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Losing My Faculties: A Teacher's Story

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  324 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
I am just one of those rare and probably defective people who really enjoy the company of teenagers.

Brendan Halpin’s It Takes a Worried Man—a memoir of how he and his family dealt with his wife’s battle against breast cancer—was praised for its can-dor, raw humor, and riveting voice. Halpin now turns his unique talent to an unforgettable account of the pursuit of his true
Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 10th 2004 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2003)
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The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin GruwellThere Are No Shortcuts by Rafe EsquithLosing My Faculties by Brendan HalpinTeach with Your Heart by Erin GruwellThe Power of Their Ideas by Deborah Meier
Teacher Memoirs
3rd out of 34 books — 7 voters
Hysteria by Megan MirandaVidalia in Paris by Sasha WatsonMe, the Missing, and the Dead by Jenny ValentinePerfect Girls, Starving Daughters by Courtney E. MartinThe Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E.L. Konigsburg
14th out of 17 books — 1 voter

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 771)
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Jun 08, 2007 Clickety rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: teachers intimidated by supterteachers
Funny and refreshing; makes me feel a LOT better about the school I'm at, the teachers I work with, and even the administration I'm stuck with, not to mention my own abilities (or lack thereof).
Dec 25, 2011 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: teachers who know what's up. Or people who really, truly want to know what it's like to teach.
I thought this book was very good!!!!!!

I have no idea where I heard about this book. I mean, I read a lot of teacher blogs and teacher-related internet things, so it was somewhere online, haha. I love reading teacher books, as lame as that sounds.

This was the memoir of a teacher who has taught in and around Boston in a variety of school settings. Unlike Rafe Esquith, Brendan Halpin seems real to me. He gets frustrated with decisions that affect him, he becomes angry with disillusioned teachers w
Khris Sellin
Oct 25, 2012 Khris Sellin rated it it was amazing
(I love everything this guy writes!)

This is a hilariously irreverent memoir about Halpin's experiences as a high school teacher in the Boston area. I know nothing about what it's like to be a teacher, my only experiences being as an unappreciative, uncooperative student, and then being the parent of unappreciative, uncooperative students, but this is a really entertaining behind-the-scenes look at our educational system.

It starts out with Halpin as a new teacher, full of enthusiasm and idealism,
Jun 08, 2012 Mary rated it it was ok
Shelves: public-education
You know that saying, "if you have a problem with everyone, maybe you're the one with the problems"? I have to take this teaching-biography with a grain of salt, because, man, does Halpin go through a lot of schools, and each one is full of people that he can't stand: drunks, commuters who listen to classic rock, theory bigwigs, worksheet assigners, would-be world-changers, slackers, racists, anti-white racists, Republicans, celebrity-backed educators, people who take long lunches, etc. You get ...more
Jul 10, 2012 Annie rated it it was amazing
this is probably the third or fourth time i've read this book, and i love it more and more. _losing my faculties_ is halpin's teaching memoir, and he describes the many schools where he's taught over the years, and the transitions he made among them. and his mood swings and uncertainty were especially therapeutic to me this time around. here are some fun snippets...

on becoming bitter:

"so here i am, the bitter old f*ck that the new teachers in their twenties hate. and i want to explain, explain a
Jan 28, 2011 Peacegal rated it it was ok
I appreciated that Halpin spent almost all of his time writing about his job (seriously, if I pick up an occupation memoir, I expect to read about what it’s like to be a _______, not about fights you’ve had with your spouse, complaints about in-laws, etc. A lot of writers still haven’t “gotten” this).

