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Up the Down Staircase

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  7,442 Ratings  ·  484 Reviews
For every teacher fighting to make a difference—the timeless bestseller about the hope, heartache, and hilarity of working in the public school system.

When Sylvia Barrett arrives at New York City’s Calvin Coolidge High, she’s fresh from earning literature degrees at Hunter College and eager to shape young minds. Instead, she encounters broken windows, a lack of supplies,
ebook, 384 pages
Published September 18th 2012 by Open Road Media (first published 1964)
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Diane Barnes
May 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was never a teacher, but I was certainly a student, as was my daughter. For me, and later for her, there were a few great teachers who stood out and made learning a desired thing for it's own sake. The dedication and passion and time expended by these educators is surely undervalued.
Up the Down Staircase was written by one of these teachers, a novel about a young teacher in a New York City high school trying to navigate between the needs of her students and the beaurocracy of the system. Writt
I have found a book to add to my collection of inspiration-to-stay-a-teacher-media; I found it just in time.

Even though the book was originally published five years before I was born, teaching really hasn't changed that much. No surprise. Students haven't changed either.

I recognize entirely too much of the jargon. I recognize entirely too many of the statistics. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I also recognize the lesson she learned that I have to relearn: the students know w
Jan Priddy
Sep 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: future teachers
"Disregard bells!"

This is an epistolary novel of the first term teaching by a young woman in a NYC public high school. Kaufman already had 20 years teaching in NYC schools when she saw this first novel published. The main character, Sylvia, is a serious woman who is unprepared by her education for classes of SS students (Super-Slows) and ordinary kids facing trouble in over-filled poor facilities. None of this is new. She faces what many teachers face today: too many students, an over-worked, se
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In one high school, in a special annex for boys, two tall boys served as my bodyguards when I walked down the hall. One walked in front, the other behind me. One morning a boy came to class three months late. I greeted him with a feeble joke: “Welcome back! What happened? Did you rob a bank?” “No,” he said. “A grocery store.”

הספר מתאר את חוויותיה של מורה בשם סילביה בבית ספר ציבורי אמריקאי. היא בעיקר נתקלת בילדים ממשפחות מעוטות יכולת, היספנים, פורטוריקנים, אפרו אמריקאים ואיטלקים.

הילדים עסוקים בבע
Matthew Gallant
Feb 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just prayed that I wouldn't waste another week or two of summer courses for my Master's Degree with another doozy of a book like "Oh the Glory of It All." I didn't. Thank God this book was required for class. At that point, I'd been a teacher for three years, now it's five, and in ten years, I'll be able to say i'm a third of the way through my career and forty years into life. And everything that happens on every page of "Up the Down Staircase" will still be 100% true of public education and ...more
Feb 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rereaded
103-годишната днес проф. Бел Кауфман публикува "Нагоре по стълбата, която води надолу" преди почти 50 години. Превеждана, преиздавана, екранизирана, превърнала се в многоседмичен бестселър, култово четиво и част от учебната програма, тя е можело да си остане незабележим разказ от три и половина страници, ако бдителна редактора не усетила потенциала на записките от учителското кошче.

Попадна ми в далечните гимназиални години, незнайно откъде и се превърна в една от книгите с главно К. В нея беше з
Melissa McShane
I can't believe I've never rated this book before. I come back to it occasionally because it's easy to read and yet quite powerful in what it has to say about teens, teachers, and education in general. Told through letters, memos, circulars, and, in one very painful moment, the notebook of one of the students, it describes the life of one new teacher through the course of a single semester in a New York high school. This is not an elite school, and these are not high achievers: Sylvia Barrett, a ...more
May 24, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Libbylooloo by: Andrea
I learned that white people back in the sixties don't talk about racism much less the complexities of race. They also talk like Julie Andrews from the sound of music. This book wasn't funny like my friend said. I want my dollar back.
A lady and i were sitting next to each other in the bart station and she mentioned that she went to an inner city school in New York when this book came out in the sixties. I asked if she thought it was weird that the book never talked about the race issues of the t
Mar 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am admittedly biased. Up the Down Staircase delves into the realm of teaching and education, which, as a future teacher, has me mesmerized. While studying it, as I'm sure any other reader would do, I repeatedly asked myself "What difference can one teacher make in an inner-city world of pupil complacency and administrative beauracracy?" Kaufman examines the topic through a variety of written documents: memos from the principal, comments from a suggestion box, letters to an old friend, notes fr ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
I've mentioned several books here that I only read because my girl friend of the 60s wanted me to, or at least introduced me to them. This may be another, I can't remember, but I did read it about that time.

