Have you ever wondered what it's like to be inside today's public schools as a teacher? Do you think your perspective as a parent allows for an understanding of the inner workings of a school, especially the demands put upon teachers from all directions? The author of No Teachers Left Behind, writing under the alias HBF Teacher (that's for 'Hopeful but Frustrated'), takes this matter into his or her own hands by presenting readers with an inside view of an American public middle school, complete with a large cast of teachers, administrators and students who, for better or for worse, are often portrayed in ways that have sadly become the more common stereotypes.
For the sake of full disclosure, my own personal perspective on the current state of our public school system is not always very positive. I speak as a parent of an elementary school student (in a local public school), as well as the wife of a former public high school teacher. We live in an urban setting, with overcrowded schools and an ever-persistent eye on the almighty test scores (which is of course, a direct watch on school funding, sadly). So, like all readers, I went into this book with my own personal baggage, and I wondered where it would take me.
Told mostly through a series of email correspondences, intermixed with brief interactions among the key players of the school setting as well as short poetry pieces, No Teachers Left Behind doesn't paint a rosy picture. From the ridiculously double-standarded principal, whose emails left a literal bad taste in my mouth, to the combative work environment that pits support staff and teachers against each other, this setting is troublesome to say the least. The expectations for teachers to manage their students with little administrative support for discipline referrals (even in-school suspensions count against the attendance record, which of course is taken into account when determining a school's Adequate Yearly Progress), got to be so overwhelming that I found myself asking my husband if the events could be realistic at all. Sadly, his responses were affirmative time and time again, either from direct experiences or from stories he's heard in the field.
Is there a degree of exaggeration or absurdity in this book? Absolutely, I won't deny that, but I don't think the entire book should be lumped into that category. There are fault lines in our entire public education system, and they are deeply embedded. The cracks are visible at the surface, though, if we take the time to examine the actual school environments. HBF Teacher offers up a fictional account of the experiences of today's teachers, with the reader left wondering exactly how much is actually fictional.