What Went Right: Lessons from Both Sides of the Teacher’s Desk


Co-authors Roberta Israeloff and George McDermott resume a conversation they began in 1967—in a Long Island suburb about thirty miles east of Times Square—when she was in eleventh grade at Syosset High School and he was her English teacher.

A year later, when Roberta was graduating, she asked George to sign her yearbook. “Keep in touch,” he wrote. “I’d like to know who you become.”

They didn’t communicate again for more than four decades

But then, in 2014, they found each other on Facebook. That’s right—Facebook. They began an email correspondence—as contemporaries, rather than student and teacher—and quickly discovered that neither had ever stopped thinking about Syosset High School and the many ways it influenced them.

As they shared their impressions of how and why public education has changed since then—not only on Long Island, but also in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Sarasota, Florida; not only in public schools, but in charter schools as well—they realized that a single academic year can have a deeper and longer-lasting impact than they had ever imagined.

Personal and probing, evocative and wide-ranging, the letters that compose this book ask and attempt to answer some timeless—and timely—questions: What makes a teacher or a class memorable?  How can the teacher-student relationship be supported and strengthened?  What does being “educated” truly mean?

And, perhaps most important, what role can free public education play in sustaining our democracy?

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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers