This is an incredible book on a reporter's year as a teacher in an inner city school. Ms. Sachar provides a needed and welcome inside perspective on many of the controversial issues in education.Teachers cannot use the same techniques that are used in industry: software engineers don't deal with programs which don't WANT to run, and lumbermills don't have to convince their lumber to WANT to be cut. Nor does the lumbermill have to deal with the trees' parents. One tree is just like another: line it up and cut it. Yet, teachers work with students who are all different, and whose intrinsic motivation is crucial to the teacher's success in changing them. Emily Sachar deeply explores the issues of racial tensions and preferences among the staff and students, social promotion, the problems of eliminating ineffective administrators and teachers, needless paperwork, unreasonable expectations, inadequate facilities and funding, the despair and wonder of teaching, and more.These are woven through the personal and moving narrative of her year-long odyssey as a new teacher.This is a superb book, which I highly recommend.
A Real Teacher
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 19 years ago
Emily Sachar identifies herself as a journalist, but she is a born teacher, in contrast to Jonathan Kozol, who taught for two years, then left to be a reporter. He understood nothing at all about teaching, but Emily has the instincts of the true mentor. She notices the poor physical surroundings, but she knows that the real obstacles to learning in this school are otherwise. Her obstinacy and love for her pupils make all the difference. If only teachers colleges taught the love of learning and the truth that all children can learn if taught according to their needs, we would have more Emily Sachars, and our schools would be as good as the schools before World War II, when there were only dedicated teachers. With the low salaries of that time, teachers had to make sacrifices to follow their calling, and it was a real calling. I am glad that salaries are enough today to support a family, so that a married man is not eliminated, but there are far too many young people who see teaching as merely a job where there are perks; e.g. short hours (they lock the door at three o'clock and go out to their little sports cars); long vacations with the money for European jaunts; and tenure after three years. What is wrong with education is the calibre of teachers graduated from teachers colleges. Who knows? Perhaps we need more journalists in the profession.
An outsider's inside view of a run-down public school
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 24 years ago
Education is a topic well-worn by cheerleaders, dingbats, and generally bad writers. Sachar's book is something of an exception, probably because she identifies herself principally as a journalist, and not as a teacher. This perspective gives her the flexibility to be critical of the school system in ways a career teacher can not be. Sachar was a reporter for Newsday who took a one-year leave to teach in a run-down school in Brooklyn. Her account of her first and only year as a teacher is a frank, eyes-open account of life in the belly of America's educational bureaucracy. While Sachar is at her root a believer in public education(she was on the education beat at Newsday), her position as a reporter gives her the emotional distance lacking in much of the gooey, feel-good, if-only-we-got-the-respect-we-deserve genre of education "reporting". In particular, she is able to candidly acknowledge the failings of the schools that are the schools own fault, and to describe the siege mentality and internecine bickering that help to cripple the system. She is able to describe racial tension among the faculty as well as the students, the mentality of time-serving and apathy that pervades public service, the emotional isolation of the teacher's life, and the many ways in which educators let their own preconceptions cripple themselves. While she does detail a chronic lack of resources, and the unfairness with which they are allocated, she avoids sinking into the kind of self-pitying tone of many defenders of public schooling. Recommended, if you are interested in education issues.
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