According to Ilana Garon, popular books and movies are inundated with the myth of the “hero teacher”—the one who charges headfirst into dysfunctional inner city schools like a firefighter into an inferno, bringing the student victims to safety through a combination of charisma and innate righteousness. The students are then “saved” by the teacher’s idealism, empathy, and willingness to put faith in kids who have been given up on by society as a whole.“Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens?” is not that type of book.
In this book, Garon reveals the sometimes humorous, oftentimes frustrating, and occasionally horrifying truths that accompany the experience of teaching at a public high school in the Bronx today. The overcrowded classrooms, lack of textbooks, and abundance of mice, cockroaches, and drugs weren’t the only challenges Garon faced during her first four years as a teacher. Every day, she’d interact with students such as Kayron, Carlos, Felicia, Jonah, Elizabeth, and Tonya—students dealing with real-life addictions, miscarriages, stints in “juvie,” abusive relationships, turf wars, and gang violence. These students also brought with them big dreams and uncommon insight—and challenged everything Garon thought she knew about education.
In response, Garon—a naive, suburban girl with a curly ponytail, freckles, and Harry Potter glasses—opened her eyes, rolled up her sleeves, and learned to distinguish between mitigated failure and qualified success. In this book, Garon explains how she learned that being a new teacher was about trial by fire, making mistakes, learning from the very students she was teaching, and occasionally admitting that she may not have answers to their thought-provoking (and amusing) questions.
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About the Author
Ilana Garon is an English teacher at a public high school in the Bronx, New York, and holds master’s degrees in both secondary English education and fine arts. Throughout the past ten years, she has taught every level of high school English, from ESL to AP, and even math in emergency situations. She also writes about education issues for Dissent Magazine, Huffington Post, and Education Week. Ilana lives in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
"Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens?"
Teaching Lessons from the Bronx
By Ilana Garon
Skyhorse PublishingCopyright © 2013 Ilana Garon
All rights reserved.
How Many Lives Did Your Last Spreadsheet Change?
Eric Evans wasn't doing his work.
I had just given the twelfth-graders in my summer school class a writing assignment: "Have you ever done something that you regretted, or that made you feel guilty long afterwards? Discuss." We were reading John Knowles's A Separate Peace, and I kept thinking that if ever there were a book more disconnected from my inner-city students' lives than this tale of overprivileged youth at a thinly veiled fictionalization of Phillips Exeter, I had yet to see it. Or was it so disconnected? Couldn't themes of loss and guilt be relevant to even the most jaded, world-weary teens?
I hoped maybe they could. Otherwise, my lesson would be shot to hell.
But looking over at Eric, I knew I was in trouble. His paper was blank and his pen lay on his desk untouched. He was making exaggerated yawning and stretching noises, reclining his seat back against the lockers in the rear of the classroom. His classmates, looking up from their own work, had already noticed that he was not doing the assignment. I knew that in a moment his influence would cause me to lose my hold over them as well.
I came over to him. "Come on, Eric," I said. "Just try—don't you have anything you want to write about?"
"Miss Garon," he said, grinning at me slyly, "I'm a tough inner-city kid. Are you going to 'reach me,' or what?"
* * *
Explorers High School stands four stories tall, all Cold War–era architecture with no adornment or decoration to define what is otherwise a plain, square pile of faded red bricks. There are rusting "fall-out shelter" signs on some sides of the building and bars on the windows. Generations of students have remarked, not incorrectly, that the place looks like a prison.
Explorers is flanked on two sides by housing projects, and on a third side by the gated, incongruously plantation-style campus of a school for the deaf. From seven to ten every morning, a metal detector and a scanner are placed at each of the school's four main entrances, along with a slew of security guards with walkie-talkies. On particularly slow days, the gender-separated lines for "scanning" stretch around the corners of the school.
For my first four years and a summer, I took the 2 train from the Ninety-Sixth Street station in Manhattan all the way up to the northeast Bronx to get to Explorers. The trip lasted close to an hour door to door, and that was on a good day, when the train didn't become stuck (as it did, all too often) for twenty minutes in between 149th Street Grand Concourse and Third Avenue. On those days, I would find myself sprinting the half-mile from the subway station to the school, my backpack thumping against my back. If I were late enough, I'd figure "What the hell?" and stop to buy a sixty-cent coffee at one of the bodegas along the way. Then I would come up the steps to the school, past the metal detectors and the line of students who looked as though they were at the airport, patiently holding the belts and sneakers that they had taken off to speed up the scanning process.
