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December 18 , 2009

The Secret Lives of Teachers


Welcome to “East Hudson,” an elite private school in New York where the students are attentive, the colleagues are supportive, and the tuition would make the average person choke on its string of zeroes. You might think a teacher here would have little in common with most other teachers in America, but as this veteran educator—writing anonymously—shows in this refreshingly honest account, all teachers are bound by a common thread. Stripped of most economic obstacles and freed up by anonymity, he is able to tell a deeper story about the universal conditions, anxieties, foibles, generosities, hopes, and complaints that comprise every teacher’s life. The results are sometimes funny, sometimes scandalous, but always recognizable to anyone who has ever walked into a classroom, closed the door, and started their day.
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I thought still I was to be fooled, so I called upon my old schoolfellow, who used to say, "Snatch at her cunt, and show her your cucumber." He had been one at the frigging match, and had just been appointed assistant-surgeon at a hospital; he was a bachelor and baudy-minded as ever. "M...," said I, "have you ever seen a…

This is not a how-to manual. Rather, the author explores the dimensions of teaching that no one else has, those private thoughts few would dare put into a book but that form an important part of the day-to-day experience of a teacher. We see him ponder the clothes that people wear, think frankly about money (and the imbalance of its distribution), get wrangled by parents, provide on-the-fly psychotherapy, drape niceties over conversations that are actually all-out warfare, drop an f-bomb or two, and deal with students who are just plain unlikeable. We also see him envy, admire, fear, and hope; we see him in adulation and uncertainty, and in energy and exhaustion. We see him as teachers really are: human beings with a complex, rewarding, and very important job.

There has been no shortage of commentary on the teaching profession over the decades, but none quite like this. Unflinching, wry, and at times laugh-out-loud funny, it’s written for every teacher out there who has ever scrambled, smirked, or sighed—and toughed it out nonetheless. 
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