Based on actual events, “MISS?” is a whirlwind of a read as readers explore the failings of our educational system through the eyes of a first-time teacher as she struggles to impact her students lives in a meaningful way while dealing with the reality that her school may be closing in the not-to-distant future.
“MISS?” by Laurel McHargue is an interesting, heartbreaking, and at times witty look into the failing American school system viewed through the eyes of a first-time teacher as she struggles to provide an acceptable education against the threat of her school closing, and the almost impossible task of teaching children who believe they have been given up on.Maggie McCauley, a young Army veteran, begins her first year of teaching English at a Denver middle school optimistically, believing her 7th grade students will want to learn from her and that she will be able to teach them all they should know. Her enthusiasm is shattered almost instantly when she learns her school is severely behind on standardized test scores and is rumored to be closing at the end of the year. She is also disappointed to find most of her students lack any interest in learning, not because they are inept, but because the school has not allowed them to master any sort of basic skills. The children are pushed through each year with little attention being paid to what they actually need from their teachers and school system. Miss McCauley is faced with an extremely tough school year dealing with bratty and underprivileged children, a school system that asks too much of their teachers while not allowing the teachers to provide feedback about programs implemented at the school, as well as a security guard who pays too much attention to her, and the issues raised as she transitions back into civilian life.
“MISS?” is an unusual book as it addresses major concerns in our education system as well as what life is like for a veteran entering back into everyday life. First and foremost, this is a well-written book, which offers a glimpse into what an underprivileged school looks like and how it functions as the teachers and staff attempt to keep it afloat while dealing with each tumultuous day. Though slow at times with too much description about daily routines having to do with Miss McCauley’s life and perhaps too much dialogue with her neighbor, who has little to do with the plot of the book, the daily interactions with the students more than makes up for it. Frustrating, hilarious, and at times heartbreaking, it is important to understand that these moments are based on actual events that have happened, and will continue to happen if something is not done about the state of our educational system in public schools. It is an eye-opening read for those who know little to none about the poor conditions of schools, and a reminder to those who do understand that something needs to be done, and soon.
All who have dealt with, or continue to deal with, issues in our education system and especially those who believe the system is still working may find “MISS?” to be an inspiring read.
Reviewed by Cassidy Holmes for IndieReader.