Up the Down Staircase
By Bel Kaufman
The main character of this book is Sylvia Barret she is a recent college graduate, and works as a high school English teacher. Sylvia would like to work in a nice private school, like so many of her friends. Instead Sylvia takes a job with the board of education, in a nieve attempt to reach out to the under privileged inner-city children in public schools. Sylvia battles with so many choices in this book. In the end she makes the right ones.
Another character that is important to this book is James J. Mchabe. He signs his name with Adm. Asst. (administrative assistant). Sylvia calls him “Admiral Ass” because he is always looking over her shoulder. It seems like Mr.Mchabe’s only propose in life is to bother Sylvia and the other teachers. The admiral always seems to find something wrong with the manor the teachers run their classes in.
Bea Schachter is another teacher at Calvin Colidge High School. Bea has been a teacher at Calvin Coolidge for a very long time and she automatically makes Sylvia her friend. Bea shows Sylvia the ropes; what to do, what not to do, where to go, where not to go. That kind of stuff. Bea is a good teacher, and a good friend to Sylvia.
One of Sylvia’s students is Joe Ferone. Joe is a rebel and a hoodlum. Joe barely ever comes to class. Sylvia really wants to help Joe. Sylvia tries to schedule after school sessions with Joe, but he never shows up. Towards the end of the story I get the feeling Sylvia was starting to fall in love with him.
This story takes place in a New York City school in Manhattan, in the nineteen- sixties. The book covers the span of one school semester form September to February.
Sylvia Barret, a new teacher is starting her first day in room 304. She finds out that teaching isn’t all that she thought it would be. Her first friend is Bea a veteran teacher who helps Sylvia out by explaining how Calvin Coolidge high works. The writer takes all the craziness of a normal high school and embellishes them; for instance the school guidance counselor is always using big words and thinks all the students need help. And Mr. Mchabe the administrative assistant who is nosy about everything. The Janitor who is never available. The students are also exaggerated, “the slut” who needs to be next to two boys boys at once in class. The student government organization president, he always is looking for a vote.
This book shows how Sylvia works hard for the kids and they could care less. She thinks she’s doing right by them and is always trying to help out. Sylvia rights to her best friend Ellen, who has a husband and daughter (Which is what Sylvia dreams of one day having) to tell her about Calvin Coolidge. It seems in every letter her attitude and opinion change. First she hates it, then she loves it.
At the school there is another English teacher named Paul Barringer, all the girl students are in love with him. He is a poet and into the arts. Sylvia thinks he’s handsome and they start a relationship together.
One of Sylvia’s students who is secretly in love with Paul, writes him a love letter. Paul didn’t know what to do, so he stupidly makes spelling corrections. Alice threw herself out of Sylvia’s classroom window. This is the climax of the story after this point everything goes wrong for Sylvia and many hard discision must be made.
An upper class private school named Willowdale wants to hire her. Williowdale is everything Sylvia wants and it is hard for her to choose which school to wok at.
While Sylvia was helping Paul with a teacher’s production, a piece of equipment back stage fell on her ankle and fractured it. While Sylvia was in the hospital she got get well letters from teachers and student and she realized she really was appreciated and needed.
I really liked the book I think it is a great book. I would not only recommend it to a friend but to everyone I know.
It is not only easy reading but enjoyable.