* * *
It was an ad on a subway train that first gave me the idea to become a teacher. In March of 2003, my senior year of college, I was riding along listening to my MP3 player when I looked up and saw an advertisement for New York City Teaching Fellows—a black background with stark white lettering: "How many lives did your last spreadsheet change?"
The Teaching Fellows program seemed like a good deal. It would pay for me to get a master's degree in education (I only later found out that due to budget cuts relating to the Iraq war I would have to pony up half the cash); I would receive a full teacher's salary; and I would get to teach in a tough school where I could "make a difference."
The job seemed like a challenge, and that was what I was looking for. I liked kids—all my token transcript-building projects in high school and college had involved tutoring students in my upper-middle–class suburban community in everything from swimming to bar mitzvah preparation to arts and crafts. At Barnard, I had majored in English and psychology. I even had a couple years of counseling experience on a university crisis and suicide hotline; I thought this might prove useful working with high-needs kids, who I imagined would have a slew of emotional problems they would want to discuss with me during cozy heart-to-hearts after class.
Plus, my college graduation was two months away and I had no other plans.
I applied to the Fellows program, hoping to be assigned to teach high school English. I had spent so much time dawdling that by the time I heard that I had been granted an interview, in early May, the last round of the application process was drawing to a close. The program was trying to fill all its available spots as soon as possible. I had to prepare a demonstration lesson for the interview. I "taught" my favorite Wordsworth poem, "My Heart Leaps Up." I had always liked the line "The child is father of the man"—it seemed somehow appropriate for someone embarking on a career working with children. I ran over the allotted five minutes, got flustered, and started rambling about a hypothetical quiz that I would give were I teaching a real course instead of a mock lesson. Afterward I sat down, red-faced with embarrassment. I didn't feel that I had done very well. But due to the sheer force of my enthusiasm for Wordsworth, or more likely out of the hiring committee's desperation to fill the staggering number of teacher vacancies in the system, I was accepted to the Teaching Fellows program two days after my twenty-second birthday.
* * *
I interviewed at Explorers, a public high school of 4,700 students, at the beginning of our summer training. Due to subway block-ups, I arrived half an hour late for my interview. I ran into the English department office, which contained a small anteroom, at the end of which the assistant principal sat behind a Plexiglas wall. Of course, I was flustered and apologizing left and right. But the head of the English department seemed too immersed in the charts on his computer screen to care. He swiveled his chair toward me, asking in an almost bored tone of voice, "So, what are your views on education?"
I am not certain what he expected me to say, since I was fresh out of college and had never officially taught anything. But whatever I told him must have been what he wanted to hear. "Well," he said, after a few minutes, "the principal of the school is out today, but I'd basically like to 'sign you' now."
"Sign you"—it sounded like I was a basketball star. "Can I think about it for a couple of days?" I asked.
"Well, I don't think that's a very good idea, because we're trying to fill our spots pretty quickly so that we don't run short. You probably won't have a position if you wait much longer...."
I was flattered that someone was so interested in hiring me that they'd push me into a contract on the spot. I signed.
* * *
Teaching Fellows summer training involved a combination of classes, observations, and supervised student teaching. Mrs. Walker, my cooperating teacher, was in her last summer before retirement. She was about five feet, five inches tall and slender, with smooth, almost black skin and a seemingly infinite wardrobe of elegant summer dresses. She couldn't have been older than fifty, but her approach to education was traditional, tough-love. "Everyone's too concerned with making things fun for them," she said, with just a trace of a Haitian accent in her otherwise impeccable English. She pronounced the word "fun" as though she'd been forced to swallow detergent. "And that's stupid—they just need to sit still and do the work, whether they like it or not!"
Mrs. Walker cut an imposing figure, despite her small size. Looking back, I admire her ferocity. She was a tough grader. Very tough. During my first week assisting her that summer, one of the brightest students in the class got a 72 on a test. "Miss, a 72? Why'd I get that?" Then he paused and said, "Wait ... but that's good, coming from you, isn't it? Never mind." He sat down, looking defeated.
