Top critical review
341 people found this helpful
on August 22, 2006
Where is the Smoking Gun website when you need them?
Since I am sure they are currently off debunking Frey's "A Million Little Pieces," it is my unhappy duty to inform potential buyers of this book that you are about to be had. While P.T. Barnum may say "There's one born every minute," I say as a teacher and a one-time school board member, "When you know something is wrong, fix it."
There is something wrong with this book.
Look at the subtitle. See "An Award-Winning Educator's Rules..."? Do you see anywhere that Mr. Clark's "Disney Teacher of the Year Award" was granted to him by his publisher? The listed publisher, Hyperion books, is a division of Disney. Go ahead. Take a minute and type Disney and Hyperion into any search engine. You will find that they are one in the same. A little shocking isn't it?
After reading "The Essential 55" today, I was absolutely stunned. Instead of the light list of feel good stories I expected, I was paraded past a whole host of teaching sins that would have gotten any teacher in America fired; except Mr. Clark. What magic defended this man who would use children as stepping stones to a publishing and speaking career? Fame, possibly?
It appears Mr. Clark began innocently enough when his students decided to raise $12,000 needed to place an ad in USA Today. They met little success until an "anonymous" donator footed the bill. The ad was printed with a question directed towards then President Clinton and the world. The response was huge. Along with the President, such luminaries as the Prime Minister of Canada and the cast of "Friends" sent in responses. So far, so good.
The success of this stunt led Mr. Clark to believe that he walked on water. And he did. Who could challenge a teacher who had taken kids to the White House?
Remember the adage, "When things sound too good to be true..."? Well on page 53, Mr. Clark states "I taught both fifth-grade classes at the school, and we scored dead last in the county..." Then after claiming he had developed a writing outline program for the next year, he states, "...our school scored first in the county." Remembering the level of honesty displayed by Mr. Clark and his Disney Teacher of Year award, I simply could not believe this new claim. What test is this and where can we view the results?
What really turned me off from this book was that it is painfully Anti-kid and Anti-teacher. Instead of raising child self-esteem and documenting actual achievements, readers are treated to a continuous line of Mr. Clark's unregulated stunts. Nowhere else have I seen an educational author earning money from his experiences of humiliating both students and teachers. Until now.
According to pointless RULE 9, Mr. Clark will take back any gift you don't thank him for in three seconds. After one little girl won a set of books from him, our heartless author states on page 24, "The little girl was so excited that she was jumping up and down." Guess what. She forgot to immediately say thank you, and her gleeful classmates pointed it out. Mr. Clark then took away her earned reward and traded it in for lasting humiliation. He was then kind enough to share this humiliation with the world and profit from it in this very book. Have you thanked her for that Mr. Clark? Can you give her that excitement back? His excuse on page 25 was, "... I had to remain consistent." If you are wondering readers, this type of behavior will consistently transform employed teachers into unemployed ones.
It became obvious to me, that everything Mr. Clark did in his classroom (including going to teach in Harlem) he did to eventually make part of a future book; this book. Take RULE 16 on page 56. "Homework will be turned in each day..." In this section we learn that the amazing Mr. Clark got 100% of his class to turn in their homework for 62 days in a row. Something smells fishy here when he uses the phrase "homework participation," instead of homework completion. To get this 62 day run of whatever it is, he uses "peer pressure." This is code for bullying. If he doesn't like a kid, he turns the class loose on them stating "Well, I let the class lay it on thick." If the kid is his best student who is reduced to tears because she is the one who forgot her work on day 63, then Mr. Clark says, "Class, we need to have a talk." What happened to taking back books on page 25 and, "...I had to remain consistent."? Again new teachers, if you want to be fired, be like Mr. Clark.
Mr. Clark actually hides behind RULE 49 "Stand up for what you believe in," after giving a detention to a model student on page 139. Her sin? She had forgotten to bring to class a piece of blue paper. Really, how important are homework streaks when homework consists of carrying a colored piece of paper to and from school? The once happy, well-adjusted student, "...had cried all night long" because of this undeserved detention. Are we seeing a pattern here folks? Mr. Clark then refused to remove his martinet policy or the detention. If not for his preposterous fame, I don't see how he would have kept his job. Instead we read, "...that class went on to have twenty-three days in a row..." of what? successful colored-paper carrying? I am curious, what story of child humiliation arose at the end of that streak?
RULE 52 on page 146 is the clincher for me. Mr. Clark, in shear arrogance, states, "Accept that you are going to make mistakes. Learn from them and move on." Wow! This guy actually details how he gets into an argument with a veteran teacher and made her life a living hell. Astonishingly, Mr. "Respect" involves his entire elementary class in hiding a rotting onion in the woman's classroom; leaving it there for weeks; disrupting her student's working environment; and letting her throw out a personal plant that he convinced her was creating the smell. After she finally discovers the rotted onion, Mr. Clark then puts finely ground onions in her deodorizing spray bottle and laughs as she squirts it around the room. Her entire class then had to spend the day looking for non-existent onions instead of learning. Mr. Clark's horrible example leads directly to his own students blatant ignoring and disrespecting of this teacher. Amazingly, he never apologizes to her; her students; his student's; or the community. This idiotic behavior would have ended the teaching career of anyone, anywhere. But not Disney's Teacher of the Year. Instead, he got a movie deal.
In reference to your RULE 52: Mr. Clark, a mistake is an accident that occurs in the heat of a moment. You decided to torment a fellow teacher and her students for weeks. That is no accident. Your actions were, and continue to be, nothing less than disgraceful. Does anyone out there really believe the targeted teacher's name was Mrs. BITTERson? Couldn't resist sticking her one last time Mr. Clark?
Instead of following his own bullying advice and growing from this self-created debacle, Mr. Clark appears to be involving us all in his biggest, meanest prank yet: humiliating kids and a career teacher in front of the world, while wink... wink... taking our money.