Based on his experience as an educator and on the anecdotes of colleagues, Wintermote explores the trials and tribulations of the first five years of teaching in his debut novel.
Jim Fisher is embarking on his third career as an English teacher at the newly built Manicomio High School. On his first day, the tone for the next five years is set as Mr. Fisher must contend with a student drinking beer in class while others mouth off, call him "dude" and come to class unprepared. It is clear from the outset the author has enough familiarity with his subject to authentically capture the experiences of a novice teacher. The novel is filled with incidents that seem unbelievable, yet one has no doubt they either happened to Wintermote himself or someone he knew. When a cocky star wrestler fails to do the work on an assignment, his parents only make excuses for their son, and unwilling Fisher lets the boy make up the presentation. But he makes it clear that lying for their son and not holding him accountable for his actions is more detrimental to him than not being able to wrestle. The idea that parents are as responsible for the failings of their children as much as the children themselves is prevalent throughout. It is clear that Wintermote sees a lot wrong with the educational system. From the lowering of standards to ineffective administrators, the author uses this novel as a soapbox. While one may agree with his assessments, the novel would feel more rounded if it included a deeper exploration of Fisher’s personal life. The chapters spent on his failed relationship with a fellow teacher and his courtship of an unavailable neighbor add depth and complexity to Fisher’s character. In the classroom, Fisher never fails to get the upper hand on a student and rarely feels like he did not make the right choice in any given situation. In his fifth year of teaching, a new administrator, intent on making it easier for students to do the bare minimum to pass, may lead to the end of Fisher’s tenure at Manicomio High.
An in-depth, yet underdeveloped, look at the life of an educator struggling against unwilling students and falling standards to teach the best he can.