BRIEF INTERVALS OF HORRIBLE SANITY: One Season in a Progressive School

Elizabeth Gold, Author . Putnam/Tarcher $24.95 (328p) ISBN 978-1-58542-244-9

When New York City poet Gold arrives at the School for the New Millennium in Jackson Heights, Queens, in February, she's the fourth English teacher her ninth-grade classes have had since the beginning of the school year. The school, meant to be an alternative to the city's overcrowded, underperforming schools, claims to develop "New York City's leaders of the future" and employs the philosophy that in a small school (with only 500 students), "students and teachers get to know each other, work together, and love each other like a family." But, as Gold details in this tiresome, sketchy memoir, the philosophy falters when put into practice, and her students are unruly, angry, bored and not particularly lovable. Some ninth-graders read at a third-grade level; others are smart and capable, yet refuse to pay attention in class or complete homework. A few exceptions emerge (such as one boy who discovers writing and the public library), and Gold receives heroic help from the school's dedicated, supportive humanities teaching staff. Yet the author never gains control of her classroom, one she says she "grew to hate," and though she convincingly describes the anguish of that defeat, her narrative lacks the depth and cohesiveness to make the book compelling or enjoyable. In the end, Gold's afterword sums up what readers have known all along: "I learned what I knew already: I wasn't born to be a high-school teacher," she writes. "I learned that being a teacher is tough.... I had no idea how tough it could be." Agent, Henry Dunow. (Sept. 15)

Reviewed on: 08/04/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 328 pages - 978-1-58542-377-4
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