Because of Mr. Terupt

It’s the start of fifth grade for seven kids at Snow Hill School. There’s . . . Jessica, the new girl, smart and perceptive, who’s having a hard time fitting in; Alexia, a bully, your friend one second, your enemy the next; Peter, class prankster and troublemaker; Luke, the brain; Danielle, who never stands up for herself; shy Anna, whose home situation makes her an outcast; and Jeffrey, who hates school. Only Mr. Terupt, their new and energetic teacher, seems to know how to deal with them all. He makes the classroom a fun place, even if he doesn’t let them get away with much . . . until the snowy winter day when an accident changes everything—and everyone.

One thought on “Because of Mr. Terupt

  1. Mathis & Moreillon says:

    Each chapter in this book by Rob Buyea is written from the perspective of one of seven fifth-grade students at Snow Hill School. The children tell the story of how Mr. Terupt, a “rookie” teacher, impacts their individual and collective lives. Some students don’t quite know what to make of this educator whose teaching style is different from their previous experiences in other classrooms. The class meetings in Mr. Terupt’s room are devoted to guiding students’ academic as well as socio-emotional learning. Much to the surprise of misbehaving students, this teacher has a way of letting students know when they are headed in the wrong direction without making public displays. Mr. T. also stands up for his class with the administration when he believes his students or his teaching methods are justified. Each of the seven voices/characters in this chapter book reveals a unique personality and set of challenges that all together contribute to the dynamic learning that happens in Mr. Terupt’s classroom.
    Judi’s Take
    For me, the strength of this story emanates from the respectful classroom culture that Mr. Terupt creates for and with his fifth-grade students. From the very first day of school, this teacher strives to engage every class member in building a community of learners. Mr. Terupt is not afraid to be real and honest with the students. He’s also funny. Students cannot “hide” in this classroom. Class members deal with family issues, such as moving to a new town as the child of divorced parents, the stigma of having a single parent (who had been a pregnant teen in this small town), and the death of a sibling. Mr. Terupt meets each student where she or he is emotionally and intellectually. He supports the students’ personal growth while giving the class ownership and responsibility for designing curriculum.
    One of the most powerful and touching projects involves the “Collaborative Classroom” for children with special needs. The students in Mr. Terupt’s classroom learn to appreciate the unique gifts of each of the Collaborative Classroom students. Later, when Peter, a “tough guy,” suggests that the class invite these children to be part of their winter holiday celebration, Peter notices Mr. T. wipe his eyes. Although Peter doesn’t understand why until later in the story, the fact that Mr. Terupt, a male teacher, can express a full range of emotions is important for Peter—and for readers—to know.
    Naysaying parents at Snow Hill School may have predicted that Mr. T. would let the children “go too far” and readers may suspect that something will happen to interfere with the “happy ending” Mr. Terupt promises Jessica at the beginning of the school year. Still when the “accident” does occur these students realize the full extent to which Mr. T. has touched all of their lives and the lives of their families, too. In fact, he continues to touch their lives from his hospital bed.
    Some readers may find this story overly optimistic or sentimental, but in a real world where so many children long for deep expressions of caring from the adults in their lives, I found it heart-warming that this teacher comes right out and tells (and shows) his students that he loves them.
    Janelle’s Take
    From the perspectives of seven diverse fifth graders, I considered the many relationships that Mr. Terupt, a new teacher in the school, creates throughout the context of this book. Each student had unique social and academic needs and each felt that Mr. Terupt had made personal connections to his/her situation. From the instructional perspective, I believe Mr. Terupt had a unique ability to relate to students in individual ways—an awareness of the needs that existed for each one. He used effective learning strategies to weave together real life social and family experiences thus making potentially mundane and boring lessons purposeful and ultimately personal.
    I do think he was about building community and helping students to open their eyes to the kindness and good in each other. He seemed aware that such is the basis for all learning. I was impressed with the relationships he nurtures with the special needs classroom—inclusion in a rare form. Even in tragedy, while waiting to see if Mr. Terupt survives the snowball accident, the reality of his lessons brings these diverse students together as each remembers what this young but already masterful teacher has taught them personally.
    In thinking of the reality of teaching, I thoughtfully considered the comment one parent made in helping her student, Jessica, to understand whose “fault” the accident was. This parent said it was the teacher’s fault due to purposeful decisions he made to let students have the responsibilities of the various situations they found themselves in—and not taking into account that middle school students are still developing the ability to make wise decisions regarding these responsibilities. While this was not said in a negative way, it did make me ponder as a reader and one-time middle school teacher exactly how can teachers find a balance in engaging students in complex situations while realizing that they may still not be ready to react with the expected behaviors. Without opportunities to do so, however, how do young people learn adequate approaches to relationships—what works and what doesn’t as well as the importance of abiding by expected community rules.
    I believe the positive approach and ease with which Mr. Terupt carried out each day’s involvements made him both likeable and enviable by teacher readers in many ways. He certainly seemed to have a school situation that was open to his approach to teaching, although many teachers with a like philosophy of instruction might insist that such teaching is possible in variety of contexts. While Mr. Terupt gave much food for thought regarding authentic and learner-centered instruction, it is the individual perspectives of his students that help teacher readers realize the unique ways they potentially influence individual students each day.

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