The true story of a young teacher attempting to change lives in a troubled educational system. According to Ilana Garon, popular books and movies are inundated with the myth of the "hero teacher" - the one who charges headfirst into dysfunctional inner-city schools like a firefighter into an inferno, bringing the student victims to safety through a combination of charisma and innate righteousness. The students are then "saved" by the teacher’s idealism, empathy, and faith. This is not that type of book.
Here, Garon reveals the sometimes humorous, oftentimes frustrating, and occasionally horrifying truths that accompany the experience of teaching at a public high school in the Bronx. The overcrowded classrooms, lack of textbooks, and abundance of mice, cockroaches, and drugs weren’t the only challenges Garon faced during her first four years as a teacher. Every day, she’d interact with students dealing with addiction, miscarriages, stints in "juvie", abusive relationships, and gang violence. These students brought with them big dreams and uncommon insight - and challenged everything Garon thought she knew about education.
In response, Garon - a naive, suburban girl with a curly ponytail, freckles, and Harry Potter glasses - opened her eyes, rolled up her sleeves, and learned to distinguish between mitigated failure and qualified success. In this book, Garon explains how she realized that being a new teacher was about trial by fire, making mistakes, learning from the very students she was teaching, and occasionally admitting that she may not have answers to their thought-provoking (and amusing) questions.
While the title might make listeners think this is a work of humor, the reality is more interesting. This is an honest and reflective account of what it's like for an earnest white woman from the suburbs to teach public high school in the Bronx. There's no narrative of the "hero teacher" here, but a frank account of what it's like teaching in the midst of drugs, gangs, abusive relationships, and cockroaches. Despite it all, author Ilana Garon makes real connections with her students, and listeners will enjoy watching her grow in empathy and wisdom. Narrator Romy Nordlinger does a great job bringing Garon to life, and capturing the variety of beautiful and challenging students she meets.
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Compelling characters and superb writing...
...what more could you ask for from a book? Okay, perhaps insightful analyses as well as commentary on the human condition -- but these are present as well, in superb form.
By turns hilarious, horrific, and suspenseful, this book sucks you in such that you forget that you're reading and are wholly transported into the author's world. For me, immersion is the single most important criteria for measuring the success of any artistic work in any medium -- and this book is absolutely immersive, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Highly recommended.
The narrator was really lacking and her impersonations of Garon's black and brown students' voices were poorly done and frankly offensive.