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Up the Down Staircase
     

Up the Down Staircase

4.5 13
by Bel Kaufman
 

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For every teacher fighting to make a difference—the timeless bestseller about the hope, heartache, and hilarity of working in the public school system.

When Sylvia Barrett arrives at New York City’s Calvin Coolidge High, she’s fresh from earning literature degrees at Hunter College and eager to shape young minds. Instead, she

Overview

For every teacher fighting to make a difference—the timeless bestseller about the hope, heartache, and hilarity of working in the public school system.

When Sylvia Barrett arrives at New York City’s Calvin Coolidge High, she’s fresh from earning literature degrees at Hunter College and eager to shape young minds. Instead, she encounters broken windows, a lack of supplies, a stifling bureaucracy, and students with no interest in Chaucer. Narrated in “an almost presciently postmodern style” through interoffice memos, notes and doodles, lesson plans, suggestion-box insults, letters, and other dispatches from the front lines, Up the Down Staircase stands as the seminal novel of a beleaguered American public school system perpetually redeemed by teachers who love to teach and students who long to be recognized (The New Yorker).
 
Hailed as “the funniest book written in America since Catch-22,Up the Down Staircase spent over a year on the New York Times bestseller list, has been adapted for the stage, and was made into an award-winning feature film starring Sandy Dennis (New York Herald Tribune). It remains an essential and highly enjoyable read that will leave you laughing and shaking your head at the same time.
 
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Bel Kaufman including photos from the author’s personal collection.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Up the Down Staircase . . . should be read by anyone interested in children or education.” —The New York Times

“Easily the most popular novel about U.S. public schools in history.” —Time

“The most excellent and useful portrait of a[n] . . . American teacher’s life that we are likely to have for a long time.” —Life

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781453256046
Publisher:
Open Road Media
Publication date:
09/18/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
33,425
File size:
20 MB
Note:
This product may take a few minutes to download.

Read an Excerpt

Up the Down Staircase


By Bel Kaufman

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 2012 Bel Kaufman
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-5604-6



CHAPTER 1

Hi, teach!

Looka her! She's a teacher?

Who she?

Is this 304? Are you Mr. Barringer?

No. I'm Miss Barrett.

I'm supposed to have Mr. Barringer.

I'm Miss Barrett.

You the teacher? You so young.

Hey she's cute! Hey, teach, can I be in your class?

Please don't block the doorway. Please come in.

Good afternoon, Miss Barnet.

Miss Barrett. My name is on the blackboard. Good morning.

O, no! A dame for homeroom?

You want I should slug him, teach?

Is this homeroom period?

Yes. Sit down, please.

I don't belong here.

We gonna have you all term? Are you a regular or a sub?

There's not enough chairs!

Take any seat at all.

Hey, where do we sit?

Is this 309?

Someone swiped the pass. Can I have a pass?

What's your name?

My name is on the board.

I can't read your writing.

I gotta go to the nurse. I'm dying.

Don't believe him, teach. He ain't dying!

Can I sharpen my pencil in the office?

Why don't you leave the teacher alone, you bums?

Can we sit on the radiator? That's what we did last term.

Hi, teach! You the homeroom?

Pipe down, you morons! Don't you see the teacher's trying to say something?

Please sit down. I'd like to– –

Hey, the bell just rung!

How come Mrs. Singer's not here? She was in this room last term.

When do we go home?

The first day of school, he wants to go home already!

That bell is your signal to come to order. Will you please– –

Can I have a pass to a drink of water?

You want me to alphabetize for you?

What room is this?

This is room 304. My name is on the board: Miss Barrett. I'll have you for homeroom all term, and I hope to meet some of you in my English classes. Now, someone once said that first impressions– –

English! No wonder!

Who needs it?

You give homework?

First impressions, they say, are lasting. What do we base our first– –Yes? Do you belong in this class?

No. Mr. McHabe wants Ferone right away.

Who?

McHabe.

Whom does he want?

Joe Ferone.

Is Joe Ferone here?

Him? That's a laugh!

He'll show up when he feels like it.

Put down that window-pole, please. We all know that first impressions– –Yes?

Is this 304?

Yes. You're late.

I'm not late. I'm absent.

You are?

I was absent all last term.

Well–sit down.

I can't. I'm dropping out. You're supposed to sign my Book Clearance from last term.

Do you owe any books?

I'm not on the Blacklist! That's a yellow slip. This here is a green!

Hey, isn't the pass back yet?

Quit your shoving!

He started it, teach!

