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Derek Smith lives in Seattle, Washington, where he teaches English and writes about education, faith, gender, and place. He has taught high school, middle school, and college for fifteen years.


He loves to read from Magical Teaching and share what he knows about the representation of teachers in books, television, and film. He can be reached at




Welcome to Mr. Smith’s high school classroom,

a run-down portable on the edge of campus. He’s a rookie English teacher who suspects sly-eyed rats, leaky ceiling tiles, and an outlandish principal means he’s living the plot of an inspirational movie. He’s ready for the magic…

… until a motley cast of first-years make it clear he’s the one who needs help. Feeling fragmented and frantic, it’s no wonder he smokes the cigarettes he confiscates from kids. 

Magical Teaching assigns the hilarious and heartbreaking project of capturing a single school year. The students. The coworkers. The Nyquil. Narrating with self-effacing honesty and a hint of hindsight, Smith recreates the ups and downs of a topsy-turvy year. And somewhere along the way discovers that the story of his particular classroom is also the story of American education – and what it means when we choose to learn by living.




LouAnne Johnson

author of Dangerous Minds

“…has the soul of a poet and the wit of a stand-up comic.”


Bret Lott

New York Times best-selling author

“…a sharp and brutally honest book. It is at once a terror-ride through that first year of teaching and a nuanced homage… the result is a beautiful and funny story.”


Eric Hougan

author of Road to Teaching

“Simply put, Smith's journal of everyday life in a new job rings true. Compelling and cringe-worthy, I laughed as often as I winced.”



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