Not long ago, teachers commanded respect from students, parents and society in general. Today, though, they are often punching bags for those same groups, blamed for America’s failing education system.
Evelyn Uddin-Khan knows that system and says the fault lies not with the classroom educators, but with those who are pointing fingers.
Uddin-Khan, who has a doctoral degree in comparative and international education, spent more than 20 years teaching in New York’s public school system. For 18 years, she writes, she was a well-respected and dedicated professional. But then her job changed; she was “excessed” — education-speak for being reassigned. No longer needed as an ESL teacher, Uddin-Khan was made a substitute teacher. Her three years in that position is the basis for The Other Side of Teaching.
For most of her book, Uddin-Khan details the chaos that she suffered through daily. Violent, disobedient and indifferent students and unresponsive and disconnected parents were just part of the problem. Worse, in her view, were school administrators and politicians, whose decisions were most often motivated by expediency or greed. She claims that administrators ordered grades inflated and problem students promoted or graduated, all in an effort to bring up schools’ test scores. No Child Left Behind legislation, she maintains, merely moves these poorly-educated students to the next level, making them somebody else’s problem.
To her credit, Uddin-Khan does offer some specific remedies, from getting cops out of the classrooms to separating politics from education to investing money in schools.
But while her observations are important, the author’s litany of problems—students talking back and threatening her; corrupt administrators and inept union reps—borders on overkill. Hearing the same basic scenarios over 400-plus pages tends to numb readers, who also may feel an element of ax-grinding in the narrative.
Overall, this is a narrative that will certainly give readers a different view of education, but it can be trying, at times, to read.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.