cover image The Teachers: A Year Inside America’s Most Valuable, Important Profession

The Teachers: A Year Inside America’s Most Valuable, Important Profession

Alexandra Robbins. Dutton, $29 (384p) ISBN 978-1-101-98675-2

Journalist and substitute teacher Robbins (The Nurses) offers a poignant, behind-the-scenes exploration of America’s public schools focused on three teachers in different regions of the country. Miguel, a middle-school special education teacher in the West, advocates for his students against a hostile school board. Penny, a sixth-grade math teacher, navigates a toxic culture of teacher cliques in the South, while Rebecca, an East Coast elementary school educator, struggles to find time for a life outside of school. Robbins vividly chronicles their challenges, successes, and motivations, showing how Covid-19 “further exposed the nation’s shameful treatment of teachers” when short-staffed school districts ordered underpaid educators to give up their lunch and planning periods to take on extra students and duties. Interspersed with the profiles are incisive essays—based on interviews with hundreds of other educators—on such topics as parental aggression, high stakes testing, inadequate support staff, and school violence. Robbins provides eye-opening statistics (94% of public school teachers spend their own money on supplies; 44% of new teachers leave the field within the first five years) and commonsense solutions (better pay, more staffing). This deeply researched and impressive study brings home the fact that America underinvests in the education of its children—and that teachers step in to fill the gaps. Agent: Gail Ross, Ross Yoon Agency. (Mar.)