Movie Mom

Movie Mom


A Teacher’s Inspiration

posted by Nell Minow

There’s a great essay in today’s Washington Post by a high school teacher named Nancy Schnog who found inspiration in a book written by another high school teacher, Bel Kaufman, in 1964. It is Up the Down Staircase. Kaufman, the grand-daughter of beloved writer Sholom Aleichem, whose stories inspired “Fiddler on the Roof,” wrote an epistolary novel (made up of notes, letters, memos, reports, fliers, and other written ephemera) about

an English teacher’s struggles with school bureaucracy, with students up and down the axis of caring to couldn’t-care-less, and with her inner self as she strives to do a job that asks everything — oversee, organize, proctor, chaperone, coach — except the thing she’s there to do: teach.

The book was an enormous hit in the 1960′s, translated into 16 languages and made into an award-winning film starring Sandy Dennis.

Schnog writes:

The novel poses the question that still haunts many an English teacher: Should I stay and fight on behalf of literature, or go earn money at a job with intellectual challenges, edible food, bathroom breaks and a blissful absence of school bells?

This was the dilemma ruining my sleep. Even though as a private-school teacher I benefited from small class sizes, the multitasking high school grind was dragging me down. My daily rounds included five literature classes with roughly 10 minutes to review assigned books before class. That was all the time I had to prepare lessons and grade papers too. In between 250 minutes of instruction each day, the “free periods” were a mind-numbing dash from students’ questions to parents’ e-mails to administrative duties. Throw in, too, the daily troubleshooting: investigating a case of plagiarism, fixing the Xerox machine (again), explaining to the girl texting during class why she is going to the discipline committee.

All this, plus the biggest problem of all: how, while on the run, to instill passion for serious literature in a generation of students with a shrinking interest in reading, as iPods, Facebook and YouTube consume their mental universe.

Schnog was able to speak with Kaufman, now 98 years old and glad to explain “that the human encounter between teacher and student is often a more powerful teaching tool than the academic content on a paper or test.” Now that is a good lesson.



  • http://education-wowza.com/student-awards.html Lisa

    I will testify its all about inspiration and support in those early years. Thanks to a few teachers.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Lisa. I was also lucky enough to have some inspired and inspiring teachers who taught me much more than the subject matter.

  • http://www.studenttalk.com Student Talk

    Thank you for sharing this information..

Previous Posts

Trailer: Days and Nights With Katie Holmes and Allison Janney
Inspired by Chekhov's "The Seagull," this is the story of a weekend at a country house that includes a famous actress, her discontented son, and people who love the wrong people and are angry at each other -- sometimes at the same time. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEs6vXztmBM[/youtub

posted 8:00:41am Sep. 16, 2014 | read full post »

Trailer: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in "Serena"
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence re-team in "Serena," which looks very intriguing but does not yet have a US release date. Stay tuned. [iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/-wFHiZHZVaU?rel=0" frameborder="0"]

posted 8:00:35am Sep. 16, 2014 | read full post »

Contest: Win a DVD of Ella the Elephant
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/videoseries?list=PL7Eup7JXScZz_ZAyJKN2XMIdAVp-n3iCW" frameborder="0"] Join Ella the Elephant and her kindhearted friends in this all-new animated series from Disney Junior featuring 8 charming episodes. Elephant Island is home to many

posted 3:37:58pm Sep. 15, 2014 | read full post »

Kellie Pickler Joins the Veggie Tales in Beauty and the Beet
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_h9mcbvBvE0[/youtube] Country star Kellie Pickler joins the cast in "Beauty and the Beet," from the Veggie Tales folks, coming out October 14, 2014. (With a name like that, it was just a question of time!) BEAUTY AND THE BEET, a brand-new VeggieTales mus

posted 3:30:42pm Sep. 15, 2014 | read full post »

Smile of the Week: Baby Got Class
A great video for Back to School from the hilarious Holderness family! [iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/s56-Ta35JRk?rel=0" frameborder="0"]

posted 8:33:19am Sep. 15, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.