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When a friend of mine recommended Reading with Patrick, by Michelle Kuo, she described it as “an amazing story about this woman’s experience with Teach for America” — and I decided not to read it. I was sure I knew this story already: an idealistic young person goes off to teach in an impoverished area and confronts enormous challenges; she gives it her all and makes an impact; her eyes are opened; the kids change her more than she changes them, etcetera.

As a hard-working teacher attempting to maintain some semblance of a life outside of school, I tend to avoid stories about heroic super-teachers who sacrifice everything for their students. These stories make me stressed. They provoke that question that nags at so many caring teachers — “Am I doing enough?” Hero-teacher stories that involve Teach for America set off special alarm bells. That program is known for throwing inexperienced teachers into deeply troubled schools, leaving teachers overwhelmed and students poorly served, and most of these young educators don’t stick with it for more than a few years. …


Alexandra Gross

Books, art, nature, politics, justice, education. Instagram: @ardnaxelagross

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