Frank Morelli. Local author. Beloved teacher.
The book was Frank Morelli’s latest novel for middle grade students: Please Return to: Norbert M. Finkelstein. I first heard of Frank when he taught sixth grade English to our older son. This son would much rather be outside on his bike or, if at school, in math class. But he loved – loved – Mr. Morelli’s class.
Then along comes our younger son, who would much rather be playing lacrosse or playing basketball or hanging out with his friends or pretty much anything under the sun other than school. And he talked about how much he loved Mr. Morelli.
To this day, when our sons hear Frank Morelli’s name, they look up and are interested and talk of his impact on their lives.
I knew Frank was writing in his (spare?) time outside of teaching, and was glad to receive Gardner’s gift. I’m even happier now that I’ve read it. Just so you know, my copy is heading to our family room at A Step Ahead so that you can read it too. Or perhaps you want to leave it hanging around the house over the long weekend of Veteran’s Day or Thanksgiving holiday. Who knows who might read it?
Back to the book.
Frank Morelli frames this book with an interesting and creative twist that is ever so close to home for him. He writes the book as a journal of a middle school English teacher, writing about his students. Morelli writes about their antics, his trials and tribulations, the disrespect they give him. He writes about how teachers interact with each other. There’s an upset parent in the mix.
It’s pretty real, I bet.
Mr. Finkelstein also has a secret. He is moonlighting as a wrestler, trying to earn some extra money to send his mother on a trip to Greece. (Throughout the book, Mr. Finkelstein speaks highly of his mother, which I was obviously happy to read.) Through his interactions, in and out of the classroom, Mr. Finkelstein learns to create community with his colleagues and students.
I could relate to that in several ways. At A Step Ahead, we treasure our relationships with students, building those ties over months and sometimes – if we’re lucky – years. I’ve also learned how much I value relationships with students in my own teaching at Wake Forest.
A final point about the book. Frank Morelli, at his core, loves to read. That comes through in many ways throughout his novel, including naming Mr. Finkelstein’s pets Sawyer and Faulkner. I’ll close this post with an excerpt from his novel where Mr. Finkelstein writes about his love of reading. I can see Frank Morelli in every word.
And, before I forget, thank you, Gardner.
Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is that everybody has a “thing”. Some are gifted athletes, and some have brilliant math minds. Some are merely entertaining, while others can create brand new landscapes with nothing but a dab of paint and a tattered brush.
For me, it’s always been reading. There’s just something about losing yourself between the pages of a book; about having your butt planted on the couch in your comfortable living room one moment, and then galloping off in a suit of armor with King Arthur’s knights the next.