Celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week through the wisdom of Bel Kaufman’s Up the Down Staircase.
Teacher Appreciation Week recognizes the people who have lent us their knowledge, patience, and encouragement and helped mold us into who we are today. Author Bel Kaufman (1911-2014) would agree that the effect teachers have on the lives of students is immeasurable.
Three decades of experience as a high school teacher in New York City inspired Kaufman’s 1965 novel Up the Down Staircase, described by Life as “The most excellent and useful portrait of a[n] . . . American teacher’s life that we are likely to have for a long time.” Written as a collection of memos between teachers and the administration and students’ notes, Up the Down Staircase traces a young teacher’s efforts to motivate her students despite such challenges as a lack of resources and a stifling bureaucracy.
“Whether in 1964 or in any other year, good education means good teachers. ”
“The potential power of good teachers is awesome. Today our children need them more than ever.”
“What I really had in mind was to do a little teaching. ‘And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche’–like Chaucer’s Clerke of Oxenford, I had come eager to share all I know and feel; to imbue the young with a love for their language and literature; to instruct and to inspire.”
“And that’s it; that’s why I want to teach; that’s the one and only compensation: to make a permanent difference in the life of a child.”
“And we must teach–against all odds, against all obstacles, in the best sense of the word. ”