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 makes 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 the ups and downs of a single school year. Narrating with self-effacing honesty and a hint of hindsight, Smith speaks from the heart about his classroom—and finds it illuminated by the story of American education.



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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.

Follow @_derek_smith and learn more about #magicalteaching every day.




LouAnne Johnson

author of Dangerous Minds

“Smith 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.”


What kind of book is Magical Teaching? Like Bel Kaufman’s Up the Down Staircase, Smith’s story exposes the inner workings of educational institutions with humor, and like Frank McCourt’s Teacher Man, this free-spirited memoir describes it all with an eye for transcendent details.

Combining laughter and beautiful insights, Magical Teaching is for PTA members and school counselors, mid-career teachers and college students in methods classes—and any reader curious about classrooms and hungry for a nuanced portrayal of the profession.



Smith 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 derekleonsmith@gmail.com and via the contact form below.

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