Another time, a student didn't answer when I took attendance because he wasn't paying attention. "Just mark him absent," Mrs. Walker snorted. Then later she said, "Did you mark him absent? Good!" The student was sitting right there. Her teaching methods motivated the students to write, in an essay on the theme of responsibility in John Knowles's A Separate Peace, that the character Gene should be forced to sit through Mrs. Walker's English class as a punishment for pushing his best friend Phinneas out of a tree. I laughed out loud when I read that, and then exhorted them to hurry and write something else before Mrs. Walker caught on.
The summer school class contained incoming and repeating twelfth-graders. Some were nearly my age, having missed years of school due to pregnancy, immigration, multiple academic failures, or parental illness. Most were only a few credits shy of graduating. They needed this class badly enough to come to an un-air-conditioned, graffiti-tagged classroom with undersized, wobbly desks. When the windows were open, which they had to be in June and July, they let in the smell of garbage rotting in the heat of the Bronx summer.
"Why are you guys here?" I asked on the first day Mrs. Walker let me teach a lesson on my own. I was hoping to inspire some revelation about the value of education and perseverance.
"Because second-period English was too early," said one of the football players whose knees stretched out three feet in front of him. Scattered giggles came from the back of the classroom.
A pudgy kid by the name of William Williams, whose hair was in neat cornrows, lifted his head up from the desk and said, "Like my momma said—'cause I fucked up." Then he put his head back down on the desk.
That's one way of putting it, I thought. But I said to the kids, "Can anyone tell me what makes the people sitting here in summer school different from their peers, who also flunked English, but are hanging around on the block instead?"
"We're stupider?" one girl replied.
This line of questioning wasn't going where I had intended.
"Has anyone read any good books lately?" I asked.
They all cracked up laughing.
"You mean over the summer?"
A small, shy girl named Hazel, with light brown ringlets and delicate bone structure, raised her hand. "Miss, I read a book," she said tentatively.
"Great! What was it about?"
"Well, it's about how not to get pregnant, and how to deal with smooth players who have lots of money."
"That sounds informative. Anyone else?"
"I read Sports Illustrated," offered a tall, amiable-looking kid named Alcides, sitting near the front.
No other students raised their hands.
"Well, okay, what do you guys do in the afternoons, when you go home?" I asked.
One of the students in the back, a hulking boy named Igor who had a perpetual grimace (and, I would later learn, was the head of the local Albanian gang) deadpanned, "I smoke a fat blunt."
The students around him laughed. I stared, disbelieving.
I told them to take out a piece of paper and write a paragraph explaining their motivation for coming to summer school. "Motivation is why you'd want to do something," I told them.
"Yes, what's your name?"
"I can't concentrate."
"Because I keep lookin' at your pretty face, Miss."
I blushed, and muttered, "Come on, Kevin, do you work." It had not escaped any of these kids that I was only a couple of years older than they were.
* * *
"Okay, this poem by Robert Frost ... what's it about?" I asked them a couple of weeks later. I was teaching "Nothing Gold Can Stay," an eight-line poem about the impermanence of beauty. There was no response.
"Guys?" I tried again. Still nothing. They were all sleeping, doodling, or staring out the window. It was Monday. They'd obviously had a long weekend.
So I did what Mrs. Walker always did in these situations—told them to take out a piece of paper and write an essay. Eric Evans, a tall black kid who would take his contraband do-rag off whenever his unfailingly accurate sixth sense told him that the deans were approaching the classroom, but would put it back the moment they left, wrote one long, graphic sex scene. "I touched my girlfriend's ebony body in ecstasy, she moaned in ecstasy ..." it read.
"Very interesting piece of creative writing," I scrawled in red pen at the top of his paper, "But I'm unclear on its relevance to the theme of 'Nothing Gold Can Stay.'"
The next day I returned the papers. A minute later, Eric called me over. "What does this mean?" he asked, pointing to my comments.
"It means I didn't understand how your essay has anything to do with the poem," I told him. "You talk about sex with your girlfriend for one and a half pages, and then you just tack on a random line from the poem at the end."
"Miss." He grinned slyly. "You know what I mean."
I did not, but it didn't seem wise to press for further explanation.
Later, when we read "The Road Not Taken," I explained about Frost's message of sometimes having to make the more difficult or less popular choices. "The 'road not taken' is the decision fewer people make, guys," I said. "Do you know what that's like?"
