A Bit About Me
I have nearly twenty years' experience in the classroom teaching English, AP Language and Composition, Philosophy, Public Speaking, and Creative Writing. I have a BA in English Education, an MA in Humanities with concentrations in Linguistics and Philosophy, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Eastern Kentucky University. My work has appeared in several literary journals and an anthology. I live in Louisville, Kentucky with my husband, three sons, and two bulldogs.
Both Sides is a collection of twenty-five short, narrative essays that look at the relationship between a teacher and her students. The thread tying these passages together is the connected humanity between teacher and student, and the implications of that connectedness. While the collection focuses on the author's personal experiences in education, her specific role as a teacher also serves as a vehicle to explore the more universal power that teachers have to do good for students. Rebecca Potter uses her experiences as a teacher and a student to explore questions within education, such as: why does education matter for the ones who are presumably doomed to fail anyway, what does it mean to care about a student, why do teachers stay in the field with so much against them? These questions are especially important as our country deals with serious matters like school shootings, pension issues, and teacher strikes.
THE CLASSROOM FROM WHERE I STAND
BY REBECCA POTTER ‧ RELEASE DATE: JUNE 30, 2020
A high school teacher reflects on challenges she’s faced as a student and an educator in this debut memoir.
Potter’s book begins with a Kentucky high school principal putting the author and all the other teachers on buses to visit poverty-stricken sections of their district, where many of their students reside. The roads are so bumpy that one of Potter’s colleagues throws up on the bus. As they drive past run-down trailers and dilapidated shacks, an administrator tells the passengers, “Don’t forget that when you get mad about them not having a pencil.” It’s a lesson that Potter, who taught high school English for more than 17 years, learned well. In a series of essays that move forward and backward in time, the author gracefully explores the ways in which good teachers help students navigate lives full of poverty, drugs, violence, unintended pregnancy, and death. Fortunately for Potter’s students, she remembers her own struggles on their side of the desk. Her father had to quit high school to get a job, her grandfather couldn’t read, and she dealt with her own obsessive-compulsive disorder. Her writings show that she knows what it’s like to face tall odds during one’s teen years; every minor failure feels like the end of the world. Potter also effectively pays tribute to the teachers who helped her at pivotal times in her life as a student and new teacher, but the biggest tribute to their legacy is her own remarkable career. Throughout the book, she admirably relates how she’s gone the extra mile for students by giving them a pat on the back, for example, or attending a funeral. Although she honestly recognizes times when she’s come up short and shies away from trumpeting her victories, it’s hard to come away from this collection without a sense of awe for the herculean efforts of teachers like her.
An absorbing and inspiring remembrance.
Both Sides: The Classroom From Where I Stand by Rebecca Potter is a wonderful book that shares stories of teaching and the connection between a teacher and a student. The collection of narratives shared by the author connects readers to crowded classrooms, students, and their lives, school shootings, her own life, and the education system as it is today. Her life as a teacher, a wife, a mother, and how she used her life lessons from these roles and incorporated them into her school routine is fascinating and will give readers a new perception of education and the life of both a student and a teacher. She also speaks about supporting the effort to ensure teachers are fairly compensated and how she will continue to work hard for her students.
The role of teachers has changed since the inception of public education and Both Sides: The Classroom From Where I Stand gives readers a lot of reasons why they should put their hope in public education. Rebecca Potter is very vocal about her thoughts and feelings when it comes to the role of a teacher, and the book can be used as a guide; it is part memoir too. The approach is interesting and she voices her opinions honestly and extensively. Some of the stories shared by the author are worth remembering; they are warm, kind, human, and focus on teachers who love their students and vice versa.
--Readers' Favorite Book Review, 5-Star Review
Praise for Both Sides
Remember that teacher who inspired you to grow larger than you thought you could? Who pushed you to think in ways you never imagined before? Who created a classroom where everyone felt safe, loved, and honored? This book of personal memoirs reveals the life of one of those teachers, from growing up to being a mother and wife, she takes the life lessons from these experiences and applies them to her school. These are wise, thoughtful, warm, sometimes heartbreaking words that lift up anyone who reads them, but especially all teachers who love their students and the students who inspire them.
--Ric Stuecker—author of Reviving the Wonder in Youth, Cultivating Kindness in School, and Inspiring Leadership in Teens
Rebecca Potter reminds us that the classroom isn’t the only place we learn, and some of the best lessons come from the people we thought least likely to teach us anything. This remarkable collection reads as more than just essays; it’s love letters and apologies, notes of appreciation, arguments, odes, and altogether a tribute to every person who has ever dared take on the awesome task of not just teaching but nurturing the next generation. Part memoir, part guidebook, Both Sides immerses readers in the stark realities of education today and resonates with triumph and genuine hope.
--R Dean Johnson, editor of Teachable Moments: Essays on Experiential Education
This timely, touching collection of essays captures what it means to be a public high school teacher today. In clear-eyed prose, Rebecca Potter gives us an intimate, empathetic look into the classroom, revealing the many problems students and teachers face, but also beautifully conveying her devotion to her students and championing the importance of public education.
--Carter Sickels, author of the novel, THE PRETTIEST STAR
Few grasp the lives of teachers. They are overwhelmed with papers, books, forms, and, more often, the heavy weight of care and worry. The deep calling that pulls on us can only be satisfied through those unique relationships we share with our students. Rebecca Potter has woven a personal story that speaks to all of us, but especially teachers and those who love and care for them.
The stark honesty of her vignettes will wring your heart out, remind you of your own embarrassments and failures, or leave you feeling all warm and cozy. We know it is bitter cold and windy out there, but we have a cuddly blanket and flickering fire to keep us safe. Like a slow drive through the rolling hills of central Kentucky, her writing is easy-going, yet colorful.
But this narrative is far more than a teacher tale. Potter leads us through critical times in her life that not only help us to better grasp this complex profession, but also how she has come to understand her own mental health.
Teachers will find comfort in knowing that even a highly accomplished professional has difficult days, and that many of our less promising students can surprise us. Any reader will walk away with a deeper self-awareness and realization that others may seem confident on the outside, but toughing it out within.
-- Dorie Combs, Professor Emeritus, Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Eastern Kentucky University
In a world that often seeks to demonize teachers for asking for livable wages, adequate resources, and a safe and healthy environment for their students, Rebecca Potter’s Both Sides: The Classroom from Where I Stand is a sorely needed book of narrative essays. Potter brings the many facets of a teacher’s role to the forefront: not only must they instruct, but they must also counsel, nurse, supervise, and accommodate. Taking this a step further, Potter examines her own complexity not only as a classroom teacher, but also as a mother, wife, writer, former student, woman, and an individual who has suffered through trials and mental illness. Potter does not shy away from sharing her own perceived shortcomings, and it is this vulnerability that makes this a gripping, honest, insightful read. This is the perfect gift for a new or veteran teacher—any educator, in fact, will benefit from having it on their bookshelf!
--Carissa Turpin, classroom teacher and author
In this touching collection of essays, it is clear that Rebecca Potter was called to be an educator. Through the many personal and professional experiences, her life and passions were molded from each unique experience from childhood into her adult life. Rebecca beautifully shares how the many “teachers” in her life shaped her view of educating, serving, and advocating for others. Those who read this collection will be reminded of special teachers in their lives and filled with hope knowing there are many like Rebecca who strive to make a difference in the lives of students.
--Amanda Ellis, Associate Vice President of K-12 Policies and Programs and former Associate Commissioner of the Office of Teaching and Learning/ Chief Academic Officer at Kentucky Board of Education