The following review was written by Jeffery Kovac and published in the Journal of Chemical Education, vol. 82, no. 10, p. 1476 (2005).
This beautiful little book is filled with wisdom and inspiration. The Way of the Teacher is modeled on the Tao Te Ching, the Chinese book of wisdom (1). In the author's words, it is "intended to point or prod you along the path that leads to a mastery of teaching". It consists of 96 "Threads" divided into five sections: Teaching, Learning, Students, Problem Solving, and Master Teachers. Each thread, written in a style reminiscent of the Tao Te Ching, sometimes translated as "The Way of Life", is no more than a page in length.
The threads are not expositions, but prompts for reflection. In just a few words, Haile reminds us what is essential about teaching and learning and leads us to think and act differently. As he says in the preface, "this book is not a map, but a signpost". I was familiar with most of the ideas in this book; I have read several of the books in the bibliography and have thought deeply about teaching and learning, yet the threads provided new insight into familiar ideas such as constructivism or process education, or made intriguing connections.
J. M. Haile, former professor of chemical engineering at Clemson University and a well-known researcher in statistical mechanics and computer simulation, is the author, designer, and publisher, and he has produced a lovely volume. The design is simple and uses unusual and attractive typefaces and is illustrated with tangram puzzles. The aesthetics complement the content. Together they comprise a compelling book.
This is not a book to read through, but one to sample. Read a thread or two; think about what you have read and how you might use those ideas to improve your own teaching; talk with a colleague about it; or write a reflective essay. If you want to become a better teacher this book will help you find the way. I intend to keep it close at hand.
1. Tzu, Lao. Tao Te Ching (translated with an introduction by D. C. Lau); Penguin Books: Baltimore, MD, 1963.
Jeffrey Kovac is Professor of Chemistry at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.