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Relentless Pursuit: A Year in the Trenches with Teach for America Paperback – March 10, 2009
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“Richly detailed. . . . Her book is the most interesting account of inner-city high school life in many years and only whets my appetite for more. —The Washington Post Book World“A vivid parallel account of the challenges these new teachers face and the challenges of building a movement for change within education. . . . This could be the book that moves Teach for America firmly into the broader national consciousness.” —New York Post “Here is skilled, attentive documentary work become an instrument for the reader’s moral and social reflection — educational idealism, its achievements and its tribulations as they envelop the lives of schoolchildren, and their longtime teachers, their newly arrived ones: the effort to ‘teach for America’ become a social, psychological lesson all its own.”—Robert Coles, author of Children of Crisis “This important book is also a gripping read. From the first page, when Locke High School is locked down, Foote's compelling and inspiring characters draw us into the dizzying challenge of trying save the next generation and redeem the promise of America. Relentless Pursuit is not just for anyone who cares about poor kids and education. It's for anyone who cares about the future of the country."—Jonathan Alter, author of The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope"This book beautifully conveys the spirit, dedication and heroism of Teach For America and shows why it is such a valuable experience both for its corps members and their students."—Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life“I will put this simply — this is one of the most profound books I have ever read. Donna Foote’s Relentless Pursuit will make you cringe. It will make you cry. It will make you cheer. Most important, it gives proof that education, under conditions that should make every American ashamed, can work with a beauty beyond all imagination. Just magnificent and inspiring.”—Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights and A Prayer for the City“Foote’s account couldn’t be better-timed. Her inside view of TFA’s self-reinvention…demonstrates what relentless reflection on, and revision of, a mission and its methods can accomplish. The lessons on display are especially important for an era in which a ruthless focus on student outcomes risks overlooking a key ingredient of that enterprise: inputs for teachers, who need all the help they can get as they face an educational culture of new pressures and expectations, along with age-old challenges….Foote’s fine-grained account of Locke supplies the larger context and a corrective.”—Sara Mosle, Slate
About the Author
Donna Foote is a freelance journalist and former Newsweek correspondent. She lives in Manhattan Beach, California with her husband and fourteen-year-old son.
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Top Customer Reviews
There are 2 aspects of this book, both of which I found valuable. I enjoyed learning about TFA: how and why it was formed, its struggles in the beginning, its evolution, its methods. The other aspect that was more personal was getting to know and follow several TFAers as they experienced a very tough, "hopeless" high school in Los Angeles. I enjoyed the personal details of who they were outside of the classroom and of how they survived and eventually prospered inside the classroom. It wasn't this "perfect teacher fixes school and lives happily ever after" story. It definitely didn't work that way at all, and I like the honesty Donna Foote put forth, but I really appreciate Wendy Kopp for her humility and willingness to share downfalls, flaws, triumphs and achievements, all.
Overall, this is a quick, captivating glimpse into the lives of some great Teach for America teachers during their tough initial years.
As a teacher, I found this book absolutely captivating! Teachers will be able to relate to these "newbies" as we all remember our first year (always the msot grueling). From Hrag's paranoia of being observed by administration to Rachelle's doubts as to whether she is strong enough for the job, to Taylor's gradual finding of her stride, I often found myself thinking: "Hey, I remember that!"
This wouold also be a highly interesting read for non-teachers, as the author's "fly on the wall" approach gives access to what happens in the classroom, in the conference rooms, and the various teachers minds. The author does a remarkable job of encapsulating the turbulent world of teaching (in an underperforming school); for those uninitiated, this book will open you up to all that you never knew teaching was.
Chapters profiling the progression of the teachers and school are interspersed with chapters detailing the mission and evolution of Teach for America, an organization which strives to recruit the best and the brightest to teach for two years at underserved schools. Many (teachers unions in particular) are resistant if not hostile to TFA's unconventional "business model" approach. Others - the schools which may have to rely on less qualified substitutes otherwise - sing the praises of Teach For America. The author relays the history objectively, neither cheerleading for, or badmouthing, the organization. The facts are all the matters.
All in all, this is an engaging read both for teachers and those who are curious about the highs and lows - the living and dying - that teaching entails.
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