I'd like you to come to order, please. I'm afraid we won't have time for the discussion on first impressions I had planned. I'm passing out– –

Hey, she's passing out!

Give her air!

– –Delaney cards. You are to fill them out at once while I take attendance from the Roll Book. Standees–line up in back of the room; you may lean on the wall to write. Print, in ink, your last name first, your parent's name, your date of birth, your address, my name– it's on the board–and the same upside down. I'll make out a seating plan in the Delaney Book. Any questions?

In ink or pencil?

I got no ink–can I use pencil? Who's got a pencil to loan me?

I don't remember when I was born.

Don't mind him–he's a comic.

Print or write?

When do we go to lunch?

I can't write upside down!

Ha-ha. He kills me laughing!

What do you need my address for? My father can't come.

Someone robbed my ball-point!

I can't do it–I lost my glasses.

Are these going to be our regular seats–the radiator?

I don't know my address–we're moving.

Where are you moving?

I don't know where.

Where do you live?

I don't live no place.

Any place. You, young man, why are you late?

I'm not even here. I'm in Mr. Loomis. My uncle's in this class. He forgot his lunch. Hi, Tony–catch!

Please don't throw– –Yes, what is it?

This Mrs. Singer's room?

Yes. No. Not anymore.

Anyone find a sneaker from last term?

Hey, teach, can we use a pencil?

You want these filled out now?

There's chewing gum on my seat!

First name last or last name first?

I gotta have a pass to the Men's Room. I know my rights; this is a democracy, ain't it?

Isn't. What's the trouble now?

There's glass all over my desk from the window.

Please don't do that. Don't touch that broken window. It should be reported to the custodian. Does anyone– –

I'll go!

Me! Let me go! That's Mr. Grayson–I know where he is in the basement!

All right. Tell him it's urgent. And who are you?

I'm sorry I'm late. I was in Detention.

The what?

The Late Room. Where they make you sit to make up your lateness when you come late.

All right, sit down. I mean, stand up–over there, against the wall.

For parent's name, can I use my aunt?

Put down your mother's name.

I got no mother.

Well–do the best you can. Yes, young lady?

The office sent me. Read this to your class and sign here.

May I have your attention, please. Please, class! There's been a change in today's assembly schedule. Listen carefully:


PLEASE IGNORE PREVIOUS INSTRUCTIONS IN CIRCULAR #3, PARAGRAPHS 5 AND 6, AND FOLLOW THE FOLLOWING:


THIS MORNING THERE WILL BE A LONG HOMEROOM PERIOD EXTENDING INTO THE FIRST HALF OF THE SECOND PERIOD. ALL X2 SECTIONS ARE TO REPORT TO ASSEMBLY THE SECOND HALF OF THE SECOND PERIOD. FIRST PERIOD CLASSES WILL BEGIN THE FOURTH PERIOD, SECOND PERIOD CLASSES WILL BEGIN THE FIFTH PERIOD, THIRD PERIOD CLASSES WILL BEGIN THE SIXTH PERIOD, AND SO ON, SUBJECT CLASSES BEING SHORTENED TO 23 MINUTES IN LENGTH, EXCEPT LUNCH, WHICH WILL BE NORMAL.


I can't hear you–what did you say?

They're drilling on the street!

Close the window.

I can't–I'll suffocate!

This a long homeroom?

What's today's date?

It's September, stupid!

Your attention, please. I'm not finished:


SINCE IT IS DIFFICULT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE SEATING SPACE FOR ALL STUDENTS UNDER EXISTING FACILITIES, THE OVERFLOW IS TO STAND IN THE AISLES UNTIL THE SALUTE TO THE FLAG AND THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER ARE COMPLETED, AFTER WHICH THE OVERFLOW MAY NOT REMAIN STANDING IN THE AISLES UNLESS SO DIRECTED FROM THE PLATFORM. THIS IS A FIRE LAW. DR. CLARKE WILL EXTEND A WARM WELCOME TO ALL NEW STUDENTS; HIS TOPIC WILL BE "OUR CULTURAL HERITAGE." ANY STUDENT FOUND TALKING OR EATING LUNCH IN ASSEMBLY IS TO BE REPORTED AT ONCE TO MR. McHABE.


Water! I gotta have water! My throat is parching!

He thinks he's funny!

May I have your attention?

No!

TOMORROW ALL Y2 SECTIONS WILL FOLLOW TODAY'S PROGRAM FOR X2 SECTIONS WHILE ALL X2 SECTIONS WILL FOLLOW TODAY'S PROGRAM FOR Y2 SECTIONS.