While the book tended (and for all I know still tends) to be thought of as more a "female" read. This is a misnomer and if you allow yourself to miss this book because you think it's not for "men" you'll miss a "good read".

The novel is an epistolary tale of the struggle a dedicated young tea
Lisa Vegan
Aug 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, especially teachers & students
I loved this book. I can’t remember if I read it for the first time in high school or a year or two before, but it’s about a first year teacher with high school students and it all rang fairly true, at least for its time. Anyway, it was interesting, hilarious and very sad in parts as well. One I reread a few times.
May 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bel Kaufman, the author of this book will turn 101 this week. She is the grand daughter of the great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem. It shows in the book, which is written as a series of letters in the style of Sholem Aleichem (see The Adventures of Menachem Mendel.)
It relates the experiences of a young English teacher in Calvin Coolidge High School, a fictional but typical New York City public school.
I'm sure this book speaks to anyone who has taught high school with its problem kids, little
Why I picked it up:When I read this book for the first time, I was planning on becoming a music teacher, and this book is about a young, inner-city teacher. I also adore books told completely through notes, letters, memos, and such, which makes it perfect.

Why I finished it:Kaufman's characters are so very real, and so is the main character's journey. Messed-up bureaucracy, disengaged students, a teacher on the fast track to burnout--a book written decades before I was born still rings true now.
Feb 24, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Efka by: Rolanda
Shelves: abandoned
Neįstengiau pabaigt. Siaubingai nepatiko. Skaitai, ir prieš akis iškyla chaosas, triukšmas, betvarkė, biurokratija ir krūva abejingų idiotų - viskas, dėl ko nekenčiau mokyklos.

Pati knygos forma irgi siaubinga, kažkoks cirkuliarų, raštelių, laišku, klausimų ir atsakymų kratinys be jokios aiškios ir logiškos struktūros.

Žodžiu, šita knyga - ne man. Sėsk, kuolas. :)
Another one of those books I read decades ago. Actually I was in my high school production of this as one of the students--I still remember saying "liberry".
Aug 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had seen the 1967 movie by the same title starring Sandy Dennis, so I jumped at the chance to read the fictional book on which the movie was based.

The book is told through notes and directives and letters and memos between teachers and teachers, students and teachers, administration and teachers, and occasionally teachers and parents. Miss Barrett, fresh out of college, is hired to teach English to a variety of low performing students, and teaches a full schedule in addition to managing a home
Humorous novel with many grains of truth--just as true today as when written 50 years ago. I laughed and cried. Neophyte idealistic teacher, Sylvia Barrett's first semester teaching at an inner-city NYC high school, contending with the horrendous bureaucracy, paperwork, and red tape and trying to instill the love of learning in her students, persisting despite setbacks. The author is the granddaughter of the noted Yiddish humorist Sholom Aleichem of the Tevye the Dairyman stories.
Dec 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, education
I inadvertently labeled this as nonfiction (which I have now corrected), because it is based on the author's experiences and reads like nonfiction.
THANK you to recent reviewers of this book!! I have been trying to remember the title of this book for two years... the plot has been stuck in my mind, but the title & author have been gone-baby-gone. : )
I can't wait to reread this now...!
Sep 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ok, yes, I'm a sucker for all things teacher, and especially English teacher, but this book truly is outstanding. Chronicling those first tentative steps into a classroom chock full of idealism and short on any real preparation, Kaufman shows the hearts and minds of students - and teachers and principals- for what they truly are, as well as the sea of senseless and dehumanizing paperwork that was laugh out loud funny in its clever irony and utter stupidity. And even though I teach in private sch ...more
Jeannette Nikolova
Maybe I should give it 3 stars, but I'm not entirely sold with this book. I decided to read it as part of the 2015 Reading Challenge, because of the antonyms in the title.
But despite it's good sides, something in this book was lost to me. I liked how resourceful the author was when it comes to places from which the notes, letters and so on, are taken. That was definitely fun to follow. I appreciated Sylvia's efforts to reach to the kids. But I feel like this is one of those books: something is
May 21, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2015

Written in 1964, this fictional story of a teacher in an inner-city public high school struggles with the administration, the other teachers, the students — just throw in some cell phones and it feels like it could take place in present day.

“We have keys but no locks (except in lavatories), blackboards but no chalk, students but no seats, teachers but no time to teach.”

