Confessions of a Bad Teacher: The Shocking Truth from the Front Lines of American Public Education

John Owens. Sourcebooks, $13.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-4022-8100-6
Owens took quite a pay cut when, determined to make a difference in the lives of children, he left a high-level publishing job to teach English at a public school in New York’s South Bronx. His dreams were quickly dashed after he began working at “Latinate,” his fictional name for the school. He was shocked to discover a cultural climate focused on appearances rather than lasting results, instead of an infrastructure designed to support and encourage learning. He expected distracted and disruptive students, but found that there was little to no backup from the rest of the school when it came to discipline. He also wasn’t prepared for an insane principal more obsessed with spreadsheets than students, in addition to racially biased tests and the public school system’s notorious lack of funding. Admirably, Owens portrays himself as an enthusiastic teacher with good intentions rather than a martyr—no small feat given the subject matter. His inclusion of case studies in the form of anecdotes from other public school teacher furthers his argument. To say that Owens’s book makes for a disheartening read is an understatement (though some of the villains get their due in the epilogue), but it will be useful for anyone considering a teaching career. Agent: Nena Madonia, Dupree/Miller & Associates. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/27/2013
Release date: 08/01/2013
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