The first weeks of school lay the foundation for the whole school year. The more attention you pay early on to the concepts of community, character, and quality, the more time and effort you'll be spared later. This is one of the first steps to creating a caring, smoothly run classroom community. It's also one of the primary lessons of this inspirational book.

This is the story of Louise Burrell—as observed by teacher educator Jane Perlmutter—and the classroom she constructed during the first weeks of school. And it's the story of Louise's students, who struggled, learned, and grew over the course of a school year—from shaky beginnings to confident, self-reliant endings. Jane and Louise describe exactly what Louise does that makes her classroom so extraordinary: how she helps her students develop into independent, responsible, and caring people, and encourages them to produce quality work. And they describe how, using the principles of freedom of expression and responsibility, to create a classroom in which students voice their opinions as long as they respect and honor the rights of others, even if it means disagreeing with the teacher. Throughout the book, vignettes of the children at work and play are supplemented by commentary, explaining the rationale for each method and highlighting the theoretical perspectives.

If you are a new teacher or have a deep commitment to developing the whole child in a classroom community, then you'll find this book useful. If you want your children to acquire a love of learning and work responsibly, compassionately, and to the best of their abilities, then this is the book for you. If you want to truly enjoy children and teaching, then read this book.