A book review of an outstanding book for all teachers and parents:
Breaking the Silence: My Final Forty Days as a Public School Teacher
by M. Shannon Hernandez
When a wannabe author like me comes across a book about teaching by someone else, and discovers that the author did a far better job of covering vital topics than I ever could, you immediately realize you have come across something very special that must be shared with others. You start out being a little jealous, then switch to “…I wish I had written that,” and eventually you get to where you realize you need to get that message out to anyone you can.
That is how I felt after reading Breaking the Silence: My Final Forty Days as a Public School Teacher by M. Shannon Hernandez.
Shannon’s book was both joyful, and very painful, to read. The joy was in seeing a teacher who exulted in the successes in her students. Here was a teacher who understood how important learning was to the children in her class. You cannot write the kind of passages about children as she did without every classroom teacher immediately recognizing that teaching was the center and passion of her life.
But the reading was painful, too. Part was seeing a potentially superb teacher get so frustrated by all the obstacles that prevent teaching in our schools that she decided to leave and start a new career. And the pain in watching through Shannon’s eyes, all the uncertainties and fear when she is bullied by a principal intent on intimidating his teachers, was even worse – as it will be for so many of us who have lived through the same thing.
Her story of how a principal falsely charged her with the career-ending claim of “inappropriate contact” with students, reported her to the NYC Board of Education for a misconduct hearing, then lied to her about it (claiming it was a parent complaint), simply hurts deeply. Like so many of us in urban schools, Shannon was the target of an administrator who was so unqualified and inexperienced in management that his only known form of “leadership” was bullying. I will not spoil the reading by sharing the hearing outcome in this review, but every teacher will spontaneously cheer when they see, for once, one of the good gals finish first.
What M. Shannon Hernandez does that sets her apart is that she goes beyond the facts to let the reader truly feel what a teacher faces in today’s school system. She presents facts and reality, but does it in a way that let’s non-teachers “enter” the classroom, in a way that no other education author I’ve discovered has achieved. And in the process she exposes one of the most destructive conditions of almost all urban schools – a culture of intimidation and bullying by school administrators that is a teacher’s constant counterpoint to the joys of those times the teaching succeeds despite the system, and those treasured times you see a child light up with the pride of learning.
I immediately wanted to make this required reading for all teachers, who will feel better afterwards just knowing they are not alone. And I wanted to tattoo the entire text on the forearms of all those parents, career bureaucrats, and legislators who never see what actually happens inside teacher classrooms.
Shannon Hernandez earns the highest compliment I can offer – she has written a book that can truly help change things for our children, and help turn around the systemic failures in our schools. Thank you, Ms. Hernandez.
Book: Breaking the Silence: My Final Forty Days as a Public School Teacher
Author: M. Shannon Hernandez
Amazon: Paperback and e-book
Author website: http://myfinal40days.com/
BIO: M. Shannon Hernandez was a public school teacher for 15 years. She is now a college professor, consultant, and author of an outstanding book about teaching – Breaking the Silence: My Final Forty Days as a Public School Teacher. Shannon blogs passionately about student-centered public education reform at her website and at The Huffington Post, and calls herself (a title I love!) an “education activist.”