Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sex, Lies and the Classroom

This story is the crossroad where violent indifference meets disillusion. O’Connell is a teacher in a high-school in the center of a poverty-stricken district. He has a twisted sense of superiority about his seven-year tenure and refusal to give in like his fellow teachers who have left the school for “greener pastures.” His pride is wrapped up in the challenge to save the students by holding them to a high standard. Tyreshia, one of the students O’Connell is trying to save, refuses to be a part of his program and lashes back.

I honestly couldn’t relate to any of the characters. O’Connell appeared arrogant as he saw the school as a challenge to overcome by forcing students to conform to his standards. The students were to do things his way and brook no argument or debate. I felt this was a sharp contrast to his home life where he allowed his young children to walk all over him by interrupting his conversations with his wife and each other. It was if the statement were being made that rules and expectations are meant for the bad kids at school.

The students O’Connell taught who lived in abject poverty were even less relatable. I have never lived feared for my life walking home from school. I was never propositioned with drugs or prostitution. Going home meant a safe place. I can only imagine the horror of this reality. I could, however, feel the ring of truth to this tale. When you have several generations caught in the loop of ignorance, poverty, and pain, blame seems a momentary relief. O’Connell personified the act of life holding them down. The choice to attack him was a cry for some measure of control in the lives destined for failure.

I generally don’t read books of this kind because of the harshness about life it brings to light. That being said the story was compelling, original and gripping. I had to know what decision Tyreshia was going to make when O’Connell’s fate rested in her hands.

This is a great for read for those that enjoy a story with one dramatic punch after the next.
James Wilcox


  1. Wonderful, provocative review that will probably make me buy the book. I'm a first grade teacher who can tell anyone who asks that the biggest problem facing education is the lack of parenting that results in students with no reason to learn. I can relate to how the teacher behaved and agree that if one caves in to the system, teachers and students lose. However, your portrayal of him at home deepens the easy acceptance of his student management techniques--if teachers understand and believe in why they hold certain standards, they apply them first and foremost to the children they love most--or should.

    Sorry to go on, but I'm in the worst of 18 years as a teacher, working on an essay collection on the subject, and really liked your review!


    1. Thank you Leslie! I hope you will publish your essays so I can read them. Teaching and parenting are two of the the most important roles in life in my opinion. If either is lacking it makes a huge impact on a child's life.