(James Wintermote) – I loved reading horror stories when I was young. My journey into the world of the macabre started with comic books about vampires, ghosts, and the undead. I eventually moved on to Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Dean Koontz novels, which of course led to my appreciation of the masterpieces by Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley. Little did I know that as an adult I would soon find myself enveloped in my own personal horror stories by entering the profession of teaching
Anyone who keeps up with current events knows that our education system has been highly criticized for its inability to keep our students competitive when it comes to international scores for reading, writing, math, and science. For the past few decades, the U.S. has been lucky to break into the top 20 nations when it comes to global test scores. With discipline problems and dropout rates on the rise, and test scores and graduation rates on the decline, why has our nation been unable to fix the problems in education? I often hear the rallying cry from a number of politicians that “we need to hire better teachers.” In one particularly distressing case, a school board in Rhode Island decided to throw the baby out with the bath water by firing the entire faculty of a low performing high school.
I come from a family of educators, my father being a retired science teacher and three of my siblings also in the profession, and they, along with my colleagues, feel that our educational system has failed them in some way. I have taken these stories and compiled them into a novel titled Failing Mr. Fisher.
The book chronicles five years in the teaching career of Jim Fisher, a character whose background and propensity for challenging the status quo is not unlike my own. Fisher quickly learns that he is battling indolence, discipline issues, lack of parental support, and feels overwhelmed by the unwillingness of district officials to hold students accountable for their less than stellar performances in the classroom.
Fisher, however, is stubborn when it comes to having to lower his standards in the classroom. He wants his students to perform at their highest levels, and if they refuse to comply, he has no problem failing them.
The idea of failure is, of course, the central theme of the book, and Fisher quickly becomes a pariah in his profession when he speaks out at a faculty meeting, challenging a plan that his administrator wishes to implement to prevent students from failing by not allowing them to take a zero on any assignment. The most significant scene in the novel is when Fisher opposes his administrator’s plan by asking the most controversial of all questions in the profession of education: “What’s wrong with letting them fail?” It is at this point that Fisher and his administrator begin a battle that is currently taking place in every classroom in our nation: whose standards of academics should we encompass?
I would never be so bold as to say that I have all the answers to the problems in the educational system, but I can clearly see what needs to be changed, and that’s what my novel does, it strips the system naked and hangs the dirty laundry out for all to see. As indicated by the title, you will understand that teachers are not failing to do their jobs; it’s the system that is failing the teachers.
A word of caution, though. Like the horror stories I read as a child, this book is not to be read alone in a dark room. Make sure you read it in the company of others in broad daylight, as I don’t want to be held responsible for any nightmares you might incur. And as a spoiler alert, my novel, unlike so many other horror books, does not have a happy ending.
If you’re interested in learning more about Failing Mr. Fisher, please go to www.authorhouse.com for a free preview. If you have any feedback you’d like to share with me, I may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.