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Thursday, June 25, 2009

No Teachers Left Behind

Back about a month ago, I ran a guest post by Hopeful But Frustrated Teacher (HBF), who was doing a virtual book tour for her novel, No Teachers Left Behind. HBF was kind enough to later send me a copy of her book, which I jumped on as soon as the school year ended.

For anyone who may be interested in giving this book a look, here is my review of No Teachers Left Behind.

I have a feeling that non-teachers who read No Teachers Left Behind will come away shaking their heads, saying things like, "That's just too extreme -- there's no way school is like that!" For teachers though, even the most extreme situations in the book are recognized as possible and plausible.

At Vilyon Middle School, Principal Angela Marsh is nothing but rainbows and butterflies -- as long as it's to a best-selling author or a high-dollar donating parent. To her staff, she doesn't stop at stepping on toes; she brings her high heel down on the jugulars. In an early staff-wide email, she says that for the rest of the day, lunches will be held in the classrooms, despite the inconvenience to teachers. Oh, and by the way, she will be off campus having lunch at the Olive Garden.

The book is full of emails like that, with Marsh walking all over teachers' rights but then announcing that she is exempt. While reading them, I thought that's just so extreme, and yet it's not implausible at all! In one of my favorite examples, and energetic young activist teacher has sent out an email asking for support at a Saturday Obama rally. Principal Marsh replies with a message stating two facts: one, politics most definitely have no business at school, and two, emails of a personal nature will be cause for referral and loss of laptop. Turn the page and we find another email from Marsh, informing the entire staff that her daughter's Adventure Troop is selling popcorn which can be ordered in the main office. She ends her email with "PS -- God bless John McCain and the Republican Party."

In between the absurd emails from the principal, there are emails from teachers commenting on the working conditions, short poems that are wonderful, and bursts of narration that set the stage for the endgame.

This book will not have you rolling on the floor in stitches, but it is funny in a different way. I read almost the entire story with a bemused smile, shaking my head, thinking, "That is just spot on."

At the very end of the book, the story turns tragic. This is no spoiler, as it states this fact right on the back cover. By the time the tragedy unfolds, the author has done a great job of making you feel for and genuinely LIKE the handful of characters that may or may not be involved in the final act.

Kudos to Hopeful But Frustrated Teacher for a job well done. Here's hoping that her own principal in real life is not QUITE the monster that Angela Marsh is.


Ricochet said...

Well, I ordered it - sounds like one of my previous principals.

Ricochet said...

OK, I read it. I swear I have taught at that school - except out AP gave candy instead of cookies (p 106) when students were sent to the office.

Very amusing!! Except for the part that read like my life!

Cheryl said...

I didn't know you read this book John. HBF is touring again in August and I would like to highlight this review on August 4th for the tour.

Thanks for the great review! Having read the book, I think you're also spot on in your review.


HBF Teacher said...

Thanks for hosting me again. I love coming here. Teachers report tomorrow at my school so hopefully I'll have some positive things to write about really soon. Wishing you continued success with Learn Me Good.