A veteran New York teacher delivers her first memoir.
Ehrlich is the kind of English teacher most kids would love. The author offers a detailed account of her nearly 34 years teaching in the rough-and-tumble New York public school system. Wry and no-nonsense, Ehrlich recalls incidents and encounters with her many students, fellow faculty members and administrative personnel. Her bemused attitude allows her to survive kids who neither work nor attend class, teachers who have stopped caring about students, and an administration that seems at best removed, and at worst hostile, ignorant and out of touch. The memoir is inhabited by characters such as Roger Roam Da Hall who “roamed da halls and right out da door never to be seen again”; the officious administrator Bea Z, Belle of the Hall, “who could be both callous and sympathetic in the same breath”; and Ehrlich’s irrepressible student Frankie, who is a “classic Italian-American wise guy wannabe.” This is a narrative that will appear familiar to those readers who have explored Bel Kaufman’s 1960s account, Up the Down Staircase, an incisive critique of the New York education system that shocked people at the time. Indeed, Ehrlich acknowledges Kaufman’s influence as a mentor. It’s not Ehrlich’s mission to offer the reader a revealing social critique, however. Rather, she handles her subject with a light touch to amuse rather than provoke. The most revealing portraits, Ehrlich saves for a special chapter devoted to students that she could not erase from her memory. This material might perhaps have been richer had it been worked into the entire book to offer more thematic context for her narrative. Addressed to both new teachers and veterans, Ehrlich’s book provides some amusing reading for those interested in the challenges of teaching.
A somewhat overlong account that offers amusing anecdotes about teaching.