Eric raised his hand. "Miss, could this poem be about a woman?"
I misunderstood him. "You mean, could it apply to a woman as well?"
"Well yeah, sure. Women also have to make difficult choices...." I stopped and look at him, confused.
"No, I mean, the poem is about women. You choose the one not 'taken' ... and that makes all the difference," he said. The class laughed, saying, "Ohhh, yeah."
Sexual interpretations of the poems became rampant. Listening to them, one might think that Robert Frost had written an entire anthology of erotic poetry—"Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening," for instance, was met with enthusiastic discussion about the "gay horse" that is trying to figure out its sexual preferences.
"What?" I asked, bewildered by a reference that seemed to come out of nowhere.
William Williams appraised me with sympathy. "You know, 'My little horse must think it's queer....' He hasn't decided if he's a fag or not, Miss."
A chorus of "Yeah, this poem is mad gay," resounded throughout the room.
I opted not to miss out on what we call, in education, the "teachable moment."
"Okay, first of all, when we're reading about something that you guys think is 'gay,' I want you to say it has 'homosexual undertones.' Can you say that?"
"Homosexual under ... what?" they said, almost in unison.
"So this poem has homosexual undertones?"
"Yeah ... well, no, not really, but ... well, I guess that's one interpretation."
* * *
When I wasn't in Mrs. Walker's English class, I was attending FA, or "Fellows Advisory," a special class taught by an experienced teacher wherein all the new fellows were supposed to learn lesson planning and classroom management skills. What it ended up being was more akin to group counseling. We, the new teachers, would all sit around bemoaning the injustices of our respective summer school programs.
"My students don't have any books!" one teacher would cry.
"You think that's bad? We have kids sitting on the windowsill because there aren't enough desks!" another would yell.
"Yeah, well our kids have to take the exact same English class two periods in a row, because they failed both English 7 and 8, but the school can't be bothered to create two different level summer school classes! These children aren't learning!"
"Why do you always call them 'these children,' like they're some sort of aliens? You have to get over your latent racism!"
It would go on like this until the lead teacher would call us to order, causing us to shift our focus toward lesson planning instead of complaining—much in the manner of our own students—about our schools, our fellow teachers, or our classes.
Excerpted from "Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens?" by Ilana Garon. Copyright © 2013 Ilana Garon. Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
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.
Table of Contents
Author's Note ix
Prologue: What This Book Is and Isn't xi
Chapter 1 Carlos 20
Chapter 2 Alex 30
Chapter 3 Kayron 40
Chapter 4 Kenya & Crystal 57
Chapter 5 Felicia 78
Chapter 6 Anita & the Sunshine Class 91
Chapter 7 Chris 105
Chapter 8 Jonah 119
Chapter 9 Adam 132
Chapter 10 Alfredo 148
Chapter 11 Destiny & Anthony 162
Chapter 12 Tyler 179
Chapter 13 Benny & Mo 194
Chapter 14 Tonya 200
Chapter 15 Callum 205
Chapter 16 Ilana 213
Final Thoughts 222
Epilogue: Where Are They Now? 229
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Ilana Garon and I have similar educational backgrounds. We were both Barnard undergraduates and both received teaching degrees and a Masters in Creative Writing. But here’s one difference between us: If I had been placed in a Bronx inner-city public school, I would’ve fled without question. Garon — she stayed. I say this not to bring my personal capabilities to bear on this review, but to state something larger: that though Garon had every reason to feel overwhelmed and intimidated by her environment – she white, naive and inexperienced; they prone to violence, race riots and epithets – she stayed put. From the outset, Garon dispels the “Hollywood” notion of the teaching memoir, wherein an idealistic instructor plunges into an inner-city school to save failing children. “This is not that kind of book,” she deadpans. Except, I would argue that it is. Because just by being there, she saves them; just by laughing with them, scolding them, imploring them and attempting to affect them. Garon cites her age – she is 22 at the start – as a hindrance, but it may have been her greatest asset. Implicitly, she knows she must level with her students; it is the only way her words will process. She must play their games, take their bait and see them as whole children. Inevitably, she spies potential in many of them, but she never has any illusions about their chances for success. After all, theirs is a school with depleted resources, uninvolved parents and disruptive, truant children. Many of their home lives come with a new slew of issues: jail time, teen pregnancy, gang violence, broken families…it is all routine. But what of it? As Garon says: “There will be class in the morning.” She has To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal Farm and Shakespeare to teach. Essays, quizzes and group work to oversee. To spend a disproportionate amount of time bemoaning the circumstances would be a disservice to her students. So Garon does the only thing she can do for them: She shows up. She (tries to) teach them. She cares. And for her efforts, there are several crystallized moments of sweetness Aliens is broken up