Opinion
Education Opinion

Man Overboard

September 29, 2006 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print
Man Overboard cover image

When Ric Klass closed his private equity firm in affluent Greenwich, Connecticut, to become a math teacher at an unnamed New York City school he refers to as Central Bronx High, he wanted to live the whole movie—the one in which an idealistic teacher triumphs over the odds to transform the dead-end lives of inner city kids. A week before he started teaching, he actually watched Blackboard Jungle; To Sir, With Love; and Stand and Deliver to pump himself up. And Klass did get his movie, but it wasn’t To Sir, With Love. It wasn’t even Goodbye, Mr. Chips. It was Armageddon.

Klass recounts his disheartening experiences with rueful, self-deprecatory humor—and an occasional mixed metaphor. (“In the air, I smell the beginning of a long series of bureaucratic obstacles to smooth sailing.”) His book, which takes the form of a diary, belongs to a popular and growing genre that also includes Brendan Halpin’s Losing My Faculties, Esmé Raji Codell’sEducating Esmé, and Elizabeth Gold’s Brief Intervals of Horrible Sanity. All these books chronicle what happens when a novice, “full of hope and other misconceptions,” discovers the yawning gap between the heroic-teacher movie playing in his or her head and the grim realities of teaching in an understaffed, overcrowded, impoverished urban school.

In Klass’ case, his students aren’t the eager and grateful learners he expected; they’re belligerent, disruptive, and shockingly unprepared for high school. They don’t know how many inches are in a foot or how many days are in a year. Their ignorance frightens and infuriates Klass.

But he’s better at depicting the problems at CBHS—incompetent administrators, burned-out teachers, missing parents—than at devising solutions. He himself cuts and runs at the end of the school year. That’s not an option open to everyone, especially the students, who are crippled by neglect and mired in failure. What’s just an entertaining war story for readers is a real war for them.

A version of this article appeared in the October 01, 2006 edition of Teacher Magazine as Man Overboard

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
Strategies for Incorporating SEL into Curriculum
Empower students to thrive. Learn how to integrate powerful social-emotional learning (SEL) strategies into the classroom.
Content provided by Be GLAD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Leadership in Education: Building Collaborative Teams and Driving Innovation
Learn strategies to build strong teams, foster innovation, & drive student success.
Content provided by Follett Learning
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Principals, Lead Stronger in the New School Year
Join this free virtual event for a deep dive on the skills and motivation you need to put your best foot forward in the new year.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: June 12, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: May 29, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: May 8, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: April 17, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read