Where do we go?

What period is this?

The two boys in the back–stop throwing that board eraser. Please come to order; there's more:

Is this assembly day?

BE SURE TO USE THE ROWS ASSIGNED TO YOU: THERE IS TO BE NO SUBSTITUTION.

Excuse me, I'm from Guidance. Miss Friedenberg wants Joe Ferone right away.

He isn't here. Will you pass your Delaney cards down, please, while I– –

I didn't start yet! I'm waiting for the pen.

How do you spell your name?

Hey, he threw the board eraser out the window!

Will you please– –

Here's my admit. He says I was loitering.

Who?

McHabe.

Mr. McHabe.

Either way.

Now class, please finish your Delaney cards while I call the roll.

I didn't finish!

I never got no Delaney!

Any. Yes?

Mr. Manheim next door wants to borrow your board eraser.

I'm afraid it's gone. Please, class– –

You give extra credit for alphabetizing?

We go to assembly today?

You want me to go down for the stuff from your letter-box, Miss Barnet?

All right. Now we'll just have to– –

I can't write–I got a bum hand.

You gonna be our teacher?

Please come to order while I take attendance. And correct me if I mispronounce your name; I know how annoying that can be. I hope to get to know all of you soon. Abrams, Harry?

Here.

Quiet, please, so I can hear you. Allen, Frank?

Absent.

Absent?

He ain't here.

Isn't. Amdur, Janet?

Here.

Mr. Grayson says there's no one down there.

How can he say that when he's there?

That's what he says. Any answer?

No. Amdur, Janet?

I was here already.

Arbuzzi, Vincent? Yes, what do I have to sign now?

Nothing. I came back from the bathroom.

Can I have the pass?

Me, I'm next!

I said it first!

Blake, Alice?

I'm present, Miss Barrett.

Blanca, Carmelita?

Carole. I changed my name.

Blanca, Carole?

Here.

Borden– –Yes?

Miss Finch wants you to make this out right away.

I'm in the middle of taking attendance. Borden– –

She needs it right away.

Excuse me, class.

IN THE TWO COLUMNS LABELED MALE AND FEMALE, INDICATE THE NUMBER OF STUDENTS IN YOUR HOMEROOM SECTION BORN BETWEEN THE FOLLOWING DATES–


Please don't tilt that chair– –Boy in the back–I'm talking to you– –Oh!

So I fell. Big deal. Stop laughing, you bums, or I'll knock your brains out!

Are you hurt?

Naw, just my head.

You've got to make out an accident report, Miss Barrett, three copies, and send him to the nurse.

Aw, she ain't even allowed to give out aspirins. Only tea.

Get your feet offa me!

You call this a chair?

He can sue the whole Board of Education!

Perhaps you'd better go to the nurse. And ask her for the accident report blanks. Yes, what can I do for you?

Miss Friedenberg wants last term's Service Credit cards.

I wasn't here last term. And what do you want?

Miss Finch is waiting for the attendance reports and absentee cards.

I'm in the middle of– –Yes?

The office wants to know are the transportation cards ready?

The what cards?

Bus and subway.

No. Yes?

You're supposed to read this to the class. It's from the liberry.

Library. May I have your attention, please?


THE SCHOOL LIBRARY IS YOUR LIBRARY. ALL STUDENTS ARE ENCOURAGED TO USE IT AT ALL TIMES.

STUDENTS ON THE LIBRARY BLACKLIST ARE NOT TO RECEIVE THEIR PROGRAM CARDS UNTIL THEY HAVE PAID FOR LOST OR MUTILATED BOOKS.


THE LIBRARY WILL BE CLOSED TO STUDENTS UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE TO ENABLE TEACHERS TO USE IT AS A WORKROOM FOR THEIR PRC ENTRIES.


Yes, who sent you here?

You did. Here's the stuff from your letter-box. Where do I dump it?

Is that all for me?

Excuse me, the nurse says she's all out of accident reports, but she wants the missing dentals.

The missing what?

Dental notes.

I see. And what is it you want?

New change in assembly program. Your class goes to different rows. X2 schedule rows.

I see. And you?

Mr. McHabe says do you need any posters for your room decoration?

Tell Mr. McHabe what I really need is– –Yes?

The office wants the list of locker numbers for each student.

I haven't even– –Yes?

This is urgent. You're supposed to read and sign.