into four sections, to correspond with Garon’s first four years of teaching. Within them are chapters headed by the names of former students – call them case studies, character sketches or human interest pieces. There are also e-mails which she sends to friends and family members – emotional outlets for her bizarre experiences. The emails, dotted throughout, were perhaps my favorite part. Who can resist Garon, unguarded and ever the storyteller, as she regales us with these outlandish tales? (Think the “Weird but True” section in the New York Post). “Do you,” her students are always telling her. And she does, here. Garon’s writing, like her teaching style, is direct and matter of fact. She writes in service of the story rather than the sentence. She does not pass judgment but simply tells over events as they happened. The stories speak for themselves and if there are any conclusions to be drawn, they are the reader’s to make. On the one hand, I thought this an admirable approach – too easily, Garon could’ve fallen into the trap of denouncing students, letting her frustration and exhaustion take over her exposition. Though there are moments where she does break down, mostly she shows tremendous reserve. Still, I wish she would’ve “gone there,” dug deep, reached down. As a reader, I was always second-guessing myself, wondering if I’d gotten what she’d wanted me to out of an escapade. Yes, we don’t like to be spoon-fed, but we do want to feel in sync. Garon saves her reflection for the very end where, in a single chapter, she extemporizes upon the state of NYC public school education – the things that can be changed and those that have no choice but to stay the same. She comes off lofty and didactic in this pages – in fact, the tone here is markedly different from the rest of the book and I wondered if the chapter was belatedly tacked on. Though perhaps it could only appear at the end – for only after serenading us with tales of her ten-year teaching career does she have the credibility to write it. “Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens?” is an uncensored look at inner-city education. It is about a young teacher coming of age with her students as she tries, incrementally, to make a difference.
Informative and heartbreaking
Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens?, by Ilana Garon Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing Publication date: 2013 Category: Memoir Source: I requested a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. I don't know where to start. After seeing Ilana Garon's book, Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens?, reviewed on some fellow bloggers' sites (Love at First Book & Words for Worms), I knew I had to read it. Garon teaches high school English in an inner city school and I teach in what we grew up calling a "hick town." So I assumed we wouldn't have too much in common, but I am always up for real life teacher stories. Within pages I found that, although the environment in which I teach is drastically different from Garon's, there are numerous parallels to students and experiences I've had. It's crazy really to think that the same experiences exist in drastically different environments. (You know what they say about "assuming," don't you?) Garon mentions that her story is one of reality, not of the "hero teacher" type seen in movies such as Freedom Writers and the Ron Clark Story, which although true stories, are so far from the norm. Garon states the purpose of her book best when she says, "It's a story about...learning to distinguish between mitigated failure and qualified success. This is a book about the trial by fire all teachers must undergo, about making mistakes, and about learning from one's own students. It's a book about trying to work within a broken system, while at the same time being bolstered by the very same kids you came in wanting to save" (xvi). I couldn't agree more with the truth in this statement. Garon's teaching environment is definitely more dangerous and frightening than mine, but as I said before, I related to so many of her experiences. The types of students she describes caused faces and names of my own students to pop into my head from as far back as ten years ago. From the student who told me I looked like a dyke lesbian in front of an entire class my first year, to the student who lied insistently even though he knew you saw everything, to the student I helped clothe and naively attempted to broaden his world only to lose him to suicide the next year. I can even somewhat relate to Garon's realization that she will never be a "permanent resident" of the environment in which she teaches. While her students accept her for the most part, she is "already far too displaced from it all to do anything but empathize" (223). Even teaching in a town identical to the one I grew up in, I have found myself an interloper when faced with students whose lives are nothing I can seem to fathom. Garon nails the experience. The high and low emotions, the self questioning and doubt, the mistakes, the risks and chances taken, the commitment, the rewards, the satisfaction, the love...and by the end of the book I teared up as she described the decision to quit teaching for graduate school (she did go back after graduating). As tedious as the education system can be, I don't find myself dreading a new school year every August and my thoughts often trail to my students in the off hours of any given day. I wouldn't rather be in any other profession and Garon gives a good example why.
