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Sylvia Barrett arrives at New York City’s Calvin Coolidge High fresh from earning literature degrees at Hunter College and eager to shape young minds. Instead she encounters broken windows, a lack of supplies, a stifling bureaucracy, and students with no interest in Chaucer. Her bumpy yet ultimately rewarding journey is narrated through an extraordinary collection of correspondence—sternly worded yet nonsensical administrative memos, furtive notes of wisdom from teacher to teacher, “polio consent slips,” and student homework assignments that unwittingly speak from the heart. An instant bestseller when it was first published in 1964, Up the Down Staircase remains as poignant, devastating, laugh-out-loud funny, and relevant today as ever. It timelessly depicts a beleaguered public school system redeemed by teachers who love to teach and students who long to be recognized.
About the Author
Bel Kaufman was an author and schoolteacher. Born in Berlin in 1911, she spent her childhood in Odessa and emigrated with her family to the Bronx when she was twelve. Her grandfather was the Yiddish humorist Sholem Aleichem. In addition to Up the Down Staircase, she is also the author of the novel Love, Etc. She died in 2014.
“[A] classic. . . . Shot through with despair and hopefulness, violence and levity. . . . A stunningly accurate portrait of life in an urban school.” —The New York Times
“The most enduring account we have of teachers’ lives. . . . Empathetic and aware.” —The New Yorker
“The seminal book on the hardships and joys of teaching.” —The New York Times
“Easily the most popular novel about U.S. public schools in history.” —Time Magazine
“Merely the most excellent and truthful picture of a contemporary American teacher’s life that we are likely to have for a long time to come.” —Life Magazine