TO ALL TEACHERS: A BLUE PONTIAC PARKED IN FRONT OF SCHOOL HAS BEEN OVERTURNED BY SOME STUDENTS. IF THE FOLLOWING LICENSE IS YOURS–


Tell Mr. McHabe I don't drive. Now, class– –

Hurray! Saved by the bell!

Just a minute–the bell seems to be fifteen minutes early. It may be a mistake. We have so much to– –Please remain in your– –

That's the bell! You heard it!

All the other teachers are letting them out!

But we must finish the– –

When the bell rings, we're supposed to go!

Where do we go, assembly?

Please sit down. I'd like to– –We haven't– –Well. It looks as if you and I are the only ones left. Your name is– –?

Alice Blake, Miss Barrett. I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed your lesson.

Thank you, but it wasn't really a– –Yes, young lady?

I'm from the office. She says to announce this to your class right away.


PLEASE DISREGARD THE BELLS. STUDENTS ARE TO REMAIN IN THEIR HOMEROOMS UNTIL THE WARNING BELL RINGS.


I'm afraid they've all gone.

I've got to go too, Miss Barrett. I wish I had you for English, but my program says Mr. Barringer.

I'm sure he's a fine teacher, Alice, and that you'll do well with him.

You Barrett?

What's that, young man?

Late pass.

That's no way to hand it to me. Throwing it like that on my desk– –

My aim is bad.

There's no need for insolence. Please take that toothpick out of your mouth when you talk to me. And take your hands out of your pockets.

Which first?

What's your name?

You gonna report me?

What's your name?

You gonna give me a zero?

I'm afraid I've had just about– –What's your name?

Joe.

Joe what?

Ferone. You gonna send a letter home? Take away my lollipop? Lecture me? Spank me?

All I asked– –

Yeah. All you asked.

I don't allow anyone to talk to me like that.

So you're lucky–you're a teacher!

CHAPTER 2

INTRASCHOOL COMMUNICATION


FROM: Mrs. Beatrice Schachter, Room 508

TO: Miss Sylvia Barrett, Room 304


Dear Syl–


Welcome to the fold! I hope it goes well with you on this, your first day. If you need help, just holler; I'm in 508.

What's your program? Can we synchronize our lunch periods?

Fondly,

Bea

* * *

INTRASCHOOL COMMUNICATION


FROM: Miss Sylvia Barrett, Room 304

TO: Mrs. Beatrice Schachter, Room 508


Dear Bea–

Help!

I'm buried beneath an avalanche of papers, I don't understand the language of the country, and what do I do about a kid who calls me "Hi, teach!"?

Syl

* * *

INTRASCHOOL COMMUNICATION


FROM: Room 508

TO: Room 304


Nothing. Maybe he calls you Hi, teach! because he likes you. Why not answer Hi, pupe?

The clerical work is par for the course. "Keep on file in numerical order" means throw in wastebasket. You'll soon learn the language. "Let it be a challenge to you" means you're stuck with it; "interpersonal relationships" is a fight between kids; "ancillary civic agencies for supportive discipline" means call the cops; "Language Arts Dept." is the English office; "literature based on child's reading level and experiential background" means that's all they've got in the Book Room; "non-academic-minded" is a delinquent; and "It has come to my attention" means you're in trouble.

Did you get anything done in homeroom today?

Bea


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman. Copyright © 2012 Bel Kaufman. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
Up the Down Staircase . . . should be read by anyone interested in children or education.” —The New York Times
“Easily the most popular novel about U.S. public schools in history.” —Time
“The most excellent and useful portrait of a[n] . . . American teacher’s life that we are likely to have for a long time.” —Life

Meet the Author

Bel Kaufman (1911–2014) was a bestselling writer, dedicated teacher, and lecturer best known for her novel Up the Down Staircase (1965), a classic portrayal of life in the New York public school system. Kaufman was born in Berlin, the daughter of Russian parents and granddaughter of celebrated Yiddish writer Sholom Aleichem. Her family moved to Odessa when she was three, and Russian is her native language. The family also lived in Moscow before immigrating to New York City when Kaufman was twelve. There, she graduated magna cum laude from Hunter College and with high honors from Columbia University. Kaufman then worked as a high school teacher in the city for three decades. The success of Up the Down Staircase launched her second career as a sought-after speaker for events around the country. Kaufman is also the author of Love, Etc. (1979), a powerful, haunting, and poignant novel rendering life as fiction.

