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Inside Mrs. B.'s Classroom : Courage, Hope, and Learning on Chicago's South Side Hardcover – August 25, 2003

ISBN-13: 063-9785382621 ISBN-10: 0071417354 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill; 1 edition (August 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071417354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071417358
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #236,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"I thought I knew rough. I thought I had answers. I didn't know jack.

From the Back Cover

Chicago's public school system in the 1980sand '90s was a stark symbol of the nation's educational crisis. Grim reflections of their poverty-stricken neighborhoods, the city's schools were saddled with severe drug problems and the inevitable violence that results. Veteran Chicago Sun-Times journalist Leslie Baldacci was an expert on the subject. She wrote regularly on the school system's woes, calling on the mayor and other city officials to save the decaying system. Then, one day, she decided to do something about it. Baldacci traded in her press pass for a teaching certificate, and never looked back.

With high ideals and great expectations, the author was soon teaching in one of Chicago's toughest South Side neighborhoods--and quickly learned that noble ideas would go only so far. "In reality, my classroom was just one deck chair on the Titanic," she comments. Overcrowded classrooms, little if any infrastructure, and more than enough derision and contempt to go around added up to a problem extending well beyond her educational training. It would take determination, persistence, and, perhaps above all, a sense of humor to make a practical difference in the lives of these students.

Inside Mrs. B's Classroom is Baldacci's extraordinary memoir of life in the trenches of inner-city teaching. She takes us inside the classroom, and introduces us to a colorful cast of characters--both students and teachers alike. With wry wit and a sharp sense of irony, Baldacci relates her story with the grace and ease one needs to manage the days in a classroom such as hers. Developing strong (and absolutely essential) bonds with her fellow teachers proves to be her saving grace, but surprisingly, her students become her greatest inspiration. "Leaving school to walk home after gunfire had spit bullets through the neighborhood . . . they were my role models. As long as they kept coming to school, so would I," she says.

Inside Mrs. B's Classroom is gritty and realistic, yet refreshingly funny and positive. Baldacci's dual career makes for an entertaining, informative tale, which weaves together her teacher's knowledge of the system and reporter's eye for detail. We're treated to an inspiring story of success, and come away with the conviction that one person can make a difference.

An Inside Look at the Daily Grind in Chicago's Inner-City Schools

Chicago Sun-Times reporter Leslie Baldacci gave up her lucrative career to teach in her city's decaying public school system, certain that she'd be able to conquer this challenging new world. As she later commented, "I thought I knew rough. I thought I had answers. I didn't know jack."

But despite the difficulties she faced, including overpopulated classrooms, little to no faculty support, and a demanding workload that pushed her to her limit, Baldacci dove into her work, persevered, and eventually triumphed. She learned to catch the imagination and enthusiasm of students--and got to know these children better--children who often faced incredible challenges outside the school walls.

Along the way she used her journalistic eye to observe and analyze the workings of the Chicago Public School system from the front lines. The result is an informed, insightful work that takes into account both the very human element of the children and their teachers--as well as the red tape that surround them. She shares the unrealistic expectations, the surprises, and the individuals who make up education today. And above all, she shows how one dedicated person can make a difference.

Customer Reviews

Great and easy book to read!!!!
Iris Bocanegra Prieto
Anyways, if you're a teacher, if you know a teacher, if you've ever thought of becoming a teacher, you need to read this book.
L. Gorsuch
Thank you Mrs. Baldacci for sharing our experiences with the world.
Constance M Grimm

