In Mrs. Tully's Room


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About the Author

Vivian Gussin Paley (1929-2019), a longtime classroom teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, was a MacArthur Fellow and winner of the 1998 American Book Award for Lifetime Achievement.


"Retired" teachers like Paley (You Can't Say You Can't Play) never actually retire, since children were never just a job but a lifelong passion and the source of their own creative inspiration. In this latest installment of her working memoirs, Paley takes readers to Mrs. Tully's extraordinarily wise child-care center in the Chicago area. Paley and Tully both believe in storytelling/theater play as an effective, happy way of working with even the youngest of children. For a powerful technique, it's deceptively simple: the child tells the grownup a story, maybe just one word long it can be as simple as "Mama" (the "best reason to tell a story" when you're only two, says Tully). The adult writes it down and then gives it back to the students to act out. By performing their classmates' stories, the students share what's important with each other, while learning to see and listen to others. Paley doesn't need expert opinions to flesh out her book when it comes to progressive education, she's quite an expert herself (a former kindergarten teacher and winner of a MacArthur Award). But despite her credentials, it's the classroom stories that drive home the book's important points (e.g., "one child scorned is every child's humiliation" or "you can't stay mad while you're telling a story"). As Paley reminds readers, the "work" of school is not to learn the numbers and letters as quickly as possible, but to learn to come together and build a community. A must-read for all thinking parents and teachers. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Part diary, part pedagogy, In Mrs. Tully's Room captures Paley's four months in the presence of an extraordinary teacher who grew up in the delightful, reassuring tangle of her grandfather's tales and became, after so many frustrating years teaching in public schools, determined to offer children something she at one point dubs "home-porch-schooling." Storytelling lies at the heart of all things Mrs. Tully does. Loneliness, otherness, rudeness, conflict can all, she believes, be cured with a story. Kindness and community can be modeled and reinforced. Sorrows can be blown off, on languaged winds...In Mrs. Tully's Room is a loving portrait of an idealized place. It is the suggestion made, again and again, that even the youngest children can be shaped by metaphor, that they can grow toward their highest potential--individually and collectively--when stories shape their days. -- Beth Kephart * Chicago Tribune *
"Retired" teachers like Paley never actually retire, since children were never just a job but a lifelong passion and the source of their own creative inspiration...Paley doesn't need expert opinions to flesh out her book--when it comes to progressive education, she's quite an expert herself...A must-read for all thinking parents and teachers. * Publishers Weekly *
[This] book is full of wisdom and lessons for those who work with young children. The messages are about taking time with them, telling them your own stories and listening to theirs. Above all, perhaps it's a celebration of the work of childcare workers who, like Lillian Tully, are not teachers and yet know the true value of stories and of the loving mentoring of children. -- Gerald Haigh * Times Higher Educational Supplement *
This inspirational book explores a land of emotions and creativity far beyond the confines of targets and tests. Read it for sustenance and renewal. * Times Higher Educational Supplement (UK) *

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