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Up the down Staircase 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i read this book only because every time i passed by it the jacket called out to me, i began reading it and couldn't put it down. it gave me compassion were the had only been contempt for teachers. definatly a good read for any one who was a student. i also really enjoy the style it was written in. a very funny piece.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this book is great because we students always complain about the work that teachers give us and I think this book is good because it shows how much work(and problems) we give teachers.
popeyeswench More than 1 year ago
Through a series of written documents including memos from the principal, comments from a suggestion box, letters to an old friend, notes from students, this story unfolds to show the ludicrous road blocks teacher must navigate to reach their students. This unique literary method makes this book a real pleasure to read.
TopShelfNook More than 1 year ago
I read this book some 25 years ago while in high school and thoroughly enjoyed it from the students' perspective. I jumped out of my seat when I saw that it was available on ebook. Bought it immediately! It made me laugh all over but now from the perspective of a teacher. Yes, it emphasizes the craziness. But it so tacitly emphasizes the little things that lassos a teacher's heart to her classroom. This is a perfect summer read (or re-read!)
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
Last fall, I saw that one of the books that I loved as a high school student, Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman, was being reissued as an ebook. I can vividly remember reading the slim book, a fictionalized account of Kaufman's experiences teaching in the New York City schools system in the 1950s and 60s. The book became a movie starring Sandy Dennis, and I loved that too. Although at times it paints a very bleak portrait of NYC public schools, what shines through is the main character Miss Sylvia Barringer's love of teaching and her students. This book was responsible for many young women choosing teaching as a career. The book covers Miss Barringer's first year teaching in a poor city high school. Most of the students came from poverty stricken families, and had so many other problems at home that school was either a refuge for them or a place they went to until they dropped out to get a job to help support their families. Miss Barringer is baffled by the students' actions and the ridiculous clerical work required from the administration. She quickly learns the language:"Keep on file in numerical order" means throw it in the wastebasket. "Let it be a challenge to you" means that you're stuck with it; "interpersonal relationships" is a fight between kids; "ancillary civic agencies for supportive discipline" means call the cops. "Non-academic minded" is a delinquent and "it has come to my attention" means you're in trouble.She makes friends with an older teacher, Bea, who shows her the ropes and encourages Sylvia to hang in there and try to reach her students. (I think the author is a combination of Bea and Sylvia.) She puts a suggestion box in her classroom and she shares many of the notes that her students leave there. The notes are funny, profane, and sometimes heartbreaking. We meet many of the students through them, including Edward Williams, who deigns to be class president and tries to impress Miss Barringer with his knowledge. Joey Ferrone is a tough guy, the one kid Barringer really wants to reach. She believes he hides his intelligence behind his rough exterior, and they have one interaction that is filled with tension. The book started out as a magazine article containing many of the real student notes that Kaufman kept from her teaching days. The magazine liked it so much, it became a full-fledged novel. I thought that in reading this book, it might feel dated to me, but it did not, and I'm not sure how that makes me feel. Schools are still filled with bureaucratic nonsense, and students in poor schools still get the short end of the stick. It makes me sad that in some ways we haven't come very far. After we saw the heroic teachers in Newtown who gave their lives to save their students, it is the right time to read or re-read Up the Down Staircase. It's good to be reminded of the many people who believe in the importance of teaching our children, and the challenges they face as they do it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Funny look at communication within a school. Many of the issues facing Sylvia are present in schools today. Similar student responses and administrative memos could be found in today's school. Fun look at the inside of a school.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I reccomend this book 100% to anyone. It has a very intersting plot and some very well developed characters. Excellent story for anyone to read.
smg5775 3 months ago
Classic story of a first year teacher in the NYC school district in the 1960's. It tells of her ups and downs, successes and failures. It is relatable even if you are not a teacher. The absurdity of the bureaucracy is very believable. It is a wonder the students learn anything with all the rules and regulations and disregard this memos that fly between teachers and administration. Sylvia Barrett made a difference to her students. I would like to know what happened to her, Joe Ferone, and Alice. The others seem to have made it out alive.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book I believe was written fabulously. I love the style of writing that Kaufman used. I liked the idea of not writing the conventional novel, but rather using inter-office memos, letters to friends, agendas from meetings, etc. I like to read to books, and then come away from them with a new idea or belief. This book has allowed me to do this. As an individual who is going into teaching, I think this book has helped to ground me in my decision somewhat. I recommend this book to all of my friends and colleagues.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Would be best enjoyed by teachers and those having to deal with lots of bureaucratic red tape. I certainly got the message after a few chapters. Didn't really need to read on and finish the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!