A Chicago book that holds special meaning to me
In the mid seventies I was teaching at Highland Park High School and, like a lot of teachers, I was into what was often called Discovery Learning. “Go out there, Kids, and learn something on your own.” What I really liked to do was to ask students to have conversations with people about their jobs and then write down what they had learned. This was an on-going assignment. No matter what else we were doing in class, these kids could always interview someone about his or her work. “What do you do?” “What makes your job so special.” What’s a typical day?” “How were you trained?”
My students started immediately, and they never stopped. They went to Highwood and chatted with the old Italians at the bocce courts. They jabbered with restaurant owners, barbers, and landscapers. They visited Fort Sheridan and talked to soldiers, some of whom had just returned from Vietnam. They sat down their grandfathers. They met with the cranky old fellow down the street.
I’m pleased I gave this assignment. I am extremely pleased I had just read WORKING by Studs Terkel and that I had bought a classroom set for my students. WORKING made these youngsters feel like they were part of a larger project.
They could take the book home and read about Frances Swenson, the switchboard operator; Phi Stallings, the spot welder; Nora Watson, the editor; Elmer Ruiz, the gravedigger, and the hundreds of other individuals that fill this magnificent collection.
WORKING is a book that truly made a difference in my life. Thanks, Studs.