Teaching in the Terrordome: Two Years in West Baltimore with Teach for America

Heather Kirn Lanier. Univ. of Missouri, $19.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-8262-1986-2
Chronicling her two years spent teaching ninth-grade English in a tough Baltimore public school, Lanier’s memoir is both an occasionally incisive, firsthand look at the problems facing the U.S. education system, and an awkwardly written piece of literature. A member of the Teach for America program, 22-year-old Lanier was assigned to the Charm City’s infamous, and now shuttered, Southwestern High School. She chronicles her initiation into a school where students roam the hallways drinking and smoking, and many students are several grades behind in their development. Lanier cogently chronicles the failures of an administration more concerned with meeting state standards than teaching students, and the difficulty of finding common ground with students from a vastly different background. Lanier incorporates some horn-tooting into the narrative. and as she takes us inside the classroom—and outside when she interacts with her co-workers—she too often fails to adequately bring to life the scene and the people. She throws many names at reader, but none of them really register as people, despite her ill-advised attempts to capture urban speech patterns and to enliven her writing with literary flourishes. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/10/2012
Release date: 10/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
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