James Parry’s semi-fictionalized (10%, give or take) memoir of the last five years of his thirty-year career as a middle school educator is at once, both hilarious and sobering. Hilarious as only middle school (or Jr. High) with all the hormones, awkwardness, and antics can be. And sobering when Parry masterfully lays bare the true plight of teachers everywhere dealing with bureaucracy, poverty, and a lack of parental involvement. However, despite the sometimes heavy content, Parry’s acerbic and occasionally goofy wit, keeps this book readable and entertaining.
The book begins on an average school day in Parry’s twenty-fifth year of teaching. When he arrives at work he finds the head custodian quickly changing a spray painted, “F**k All The Teachers” into “Book All The Teachers” with his own can of spray paint. At first Parry is upset by the graffiti until he turns the corner to find the colorful epithet continued on to say “Excep Parry.” Deciding this is the best possible compliment from a middle school hoodlum, we then watch James “…float through the door, skip down the back hall, pirouette through the gymnasium, and do the happy dance as I (he) enter(s) the public office.”
This first introduction into Parry’s world is a good example of the ups and downs throughout the book. Middle school has always been a roller coaster ride for the kids (as I’m sure we all remember), but James Bartlett Parry gives us a look at that wild ride from the teachers end of things. Due to the nature of the middle school experience, Parry has included a WARNING section before the Contents page. I believe it is worthy of being included here verbatim.
“WARNING – With its adolescent humor, convoluted sentence structure and many asides, the book is best enjoyed when accompanied by a bottle — or box — of cheap wine; or, perhaps Ice-house Beer would be a more fitting compliment. If you like parentheses, em-dashes, commas, and semicolons (and, hey, who doesn’t?), you’ll love this book.”
Honestly, I did. Well done, Parry.