Unfortunately, in the second half of the book, the author shifts almost entirely away from writing about his experiences teaching in urban Boston, and instead focuses squarely on the incompetence a
Jul 02, 2007 Philip rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Teachers
What an awesome book. Halpin tells it like it is without giving in to the teachery catch-phrases of the day. He writes about the lack of time teachers have, the traps schools fall into to make them have low standards and fake programs to make them look like the standards are high, as well as frustrations with differing teaching philosophies. It's a good read. Unfortunately it's too quick of a read.
Aug 22, 2016 Diana180 added it
Shelves: read2016
I have read a lot of teacher memoirs and they go like this: Teacher enters a school, tries to be the good cop, and is torn to bits by the students until s/he has a moment and decides to lay down the law, after which s/he becomes the respected stickler and finds this is the way to student love. Halpin's memoir, while striking these notes, is a more honest than most about the iterative and unpredictable nature of teaching: the fact that you have to reach an m.o. with each new class and sometimes w ...more
Apr 03, 2014 Paige rated it it was amazing
Having been my third book -- though I'm still trying to get back into Freedom Writers, tough w school assignments -- I feel like what I got out of this book is exactly what I was hoping to get out of the others. Brendan's description of the school situations, the teens, reminds me of kids I know now in my pre-prac and ones I've encountered along the way, either at the library or in movies or other books, or even back when I was a high school student. I felt like I could relate to him, and I'm no ...more
Krista Stevens
May 17, 2016 Krista Stevens rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult, education
Should be required reading for anyone who wants to go into education with their eyes open. The teaching aspect is downplayed in favor of understanding the politics behind teaching - school rules and procedures, unions, administrators, evaluations, etc. This also confirms my long-standing beliefs that charter schools sound so much better in practice than in theory. Many parts of it are a damning indictment of the hierarchy of public education. Having said that, I also have to say my experience ha ...more
Sep 05, 2007 Nicole rated it it was amazing
This is a laugh-out-loud funny book about teaching that has REALISTIC insights about the profession (with specific regard to working in urban schools). So far it is never "too neat" a book, but it is also not at all bitter and negative.

Jules Vilmur
Jul 02, 2011 Jules Vilmur rated it really liked it
"Losing My Faculties" is one of those books that reminds you of those few great teachers you had and the many lousy ones you suffered under. It also made me think of all the teachers I wanted to recommend it to, each time open its pages.
Corinthia Ellis
Apr 07, 2013 Corinthia Ellis rated it did not like it
Teachers: I implore you, stay away from this book. It was terribly disheartening. I think he meant to end on an upward note, but there was too much muck before the end for it to be effective.
Feb 22, 2007 Christine rated it it was amazing
My favorite teacher memoir. Hilarious! It saved me from going insane as a first-year teacher in the Bronx. Based on Halpin's experience in several Boston-area schools.
Jul 22, 2009 Sabrina rated it really liked it
I appreciate the author's candor and cynicism. I am exceptionally fearful that I will be penniless and employed as a griping teacher, some day.
Dec 23, 2013 Troy rated it really liked it
What a book to read over The first day of Christmas break in my 5th year at a suburban/ rural/ urban high school that has an identity problem. I really enjoyed reading this book as I could relate to many of the stories about interactions between students and administrators. I understand the emotional roller coaster that teaching takes on anyone who had great ideal when they come into teaching. I love Halpin's writing and details of the ever changing educational landscape. I was sorry to hear his ...more
May 10, 2014 Sarah rated it liked it
For the first half of this book I was ensconced. Brendan Halprin hits the nail on the head describing the early years of teaching. Unlike most teacher memoirs, Halprin does not claim to be on his A game from day one. Instead, he openly admits that much of what he tried simply did not work. He talks about his fears, frustrations, and desperation. At the halfway mark I was hooked. And then I grew irritated. Halprin spends a lot of time discussing all the ways in which he was wronged by administrat ...more
Connie N.
Nov 09, 2012 Connie N. rated it it was ok
This is a non-fiction book describing the first 9 years of Brendan Halpin's teaching career, and I guess it flows along with his attitude and feelings about teaching. It starts off enthusiastic and funny with lots of fun stories about his students and his idealistic way of looking at the job. But as he goes from job to job, experiencing different types of teaching styles, the story deteriorates into a whiny series of complaints about the administration--us vs. them. He sounds as though he was ou ...more
Jul 30, 2008 Audrey rated it it was amazing
Damn you, Halpin. When are you going to quit writing books that make me cry? (Okay, I should probably explain that I cry easily, but are 2 for 2 right now, buddy. And I've got your memoir waiting next, and we know how that one goes...)
I'm gonna have to find some fiction from you first. Geez...

