Why Do Only White Peo­ple Get Abduct­ed by Aliens?: Teach­ing Lessons from the Bronx

  • From the Publisher
November 11, 2013

Accord­ing to Ilana Garon, pop­u­lar books and movies are inun­dat­ed with the myth of the hero teacher” — the one who charges head­first into dys­func­tion­al inner-city schools like a fire­fight­er into an infer­no, bring­ing the stu­dent vic­tims to safe­ty through a com­bi­na­tion of charis­ma and innate right­eous­ness. The stu­dents are then saved” by the teacher’s ide­al­ism, empa­thy, and faith. This is not that type of book.

Here, Garon reveals the some­times humor­ous, often­times frus­trat­ing, and occa­sion­al­ly hor­ri­fy­ing truths that accom­pa­ny the expe­ri­ence of teach­ing at a pub­lic high school in the Bronx. The over­crowd­ed class­rooms, lack of text­books, and abun­dance of mice, cock­roach­es, and drugs weren’t the only chal­lenges Garon faced dur­ing her first four years as a teacher. Every day, she’d inter­act with stu­dents deal­ing with addic­tion, mis­car­riages, stints in juvie,” abu­sive rela­tion­ships, and gang vio­lence. These stu­dents brought with them big dreams and uncom­mon insight — and chal­lenged every­thing Garon thought she knew about education.

In response, Garon — a naive, sub­ur­ban girl with a curly pony­tail, freck­les, and Har­ry Pot­ter glass­es — opened her eyes, rolled up her sleeves, and learned to dis­tin­guish between mit­i­gat­ed fail­ure and qual­i­fied suc­cess. In this book, Garon explains how she real­ized that being a new teacher was about tri­al by fire, mak­ing mis­takes, learn­ing from the very stu­dents she was teach­ing, and occa­sion­al­ly admit­ting that she may not have answers to their thought-pro­vok­ing (and amus­ing) questions.

Discussion Questions