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Reviewed by Patricia Reding for Readers' Favorite
In Behind the Teacher’s Desk by Chris Williams, readers follow Claire Hebert, a high school instructor, through the second term of a high school year. While Claire’s hours are filled with student requests, class preparation, instruction, hall duty, extracurricular activities, and more, she longs to be able to spend more time with her love interest, Matt, and the golden retriever he gave her, Boomer. As the weeks pass, members of the school and community seek to identify the person responsible for a hit-and-run that left one of Claire’s fellow teachers seriously injured. Meanwhile, the pressures of teaching cause difficulty in Claire and Matt’s relationship. But it is not just the demands of Claire’s work that prove difficult. It is that she works in a system designed to fail. This is a system that provides no repercussions when parents, in their efforts to keep their children from failing, do their work for them (thereby fulfilling their own greatest fears). This is a system that employs teachers too busy trying to be liked by the young people to have any authority over them. This is a system that allows students to carry and use their electronic devices in the classrooms, distracting all those who want to learn. This is a system that, if it were a private business, would have closed its doors long ago. The solutions to fixing many of these problems are all too obvious, but alas, those with the ability to make the changes have failed to do so.
I will confess I find the entire public education system to be in such a shambles that my blood pressure rises whenever the very subject comes up. My own experience with my children in both public and private settings taught me a great deal. The differences between the two are profound. So, I suppose it would come as no surprise that I found Behind the Teacher’s Desk an accurate, if not frustrating journey into the land of our public schools where, all too often, teachers are caught in the middle between parents and institutional policies. When those who care do speak up, they often are shouted down. It is easy to blame teachers for the results. I admit to having done so myself from time to time. Let’s face it: some of them ought not to be teaching. But my greater issues are with the system itself, one that continues to spend more tax dollars, regardless of the outcome. In the end, the pressures imposed upon teachers leave them — especially the best of them (some of whom I know) — wanting to leave their profession, while parents and their children are often left wondering why so many of them bother to stay. Chris Williams offers a sincere and honest look into the public school system, showing how these issues play out in the real world.