Music in the Halls: The Heart and Heartbreak of Teaching at a High-Poverty School in Washington, DC

Pact. Jan. 2024. 116p. ISBN 9781646034246. pap. $17.95. ED
High school teacher Jankowski (The Bullfrog Does Not Imagine New Towns) recounts his five-year teaching tenure at a high-poverty elementary school in Washington, DC. He conveys his experiences through a series of brief but moving narratives, poetry, and vignettes. A veteran Black teacher helped Jankowski—the only white teacher—learn to teach children whose lives are buffeted by poverty, hunger, violence, drugs, and sometimes parental abuse. At the same time, the school district measured teaching success by student test scores and fired many veteran teachers because of it. Jankowski contends that the educators who were brought into classrooms to conduct model lessons, as guidance for the classes’ permanent teachers, were individuals who themselves weren’t successful teachers. He also condemns the charter school system, which he says seems to find a way to force out special education students and others after the schools have received funding for them.
VERDICT This short, thought-provoking work packs a punch. It sheds light on an education system that seemingly seeks to place its and societal failures on the backs of overburdened teachers and their vulnerable students.
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