As Bad as They Say?Three Decades of Teaching in the Bronx
Janet Grossbach Mayer
ISBN: 9780823234172Book (Paperback)Fordham University Press, Empire State Editions5 1/2 x 8 1/2150 pagesApril 2011
"Janet Mayer's book is a page-turner about real life in urban classrooms today."—Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education
"Janet Mayer's As Bad As They Say is a brilliant and badly need answer to business minded 'educational reformers' who think that nothing good happened in American education before they took over. The story of a teacher who spent forty years of her life in Bronx public schools, it shows that the love of teachers for their students is the true transformative force in American education, not mindless imposition of standardized tests. Mayer turns her Bronx students, who learn under the most daunting conditions, into heroes, but in the process reminds us that great teachers are motivated by compassion as well as a love of learning. Signficantly, the book ends with a powerful, carefully documented attack on 'No Child Left Behind' a piece of legislation that seeks to render great teachers like Mayer irrelevant and invisible."—Mark Naison, author of White Boy: A Memoir
Rundown, vermin-infested buildings. rigid, slow-to-react bureaucratic systems. Children from broken homes and declining communities. How can a teacher succeed? How does a student not only survive but also come to thrive? It can happen, and As Bad as They Say? tells the heroic stories of Janet Mayer’s students during her 33-year tenure as a Bronx high school teacher.
In 1995, Janet Mayer’s students began a pen-pal exchange with South African teenagers who, under apartheid, had been denied an education; almost uniformly, the South Africans asked, “Is the Bronx as bad as they say?” This dedicated teacher promised those students and all future ones that she would write a book to help change the stereotypical image of Bronx students and show that, in spite of overwhelming obstacles, they are outstanding young people, capable of the highest achievements.
She walks the reader through the decrepit school building, describing in graphic detail the deplorable physical conditions that students and faculty navigate daily. Then, in eight chapters we meet eight amazing young people, a small sample of the more than 14,000 students the writer has felt honored to teach.
She describes her own Bronx roots and the powerful influences that made her such a determined teacher. Finally, the veteran teacher sounds the alarm to stop the corruption and degradation of public education in the guise of what are euphemistically labeled “reforms” (No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top). She also expresses optimism that public education and our democracy can still be saved, urgently calling on all to become involved and help save our schools.
Janet Grossbach Mayer has just completed her 50th year as an award-winning high school teacher of English and reading. For 45 years, she taught in NYC schools, 33 of them in the Bronx, and for the past 5 years she has been a home instructor for Port Jervis, N.Y., schools.She has no plans to retire.