After commenting on Kelly's post of Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens?: Teaching Lessons from the Bronx by Ilana Garon over at Read Lately, Ilana contacted me about receiving a review copy of her book. And I'm so glad I read Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens?: Teaching Lessons from the Bronx, which I will mention from now on as Why Do Only, since it's way shorter. Ilana is like most teachers: white, educated, female, middle class. And her students are mainly from poverty, wrestling with the challenges of gangs, violence, lack of supplies (including food, clothing, proper shoes), and so on. Ilana tells stories of her time spent as an inexperienced teacher in the Bronx. She talks about her challenges, the things she did well, along with some of her missteps, sometimes in a serious tone and other times with humor. In each chapter, you get to know a particular student by a penname, and whether you like that student by the end of the chapter or not, you have seen a complete picture. I connected with this book for a few reasons: I took a community college course back in West Palm (home) in between freshman and sophomore year at FSU (you know, getting some credits out of the way). The class was speech, and I could only find it at the Palm Beach Community College campus in Belle Glade, which is not the nicest area to live. The class was during the day, a nice scenic drive (usually an alligator or two along the way). I was incredibly out of my element, though, with the speeches. I was the only white person in the classroom, besides the teacher, but I easily befriended a few students (who probably thought I was interesting to be friends with since I was such an anomaly). But what I gained most from the class, what I remember most is their dedication to learning. I hadn't worked a bunch of jobs, had a few kids, and walked to campus for the class. My classmates cared more about this class than almost anyone I knew, probably because it was a struggle for many of them to get to that point. They were role models to me, and I still think about them occasionally. I also am a white, middle class Jewish teacher who taught at low income schools. I taught elementary school, not high school like Ilana, and had some bumps in the road to overcome regarding socioeconomic status (more info on working with kids from poverty). However, you don't need to be a teacher or have any sort of teaching background to identify with Ilana and enjoy her book. She's honest, explaining both the triumphs and mistakes she made as a new teacher. She cares, she's real, and also entertaining. Why Do Only is a book I think anyone would enjoy. Will it change your life? Maybe not, but it will give you a new perspective without being all Stand And Deliver, Dangerous Minds, or Freedom Writers (you know, teacher comes into impoverished school and makes such an amazing difference that people can't believe it!). This isn't that: Why Do Only feels more real, it is more real. Let's be a little philosophical: How can you make a change in the world, or at least in your life? Thanks for reading, Rebecca @ Love at First Book
Half hilarious, half horrific. Entirely entertaining. I really enjoyed this unique look into an inner city public school. The author managed to paint a very realistic picture of her experiences. Without harping on the negatives, she expresses the tough side of teaching while still allowing her love and devotion for her students to shine through. While anyone (working in any field) will enjoy this book, I have an aunt and a sister-in-law who work in education and I will for sure be gifting them a copy each!
"Why Do Only White People?" is a richly drawn report on inner city schools, but also a great story that I couldn't put down. Each chapter focuses on one of the author's students in a public Bronx high school, and together the stories trace the author's first years as a teacher. Garon brings the students to life--endearing and maddening, manipulative and sincere, persevering and self-destructive--and I loved her good-natured tone and honesty about her successes and failures. Garon never condescends, and is refreshingly open about the persistent cultural gulf between teacher and students even when they come to love each other. Just like a good lesson, the book is fun and moving, and only when I put it down did I realize just how much I've learned about a world very different from my own.
When I started having babies, I never really thought about what their school years would be like. Now that my "babies" are starting to enter their "real" school years I can only hope that after reading this book they have teachers as caring as Ilana Garon-even if they aren't attending schools in the inner-city. Ms. Garon has successfully shown what teaching in an inner-city is like. While some would give up on these students, she has made it her goal not to give up on them especially when they were ready to give up on themselves. Or sadly when their parents have given up on them. She has been their biggest cheerleader and protector. I absolutely admire her strength for continuing to teach in the Bronx. Reading this book is just further proof that teachers should not only get more credit than they deserve, but should also be paid more. And perhaps schools should be better funded. This book gets 5 stars. I really think every parent should read this book to get a glimpse of what these brave teachers go through during the day.