Today, October 5th, is World Teachers’ Day! I find it most appropriate, then, to encourage people to check out this book that I thoroughly enjoyed recently:
Up the Down Staircase was published in 1964 and has been adapted both onstage and onscreen. The novel, its ingenious narration made through a gamut of conversations, letters, notes, memos, class essays and even scribblings on scraps of paper in the trash bin, deals with the heartaches and the rewards of teaching, particularly teaching in an American public high school. The protagonist is a young, beautiful, sparkly eyed new-hire who couldn’t even get halfway through the roll call of her very first class.
The context is a depressed community in New York City in the 1960s, but the issues depicted in the novel reverberate all the way to Philippine public schools of today. Still, Kaufman is able to capture the stinging realities of public education without draining the soul (or all sense of hope) out of his reader. The way he presents the characters and the narrative makes the novel equal parts maddening, sad and heartwarming. Plus, it has really funny moments.
Up the Down Staircase is a truly affecting read. In fact, my desire to teach and to have the opportunity to motivate and disciple young people was revived on finishing this novel. In time, maybe.