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Retro Reading: Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman

Updated on November 14, 2014
A great book to read when you want to visit your own high school days
A great book to read when you want to visit your own high school days

Up the Down Staircase is one of the books that every new teacher should read. It's funny, sad and gives a glimpse into what it's like being a first year teacher.

It's the mid-sixties and Sylvia Barrett is anxious about her first teaching job. She's going to be teaching at Calvin Coolidge High School and has many ideas of just how she's going to be teaching her students. Well, in her minds eye that is.

From the first day of school through the first day of the second semester, the novel is told through a series of notes, intraschool communications, a suggestion box and many more pieces of paper and we get a look at both Sylvia and the pupils. It's quite a fast read if you're looking to read something in a couple of hours.

This novel has been around for years and I think this is probably the third time that I've read it. I think the first time I bought a copy of the book, I may have found it at a used book sale and even then I was drawn into the world of Calvin Coolidge High School.

Of course the times were different when the book first came out, but I tend to think that its held up quite nicely since it was first published nearly half a century ago.

Due to the popularity of it, a film was made starring Sandy Dennis and the film is equally as good. With so much material to work with, I've always been surprised a re-make was never made.

If you're like me and enjoyed the fall months of school, I think you'll find yourself going back to those carefree days, but looking at it all through the eyes of your classmates and other administrative staff.


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