Schools in the Trib

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This weekend's Chicago Tribune Books section was dedicated mostly to books on schools and the challenges of teaching. Here are the three reviews: 1, 2, 3.

An excerpt from the second review:

A half-hour away via subway, in the South Bronx, a 22-year-old with a famous writer's name, Dan Brown, graduated from New York University in 2003 and took a job teaching 4th grade in, "The worst class in the worst school in the worst neighborhood" in New York City. The school was P.S. 85-Great Expectations School, and many of Brown's students required individual attention for learning disabilities, language deficiencies and behavior issues. Despite his intelligence and good intentions, the sensitive Brown never had a chance. Two months into the job, he tells us in "The Great Expectations School," he found it had transformed him into an unsmiling, unstrung screamer:

"I lifted cackling Tayshaun Jackson's desk above my head and wham! smashed it to the floor. 'SHUT YOUR MOUTHS!' My voice shook with convulsive intensity. The room went dead silent and motionless at my paroxysm, like a record scratching to a halt in some terrible game of Freezedance."

The school, which "looks like a prison," demanded that Brown prepare his 9-year-olds for systemwide tests that would help determine the school's funding. Teaching a history lesson, he discovered his students didn't understand that George Washington, having led the Revolutionary Army in 1776, must now be dead:

"I explained that very few people live to be a hundred. When only Sonandia and Seresa could tell me that 1904 was one hundred years before our current 2004, I realized . . . that these kids did not understand elapsed time, be it in minutes or decades. As a litmus test, I asked what time it would be sixty minutes from now. No hands. What time will it be sixty minutes from now. No hands. What time will it be one hour from now? Four volunteers. Thus, my hopes for in-depth, history-based lessons were banished to make way for my new, deceptively simple-seeming campaign for 'Time.'"

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Wow, even with learning disabilities, I find it impressive that the students didn't know George Washington was dead... it must have been a shock for them to find out...


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This page contains a single entry by Papa-Lu published on November 5, 2007 10:10 PM.

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