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"I Love Learning; I Hate School"
Into the Classroom
Experience and Education
Teaching and Its Predicaments
Wasting Minds
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Make Yourself a Teacher
Teaching What You Don't Know
Education for Thinking

Inside TeachingInside Teaching

How Classroom Life Undermines Reform

Mary Kennedy

Narrated by Lynne Ennis

Available from Audible

Book published by Harvard University Press

Reform the schools, improve teaching: these battle cries of American education have been echoing for twenty years. So why does teaching change so little?

Arguing that too many would-be reformers know nothing about the conflicting demands of teaching, Mary Kennedy takes us into the controlled commotion of the classroom, revealing how painstakingly teachers plan their lessons, and how many different ways things go awry. Teachers try simultaneously to keep track of materials, time, students, and ideas. In their effort to hold all of these things together, they can inadvertently quash students’ enthusiasm and miss valuable teachable moments.

Kennedy argues that pedagogical reform proposals that do not acknowledge all of the things teachers need to do are bound to fail. If reformers want students to learn, they must address all of the problems teachers face, not just those that interest them.

Mary Kennedy is Professor of Teacher Education at Michigan State University.


“A wonderful new book...The reader is likely to come away from Inside Teaching wondering whether the real problem isn’t reformers’ unrealistic expectations. Essentially, they’re expecting teachers to be all things to all people—an expectation we don’t have of any other group of professionals.”

Teacher's Magazine

“An absolutely outstanding book, and a major contribution to the literature on teaching. Inside Teaching advances our understanding of teaching practice by giving a disciplined, empirical account of the ways in which teachers conceive of and enact their practice, and [relates it to] current debates about education reform. Every student in my class will be reading this book. ”

—Richard F. Elmore, Gregory Anrig Professor of Educational Leadership, Harvard Graduate School of Education

“Anyone interested in the relationship between policy and practice, the (slow) progress of reform, and the nature of teachers’ work in the face of persistent but shifting reform pressures will find Inside Teaching a remarkable contribution. ”

—Judith Warren Little, Professor of Education, University of California at Berkeley

“Every teacher will recognise the constant feature [observed by Kennedy], the unpredictable kinetic energy in every class of children and the fact that if something can go wrong, it probably will. Grasp this fact, Kennedy says to the baffled reformer, and your various policies for school improvement will work better. Fail to grasp it, and they may not work at all. Worse, they could be counter-productive.”

—Michael Duffy, Times Educational Supplement

“Kennedy...does something of immense value to all those who would reform teaching practice in America: she opens the door to the classroom and describes—precisely and respectfully—what teaching looks like. More important, she asks teachers to think and talk about their intentions, beliefs and priorities. Unlike much educational research, where an observer breaks teaching behaviors into incomprehensible bits, or writes about teaching from the perspective of the expert, Kennedy’s portrayals of teaching ring true. Any well-meaning reformer would exponentially increase the likelihood of success by reading and understanding the challenges of mundane daily teaching practice that Kennedy illustrates...The greatest contribution of the book is Kennedy’s careful and nuanced analysis of why reforms so often fail...Kennedy clearly believes that both challenging curriculum and good teaching are critical to school reform—and that teaching can and must be improved. Her clear-eyed and very accessible approach to better teaching, learning and schools is an enormous gift to those whose passion is a great teacher for every kid. Mary Kennedy has achieved the near impossible: she’s written a book of solid research on teaching that every teacher should read. ”

—Nancy Flanagan, Teacher Leaders Network

Inside Teaching is an important read for policy makers and other decision makers; it is a reminder that genuine education is a complex and fragile process that takes into account the idea that every student is a valuable contributor to the world and not a product to be assembled. ”

—Sergio Mora, Childhood Education

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University Press Audiobooks