfalls that await novice teacher writers. Hopefully, it will enable them to join in what Monroe calls the printed professional conversation (p. 69).

Rory S. Baskin
Kaisei Gakuen, Japan


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