On Austrian Soil
Teaching Those I Was Taught to Hate
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An award-winning teacher takes a journey into alien territory: Austria, Hitler's birthplace, and the territory of her own hatred. A teaching memoir that offers a pedagogy of hope.
Finalist for the 2006 Independent Publishers Book Award in the Autobiography/Memoir category
Most educators keep their teaching secret. In On Austrian Soil, an award-winning teacher, Sondra Perl, opens her classroom to reveal the struggles and successes she encounters when she, not without trepidation, raises the questions of history with her adult Austrian students, descendants of Nazis. Her students, teachers themselves, come face-to-face with the question of their responsibility not only to the past but also to the future. Perl's careful descriptions are an invitation to scrutinize her teaching and thinking as well as her students' own histories and hatreds. Writing together, she and her students break lifelong silences—discovering along the way the power of dialogue to transform deeply held prejudices.
Sondra Perl is Professor of English and Urban Education at Lehman College and The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is the author of Felt Sense: Writing with the Body and coauthor (with Nancy Wilson) of Through Teachers' Eyes: Portraits of Writing Teachers at Work and editor of Landmark Essays on Writing Process. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching selected Professor Perl as the 1996 New York State Professor of the Year.