A collection of short stories examining the inner life of educators at various junctures in their careers.
The title refers to the framing device Boone (Inside Job: A Life of Teaching, 2003, etc.) employs, where at least one character in each piece has a connection to Forest High School, either as instructor or pupil. The most moving stories focus on aging instructors and their legacies, after having influenced the lives of coworkers and pupils, for better or worse. “Funny in the Summer” centers on the relationship between Armand, a veteran educator approaching retirement, and Julie, a younger instructor who presses him to share humorous memories from his long career. This daily recounting of anecdotes inspires Armand to write down his recollections, starting with the letter A and continuing through the alphabet: “A could be Antonio, who used to sing in class, or A could be All Quiet on the Western Front, or the apricot someone stuck in his briefcase.” Decades of viewing alphabetized lists of student names have apparently permeated Armand’s mind and determined his methodological approach to most tasks. However, Boone does not glorify all teachers as laudable role models or paragons of organization. “Special Project” presents the power struggle between two characters with equally lackluster records: Jerome, a chronically absent student with few completed assignments, and Arthur, an English teacher with poor judgment who forgets that Jerome is enrolled in his class. When grades are due, Arthur attempts to negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement and alter his grade book by hand. Boone’s economical use of dialogue serves a dual purpose, as characters reveal questionable attitudes in a small amount of space or, more often, withhold uncomfortable truths from themselves and others. These layered, often humorous classroom insights are buoyed by the author’s lean, clear writing style.
The author will find an eager audience among readers who work in the profession, but these stories are genuinely accessible for any student who has ever wondered what’s happening on the other side of the desk.