At 22, Dan Brown came to the Bronx's P.S. 85 as an eager, fresh-faced teacher. Unbeknownst to him, his assigned class, 4-217, was the designated "dumping ground" for all fourth-grade problem cases, and his students would prove to be more challenging than he could ever anticipate. Intent on being a caring, dedicated teacher but confronted with unruly children, absent parents, and a failing administration, Dan was pushed to the limit time and again: he found himself screaming with rage, punching his fist through a blackboard out of sheer frustration, often just wanting to give up and walk away.
Yet in this seeming chaos, he slowly learned from his own mistakes and discovered an unexpected well of inspiration to discipline and teach and make a difference. The Great Expectations School is the touching journey of Class 4-217 and their teacher, Mr. Brown, but more than that, it is the revealing story of a broken educational system and all those struggling within and fighting against it.
Educators will find much of interest in The Great Expectations School: A Rookie Year in the New Blackboard Jungle, a memoir that tells the story of author Dan Brown’s first year as a fourth-grade teacher, at the age of 22. Brown describes the debilitating problems he encountered with the American education system, and how he found the strength to keep teaching, in the hopes that even within a broken system he might make a difference.
Gregory St. John’s performance is spot-on, and he modulates his voice skillfully, both to underline Brown’s indictment of public education in the United States as well as his genuine optimism that determined people can and do make learning possible for kids, no matter the obstacles.
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