8 Teachers in Literature
It should come as no surprise that teachers, who play one of the more influential roles in society, are equally important in literature. Here’s a list of eight books that feature teachers, some as central characters and others as peripheral ones, yet, in each, they play a seminal role in shaping the narratives.
1. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
This 1950’s novel became an iconic symbol of teenage angst, famous for capturing a voice of youth who are lost and alienated. 16-year-old Holden Caulfield wanders around New York City in solitude. As he narrates his story, some of the most influential people are his teachers.
2. Wayside School by Louis Sachar
In a school building that’s falling down, strange things happen between the students and teachers in these hilarious tales. This children’s book series (grades 3 -5) takes place on the thirtieth floor and a different character narrates each of the thirty chapters, with a cast of teachers from Mrs. and Mr. Gorf to Mrs. Jewels, who all have their own quirks and funny personalities.
3. The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg
In this classic children’s novel (grades 4 - 6), Mrs. Olinski returns to teaching after an automobile accident. The teacher creates a team of students for the Academic Bowl, but none of them could ever anticipate how successful the group becomes. The story speaks to the potential for collaboration between teacher and students, and what can happen as a team.
4. The Crazed by Ha Jin
Set in China, the central story of this novel is between Jian, a graduate student at Shanning University, and his literature professor and mentor Professor Yang. Jian is assigned to take care of his professor after he has a stroke. In a caretaker role, Jian hears stories from Yang, partly brought out by his impaired state, and must discern what is truth and false from this esteemed professor.
5. Five Dialogues by Plato
These five dialogues are transcripts written by Plato of his teacher Socrates’ conversations with students. Plato, Socrates’ closest disciple, immortalized his teacher by recording all of his philosophical examinations with his students. These dialogues try to define concepts like love and virtue, but they’re often humorous as well.
6. Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher's First Year, Expanded Edition
Told by a 24-year old first-year teacher, this memoir is a funny account of what it’s like teaching for the first time. The book takes the format of a diary and it gives parents and those considering teaching, an idea of what it’s like to teach on a day to day basis for the first time.
7. Narcissus and Goldmund by Herman Hesse
This 1930 book takes place in medieval Germany. Goldmund is a young boy whose path is set out for him to become a monk. When he arrives at the monastery, he meets Narcissus, a gifted young teacher, who helps him realize this path is not for him. Narcissus plays the role of his mentor and friend, who ultimately teaches him that everyone must find their own path.
8. New Yorker Book of Teacher Cartoons
As an interim to all these, this is a collection of the funniest New Yorker cartoons that take place in the classroom. From the joy, excitement and tedium of teaching and being taught, this series of 118 cartoons captures the hilarious moments from the perspective of the students, parents and most centrally, the teachers.