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Losing My Faculties: A Teacher's Story Paperback – August 10, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (August 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812969510
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812969511
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As he's finishing grad school in the early 1990s, the author applies for positions in the Boston public school system; he wants to teach in an urban school, to work "with kids who might have their lives changed by me." In this absorbing, almost journal-like memoir, his second, Halpin (It Takes a Worried Man) shares his nine-year roller-coaster ride of life as a high school English teacher in Boston and two nearby suburbs. Halpin writes passionately about his work, from the highs of watching students "translate" scenes from Shakespeare-"One group... does a great job of turning Romeo and Juliet into something like Beavis and Juliet"-to the lows of not being able to control a room full of disruptive teenagers. He doubts himself and thinks about quitting. "I can't believe how much I suck at this job," he writes at one point (suck, one of the author's favorite words, appears a little too often). Halpin's story doesn't have a conventional happy ending, but he does accomplish his initial goals. In what he describes as "probably the best class I will ever have," Halpin reads Wordsworth's poem "We Are Seven" with a class of academically struggling juniors in Newcastle, Mass. "They speak honestly and movingly, and, best of all from the perspective of an English teacher, they keep coming back to the poem," he writes. "By the end of the class, they have done as thorough a job analyzing the poem as I could have hoped for." Though the memoir lags a bit in the middle, especially when Halpin recounts his frustrations with colleagues and school administrators, this chronicle provides an irreverent yet earnest look at the vocation its author clearly loves.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

A 10-year veteran of the Boston Public School system, Halpin shares his recollections with the kind of humor and affection reserved for a family scrapbook. Starting with his days as an exploited (read "free") student teacher, Halpin describes the trepidation he felt at entering a classroom for the first time and his often failed attempts to keep his rambunctious students focused on the business of learning. He shares his most fallible moments (like when a student nails him with a basketball during a lesson and he fails to respond.) We feel his frustration when, exhausted from trying to commute more than 50 miles to work and still come up with daily lesson plans, he breaks down crying to his wife, fearful he'll never measure up. How gratifying it is, then, to witness his golden moments in the classroom when he connects with his students, and they respond in turn with enthusiasm and ideas. A joyous trek through the memories of one dedicated teacher. Terry Glover
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

I'm a writer and a teacher. I've written memoirs, novels for adults, and novels for young adults. I don't know if my interest in and talent at writing YA comes from my experience as a high school teacher or my immaturity. Either way, it's good.

I live in Boston with my wife Suzanne and our three children and our dog, Cooper.

Customer Reviews

Get rid of them!
Daniel J. Maloney
I found his memoir by happenstance...actually, discovering the book was the better part of an otherwise HORRIBLE blind date (at Borders)!
Ms. Friendly
This book is like an updated "Teacher Man" by Frank McCourt.
Reading in Chico

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Costa on February 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
While Halpin's candid account of teaching in the public schools of Massachusetts is by no means all warm and fuzzy, it is a poignant testament of one man's love of teaching. As a public school music teacher (and a first year at that), I found constant affirmation in reading Halpin's stories of the rollercoaster ride of American education. From student teaching dramas and locating a first job to dealing with administrative conflicts and parents, this book covers it all...and in a very informal, interior monologue kind of way. It is this journal-esque way of writing that really drives the story. I was pleased that despite Halpin's english teacher credentials, he was more than comfortable to write the book in a more relaxed style, complete with slang, colloquialisms, and less-than-perfect grammar. The book, despite its non-heroic ending, has inspired me and my teaching.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Maloney on March 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Losing My Faculties
By Brendan Halpin

Hardly a day passes that we don't read an article or hear a story about schools. Most often, we hear what's wrong with schools. Reports of promised reform and fix-it-once-and-for-all solutions are commonplace. And one has to wonder after a while, if these magical solutions are finally going to fix things, then why do we continue to hear about how bad schools are year after year after year?

Far too absent among the reports of what's wrong with education are the voices of teachers who spend day after day, year after year, in the schools that outsiders are always promising to reform!

Teaching is a special calling. It is not a profession one enters for the money, nor for the prestige (and certainly not -- contrary to oft-heard cynic's explanation -- for the easy life, clean work and summers off!)

By and large, most teachers want to do a good job. They want their students to learn and they try to do their very best to achieve those ends.

Losing My Faculties is the story of one very committed teacher who truly considers teaching to be a special and important vocation. And it is also a story of teaching as a profession that can't help but make the person choosing it as a lifework to wonder about their sanity from time to time.

Author Brendan Halpin tells his own story of his journey through his first eight years as a teacher in Boston area schools. This is Halpin's chronicle of his beginning years as he works in four different schools across the span the book. He tells of his good experiences with his students, his classes that are great. He acknowledges his failures and shortcomings as a teacher and he clearly considers what he, as one teacher, can continue to do to try to improve.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gerald A. Heverly on February 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
Reading Faculties I was reminded of something Kurt Vonnegut said of Hunter Thompson: " I am told that {Thompson}...is being eaten alive by tinhorn politicians. The disease is fatal. There is no know cure...let all those who feel that Americans can be easily led to beauty as to ugliness, to truth as to public relations, to joy as to bitterness, be said to be suffering from Hunter Thompson's disease."

Brendan Halpin spent {at least} eight years in the Massachusetts public schools believing in the salutary effects of education on the teenage soul. That alone qualifies him as a Hunter Thompson disease carrier.

As a teacher I found Faculties a gripping read, filled with all the familiar feelings (sleepless weekday nights; fury at lazy, self-important administrators; bewilderment at colleagues more interested in real estate than real teaching). I rooted for the author to find the Holy Grail, the school with good people doing good.

Halpin tells the story as if he'd channeled one of the teenagers in his Boston-area classrooms. It's full of profanity and slang and long parenthetical asides that almost sidetrack the narrative. But he, mostly, pulls it off. Enough that anyone interested in being the fly-on-the-wall of a high school will find this account compelling.

Ironically Halpin cites the very characteristic that undermines the power of his story: "The {kids} papers kind of suck...mostly because they are long on opinions and short on evidence," he laments early in his career. We meet myriad characters in Halpin's world but very few, if any, are painted with enough detail for the reader to feel confident that they should share the author's {often-scathing} judgments. On almost every page I found myself talking to the print, saying, "Yeah, I know that jerk.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sebastian Thaler on September 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I don't know how Brendan Halpin does it. Over a period of ten years, working as a high school English teacher in at least three very different educational systems in and around Boston--and faced with occasionally disruptive students, frequently disgruntled fellow staff, and sadistic-and/or-stupid administrators--he nevertheless keeps his cool (for the most part), enjoys his work, and (perhaps most impressive of all) successfully conveys on the printed page what's so special about teaching. He has a genuine love for his vocation and a genuine fondness for his students. The first-person narrative really gives you a sense of what he experienced--the good as well as the (sometimes hideously) bad. I'm glad I didn't go into teaching--but it's nice to know that people like Halpin have.
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