Anyway, enough blather. Halpin's take on what it's like to be a teacher -- a new, idealistic, ready-to-take-on-the-world-and-change-it, scared, doesn't-have-a-clue-what-he's-doing teacher -- jus
Liz Christensen
Jul 20, 2014 Liz Christensen rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It rang so true even though Mr. Halpin and I are practically opposites (male-female, vegetarian-omnivore, city teacher-rural teacher, high school-grade school). There are so many episodes of universal truth here. I can't wait to read other books by him.
May 04, 2014 Simone rated it really liked it
This was a funny look into the life of a teacher. I was concerned by the number of times the author changes jobs but all in all, the book discusses the unmentioned aspects of teaching such as school politics and getting along with colleagues.
Dec 22, 2009 Lisa rated it really liked it
A realistic and entertaining memoir that has a great appeal for anyone in the teaching profession, but can be enjoyed by others as well. Halpin accurately describes the jarring transition from grad-school idealism and educational philosophies to the gritty and decidedly un-idealistic reality of daily teaching within often unsupportive environments. He accurately points out that most teachers, new or not, are rarely observed and given little feedback. I've often said that I could be teaching Sata ...more
Jun 24, 2015 Lynne rated it it was amazing
An enjoyable read that I read early on in my teaching career. I plan to re-read it from the perspective of someone with more experience to see if my opinion changes.
Susan Bazzett-griffith
I got about twenty pages into this book before realizing I had read it before about a decade ago. I liked it enough to reread most of it. Halpin's memoir describing his years as an English teacher was eerily similar to my own career, especially the early years and the baptism by fire of throwing a new teacher in a classroom with little to no guidance, observation, or help. I related to his story in many ways, and find his voice conversational and funny, if a bit arrogant. Great, easy read- highl ...more
Aug 27, 2010 Jenny rated it liked it
Okay, but not really my favorite. I would probably give it two stars but ... I liked it when he was talking about the parts he liked about teaching in urban schools and his passion for that, but there wasn't enough of that in the book. He ends up in schools that aren't what he was led to believe. He starts out grumbling about it, then whining, then non-stop complaining. The language he uses is a turn-off to me -- I know he is a high school teacher and he hears it from the students all day long, ...more
Jul 22, 2010 Mary rated it did not like it
I've never read a book where the author whines during a majority of the book. The only parts I liked were the prologue and epilogue where he expresses his love of teaching and working with youth. I was also disappointed with his lack of vocabulary. I was annoyed by all the swearing. As an English teacher, shouldn't he have better descriptions than four letter words?
I don't recommend this book for anyone who doesn't teach. It gives the profession a sour aftertaste. As an educator this book was a
Sandy D.
This is a fascinating, entertaining memoir by a (now former!) hs teacher. It was a little discouraging to hear that bad administrators are as damaging to a school as I suspected. And that is easy to be a bad teacher and just phone it in.

On the other hand, it makes me want to tell the good (and some really great!) teachers and one principal how much I really appreciate what they have done for my children, because they honestly have made a huge difference. Especially for my challenging kid, who re
Jul 20, 2012 Meredith rated it really liked it
I often get slightly nervous when reading memoirs ... even if you change names, people are going to know that you're talking about them, right?

These quotes rang true for me:

"Though I will get better at the discipline stuff, I am fundamentally a marshmallow, and I will trade a little bit of chaos fora little bit of student involvement." (p. 43)

"I can tell you all the reasons why this is the best way to do things, but the fact is that it doesn't always work. So when it works, am I skilled or just
May 09, 2009 Chung rated it really liked it
Brendan chronicles about 9 years of teaching in a variety of school settings. As a current teaching candidate I found this book funny and insightful. I'm not sure what type of school setting (urban, suburban, rural) setting I would like to work in but; after reading this book, I feel like that matters a lot less then finding out about the type of teachers in the school. It seems the adminstration will be similar at most schools so the best I can hope for is to be working with dedicated teachers. ...more
Jul 12, 2012 Kristina rated it liked it

The first 75% of this book was laugh out loud funny and all too real. I underlined half of it, feeling that "finally! Someone understands teaching English to high school kids!" however, I found the book lacking the last quarter. It seemed like instead of being a teaching memoir, it turned into some vindication or stab against the last school. It ended a but sullenly, too. Regardless, glad I read it.., and glad to hear charter schools see the same BS public school does!
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I grew up in Cincinnati, went to college in Philadelphia, and also lived in Taipei and Edinburgh along the way. I've lived in Boston since 1991.

I became a professional writer in 2000, writing about my late wife Kirsten's breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Kirsten died in 2003, leaving me and our daughter Rowen. I married Suzanne in 2005 and got her kids Casey and Kylie in the deal too. Bargain
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