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Constance M Grimm on October 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As a fellow Chicago Public Schools teacher, I found in this book a reflection of my own experiences as a new teacher. While my first assignment was in a more "successful" school I can still relate to her experiences. The book chronicles the trials and tribulations most new teachers experience in a school system where money is nonexsistent, classes are bursting at the seams, red tape is ever-present, and the public and politicians are expecting you to fail. Although Mrs. Baldacci presents a frightening (but accurate) picture of the lives her students are struggling to survive, her story resonates with the hope and optimism many teachers hold tightly in their souls. It is that hope and optimism that drives inner city teachers like Mrs. Baldacci, myself, and many other teachers I have worked with over the past 12 years in Chicago Public Schools. I am thrilled that someone was able to capture both the hope and the sadness our schools contend with daily. Her stories are neither sugar-coated nor exaggerated. Thank you Mrs. Baldacci for sharing our experiences with the world.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By MS on October 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A friend told me that I should read this book, and my first thought was, "Why? I teach in the inner city. I was a first year teacher. I don't need to READ about it, I live it!" But, being a bookaholic, I bought it anyway.
The short story is that Ms. Baldacci tells it like it is: the story about no soap in the bathrooms is true. I bought soap for my classrooms in the inner city. The story about spending her own money for things and having them stolen? True.
The long story is that everything that Ms. Baldacci talks about has happened to me: The principal who doesn't reward creativity and writes you up for silly things; the principal who sets the calendar for review, and then never follows up.
The only problem is: how do we get the people who NEED to read this book to even look at it? I can think of at least 6 administrators for a start.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By mojosmom VINE VOICE on November 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Baldacci was a journalist for the Chicago Sun-Times and served on their editorial board. Among other things, she wrote about the shortcomings of the Chicago Public School system. Then she decided to put her money where her mouth was (quite literally, she took a two-thirds pay cut), signed on for an alternative teacher certification program, and began teaching in an inner-city grade school.

I admit I was skeptical at first. After all, here was someone who'd been telling the schools what to do from her journalist's ivory tower, probably thought she knew it all, and could cut and run back to her well-paying career if teaching went sour. Well, she didn't. She's still teaching.

All those folks who think teachers should be paid according to how test scores improve, who blame the teachers because kids can't read or are uncontrollable, need to read this book. It's been said before, but it needs to be heard.

You try it. Take a class of 36 kids, some of whom are homeless, or live in a home with crack addicts, who don't get enough to eat (except at school). Don't have supplies except what you buy yourself. Have the room be too hot in summer and too cold in winter. Do this in a school where the administration doesn't care about whether kids learn as long as they're quiet. Be downgraded for initiative. Teach to the test. Spend your free time and weekends grading and making lesson plans. Never get what you need until it's too late. Don't forget to learn all the different gang signals, and be sure to duck when there's shooting outside the classroom window. Get paid $24,000. Then talk about it.

It amazes me anyone is still teaching. But then there are folks like Baldacci, and the teacher named Donna who asked her why she took a two-thirds pay cut.
Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Shells831 on August 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This was by far one of the best books i've read - I absolutely couldn't put it down, which doesn't happen often. I'm currently considering going back to grad school to become a teacher here in Chicago so this book was very enlightening. Whether you're a teacher or not, this book is a great read & has great insight into the inner city schools.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Iris Bocanegra Prieto on February 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I was looking for books which could help me decide if becoming a teacher was the right path. After reading the challenges that Mrs. B' went through I decided that it will be the right path to take.

More than courage, hope and learning it's to have the guts to make a difference with a teaching career. It's to have the confidence that you can make a difference in a community, a child, a parent but also in you.

Great and easy book to read!!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By "anndobrinski" on October 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Excellent book, excellent story...amazing experience. Leslie's experiences are incredible. A must read...whether you're a teacher or not. Inside Mrs B's Classroom will have you laughing through your tears. I'm waiting for the made for TV movie!
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By L. Gorsuch on November 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book was not on my list to purchase, but for some reason I bought it anyways (bookstores are my downfall, you can never have too many books!). Anyways, if you're a teacher, if you know a teacher, if you've ever thought of becoming a teacher, you need to read this book. I know this has been said about 12 million times in the past, but teachers do not receive the respect they deserve. Through her matter of fact writing style, Leslie Baldacci gets the point across. She doesn't sugar coat it, she just gives the facts. Unless you are a teacher or your children attend inner city schools, you truly don't understand or are even aware of what goes on inside these schools. I have been in classrooms where the lighting only worked in half of the classroom, where toilets didn't work at all, where parents came to spank their children with a belt in the doorway of their classroom, and no one did a thing about it. I have heard teachers tell children that they can't read, that their writing is garbage, that they didn't want to look at their face. But through all of the horrendous things I have seen and heard, I am so very, very thankful to teachers like Leslie Baldacci, who truly do make a difference in the lives of these children.
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