Take your seat, read quietly to yourself

Book cover of “The Teachers” by Alexandra Robbins.
Book cover of “The Teachers” by Alexandra Robbins.

“The Teachers: A Year Inside America’s Most Vulnerable, Important Profession” by Alexandra Robbins




384 pages


Raise your hand.

That’s probably one of the first things you learned when you started school. You couldn’t yell for the teacher, tug on her dress or be any kind of a wild child. You had to remain civilized, calm, and orderly, and you raised your hand when you wanted attention. And in the new book, “The Teachers” by Alexandra Robbins, times sure have changed.

If you close your eyes, you can remember the exact layout of your favorite teacher’s classroom. Whether it was sixty years ago or two, you recall where the Flag was, where your desk sat, and where the coats went. As a journalist, Alexandra Robbins has written about classrooms like that, and students in them. Here, she steps to the front of a class by following three teachers in three different areas, to get an idea of what today’s teachers experience.

Elementary school students in her East Coast classroom never knew when Rebecca Abrams was going to break out in song. That made learning fun, and Ms. Abrams’ students loved her for that, as much as she loved them. What she didn’t love was that after-school requirements of her job meant absolutely no time for a personal life, no dating, no hobbies, no pets.

Author of ‘The Teachers,’ Alexandra Robbins.
Author of ‘The Teachers,’ Alexandra Robbins. Photo by Susan Hornyak

In a school in the South, 6th grade math teacher Penny Davis taught students in the same school district where she had once attended, which was not as happy as it sounds. Living and working in a small town where everyone knows everyone else also meant that Mrs. Davis dealt with gossip and Mean Girls, both in the classroom and out.

Over on the western side of the country, Miguel Garcia was overwhelmed with paperwork for his middle school Special Ed students. The fight to give his students the best education was one thing he tackled; the community fight to keep the school open was another. And the district kept adding more special-needs students to Garcia’s classroom…

Reading, wRiting, and ‘Rithmetic are what the old song says a kid will get from “School Days.” Once you’ve read “The Teachers,” you’re going to need to add another “R”: Respect.

Starting with the excitement of a first day of school in August, author Alexandra Robbins sets readers down in three rambunctious classrooms and gives us a series of firsthand lessons on giving lessons – but what happens with the students is only half the story. The other half is eye-opening and should make parents take notice: shared with a complete lack of drama, Robbins uncovered waves of frustration, discontent, worrisome observations, and scary incidents from both public and private school teachers. These behind-the-whiteboard anecdotes should make readers want very much to use Robbins’ ideas for teacher appreciation.

There are educators in this book who love their careers so very much but who know that they can’t, for their own good, stay in the profession. There are students you’ll want to reach into these pages and hug. And your heart will be broken by “The Teachers.”

Want a good book? Raise your hand.