City in which you reside: Shepherdstown, W.Va.
Day job: Retired teacher/professor
Book title: “Mr. M’s Notebook: A Teacher’s Life”
Synopsis: High school teachers confront personal, professional, and student issues in schools during the students’ teen years.
Publisher: Piscataqua Press
“Mr. M’s Notebook” is based on a fictitious teacher, but you taught for more than 50 years. Why did you want to write a fiction novel instead of a nonfiction one?
I have written nonfiction books in history, government and media literacy. There are a number of good books in teaching and the issues teachers face. I wanted to write a book that involved readers in some contemporary and controversial issues that are difficult to address except in fiction. Also, a good story along with a dramatic portrayal of important issues can enable “Mr. M” to reach a wider audience.
What inspired you to write this book?
There are many issues in education that educators and the public need to discuss. Hopefully, Mr. M generates dialogue among and within educators and the public.
Tell me about who you see Mark Blenchard as? Is he totally shaped after you or just a portion?
There is little about Mark Blenchard that is me. Mr. M. and I have both taught history but that ends our similarities. He is much more conventional than I am. Yet, the issues Mark Blenchard and his faculty contend with are anything but conventional.
You observe other teachers as well as students, are these based on real people as well?
None of the teachers (including Mr. M) or students is based on real people although the characters are vivid examples of teachers and students in plausible situations. The characters in the book, however, are all fictional. The issues and events they encounter are relevant.
“Mr. M’s Notebook” delves into a lot of issues teachers faced in the 1970s to ’80s that they still deal with today, such as teen pregnancy. Why did you want to tackle some of these issues?
The issues are, indeed, relevant today. Teen pregnancy, bullying, fear of failure, high-stakes testing and teacher-student relationships are still with us; indeed, even more so. I want to get educators and the public talking about these issues so we can reform what can and should be changed.
How different are the students you taught at the beginning of your career compared to the end?
The students are similar. The technologies, on the other hand, are quite different. The new technologies have speeded-up and exacerbated problems. We, as educators and citizens, need to help young people work through age-old issues in a high-tech, interconnected, more immediate world.
For those in the educational field, what do you hope they take away from this book?
There are a number of re-occurring issues that educators need to discuss—face to face—electronic communication alone won’t do it. It will take time and a willingness to adjust to this “new world” educators, students and the public find ourselves in.
For the casual reader, what do you hope they take away from your book?
The issues in the book are timeless and discussing them helps us to know what to do next. Educators and members of the public through reading and discussing “Mr. M’s Notebook” should have a better idea of what is happening in schools and what can be done to improve the school experience for young people.
It says “book one,” when should we expect “book two” and “book three”?
Book two is planned for a January, 2019 release. Book three is planned for January, 2021. I am writing daily to try to make this happen.
Where can readers purchase your novel?
— by Crystal Schelle, Lifestyle editor