Sylvia Barrett is excited to teach English and be able to mold young minds… but realizes she has many challenges ahead of her.
Olivia "Don't Blame Me I Voted for Hillary"
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An awesome account of a first-year high school English teacher, this book is one that will make any day better by taking you through the daily struggles and triumphs of the daily "educational" grind for this new teacher.
Dec 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The only thing I can say about the book is that if you wonder what it is like to be a teacher you should definitely read it for it is absolutely true and works with all the schools despite the place you live or the status of the school.
Aug 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone! especially teachers and students
Stuck in the college library for two hours with no computers available. So what did I do? Started re-reading this classic masterpiece -- which somehow never made it on my GR bookshelves before!

Really a marvelous book that everyone should read -- and re-read!
I was reminded of this book by my blogging friend, John Thompson... His excellent review inspired me to reread, and I was astonished by how timely this book is, FIFTY years after being published. FIFTY YEARS! Education is still battling the same stupid bureaucracy, the same issues in the classroom.

The book I bought from was the original white paperback...pocketbook...with orange lettering. It was well preserved, but ancient. The pages were yell
Jan 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Last fall, I saw that one of the books that I loved as a high school student, Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman, was being reissued as an ebook. I can vividly remember reading the slim book, a fictionalized account of Kaufman's experiences teaching in the New York City schools system in the 1950s and 60s.

The book became a movie starring Sandy Dennis, and I loved that too. Although at times it paints a very bleak portrait of NYC public schools, what shines through is the main character Miss Sy
Feb 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor
I read this book shortly after it was published in 1965. I am not sure what led me to the book other than perhaps the topic of high school education as I was a student at the time. It told the story of Sylvia Barrett, an idealistic English teacher at an inner-city high school (very unlike my own small-town school) who hopes to nurture her students' interest in classic literature (especially Chaucer-I was not a fan of this writer) and writing. She quickly becomes discouraged during her first year ...more
Alexa SOF2014
This very famous novel takes place in a fictional NYC public high school, Calvin Coolidge H.S. It serves as a melting pot of the NYC school system. The main protagonist is Sylvia Barrett, a young English teacher, who wants to develop her student's interest in classic literature (especially Chaucer) and of course she wants to nurture their writing skills. Unfortunately, she begins to become discouraged during her first year of teaching. She is frustrated by the bureaucracy of the school system an ...more
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SUMMARY 1 14 Apr 13, 2013 02:23PM  
  • To Sir, With Love
  • The Trouble with Angels
  • Good-Bye, Mr. Chips
  • Losing My Faculties: A Teacher's Story
  • Looking for Mr. Goodbar
  • 36 Children
  • The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
  • Serpico
  • 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny: Life Lessons from Teaching
  • Please Don't Eat the Daisies
  • Relentless Pursuit: A Year in the Trenches with Teach for America
  • Cress Delahanty
  • The Blackboard Jungle
  • The Nun's Story
  • Small Victories: The Real World of a Teacher, Her Students, and Their High School
  • Good Morning, Miss Dove
  • Among Schoolchildren
  • Lives on the Boundary: A Moving Account of the Struggles and Achievements of America's Educationally Un derprepared
Bel Kaufman (b. 1911) was a bestselling writer, dedicated teacher, and lecturer best known for her novel Up the Down Staircase (1965), a classic portrayal of life in the New York public school system. Kaufman was born in Berlin, the daughter of Russian parents and granddaughter of celebrated Yiddish writer Sholom Aleichem. Her family moved to Odessa when she was three, and Russian is her native la ...more
More about Bel Kaufman...

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“Best marks go to cheaters and memorizers. Marks depend on memorizing and not on real knowledge. When you cram into your head for a test you may get a high mark but forget it the next day. That's not an education. I suggest just Good and Bad at the end of the term on report cards. Or maybe nothing.
Frank Allen”
“I'm buried beneath an avalanche of papers, I don't understand the language of the country, and what do I do about a kid who calls me "Hi, teach!"?
FROM: Room 508
TO: Room 304
Nothing. Maybe he calls you Hi, teach! because he likes you. Why not answer Hi, pupe?
The clerical work is par for the course. "Keep on file in numerical order" means throw in waste-basket. You'll soon learn the language. "Let it be a challenge to you" means you're stuck with it; "interpersonal relationships" is a fight between kids; "ancillary civic agencies for supportive discipline" means call the cops; "Language Arts Dept." is the English office; "literature based on child's reading level and experiential background" means that's all they've got in the Book Room; "non-academic-minded" is a delinquent; and "It has come to my attention" means you're in trouble.”
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