Sylvia Barrett arrives at New York City’s Calvin Coolidge High fresh from earning literature degrees at Hunter College and eager to shape young minds. Instead she encounters broken windows, a lack of supplies, a stifling bureaucracy, and students with no interest in Chaucer. Her bumpy yet ultimately rewarding journey is narrated through an extraordinary collection of correspondence—sternly worded yet nonsensical administrative memos, furtive notes of wisdom from teacher to teacher, “polio consent slips,” and student homework assignments that unwittingly speak from the heart. An instant bestseller when it was first published in 1964, Up the Down Staircase remains as poignant, devastating, laugh-out-loud funny, and relevant today as ever. It timelessly depicts a beleaguered public school system redeemed by teachers who love to teach and students who long to be recognized.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Bel Kaufman was an author and schoolteacher. Born in Berlin in 1911, she spent her childhood in Odessa and emigrated with her family to the Bronx when she was twelve. Her grandfather was the Yiddish humorist Sholem Aleichem. In addition to Up the Down Staircase, she is also the author of the novel Love, Etc. She died in 2014.
Read an Excerpt
Looka her! She's a teacher?
Is this 304? Are you Mr. Barringer?
No. I'm Miss Barrett.
I'm supposed to have Mr. Barringer.
I'm Miss Barrett.
You the teacher? You so young.
Hey she's cute! Hey, teach, can I be in your class?
Please don't block the doorway. Please come in.
Good afternoon, Miss Barnet.
Miss Barrett. My name is on the blackboard. Good morning.
0, no! A dame for homeroom?
You want I should slug him, teach?
Is this homeroom period?
Yes. Sit down, please.
I don't belong here.
We gonna have you all term? Are you a regular or a sub?
There's not enough chairs!
Take any seat at all.
Hey, where do we sit?
Is this 309?
Someone swiped the pass. Can I have a pass?
What's your name?
My name is on the board.
I can't read your writing.
I gotta go to the nurse. I'm dying.
Don't believe him, teach. He ain't dying!
Can I sharpen my pencil in the office?
Why don't you leave the teacher alone, you bums?
Can we sit on the radiator? That's what we did last term.
Hi, teach! You the homeroom?
Pipe down, you morons! Don't you see the teacher's trying to say something?
Please sit down. I'd like to—
Hey, the bell just rung!
How come Mrs. Singer's not here? She was in this room last term.
When do we go home?
The first day of school, he wants to go home already!
That bell is your signal to come to order. Will you please—
Can I have a pass to a drink of water?
You want me to alphabetize for you?
What room is this?
This is room 304. My name is on the board: Miss Barrett. I'll have you for homeroom all term, and I hope to meet some of you in my English classes. Now, someone once said that first impressions—
English! No wonder!
Who needs it?
You give homework?
First impressions, they say, are lasting. What do we base our first—Yes? Do you belong in this class?
No. Mr. McHabe wants Ferone right away.
Whom does he want?
Is Joe Ferone here?
Him? That's a laugh!
He'll show up when he feels like it.
Put down that window-pole, please. We all know that first impressions—Yes?
Is this 304?
Yes. You're late.
I'm not late. I'm absent.
I was absent all last term.
I can't. I'm dropping out. You're supposed to sign my Book
Clearance from last term.
Do you owe any books?
I'm not on the Blacklist! That's a yellow slip. This here is a green!
Hey, isn't the pass back yet?
Quit your shoving!
He started it, teach!
I'd like you to come to order, please. I'm afraid we won’t have time for the discussion on first impressions I had planned. I'm passing out—
Hey, she's passing out!
Give her air!
—Delaney cards. You are to fill them out at once while I take attendance from the Roll Book. Standees—line up in back of the room; you may lean on the wall to write. Print, in ink , your last name first, your parent's name, your date of birth, your address, my name—it's on the board—and the same upside down. I'll make out a seating plan in the Delaney Book. Any questions?
In ink or pencil?
I got no ink—can I use pencil? Who's got a pencil to loan me?
I don't remember when I was born.
Don't mind him—he's a comic.
Print or write?
When do we go to lunch?
I can't write upside down!
Ha-ha. He kills me laughing!
What do you need my address for? My father can't come.
Someone robbed my ball-point!
I can't do it—I lost my glasses.
Are these going to be our regular seats—the radiator?
I don't know my address-we're moving.
Where are you moving?
I don't know where.
Where do you live?
I don't live no place.
Any place. You, young man, why are you late?
I’m not even here. I'm in Mr. Loomis. My uncle's in this class. He forgot his lunch. Hi, Tony—catch!
Please dont throw—Yes, what is it?
This Mrs. Singer's room?
Yes. No. Not anymore.
Anyone find a sneaker from last term?
Hey, teach, can we use a pencil?
You want these filled out now?
There's chewing gum on my seat!
First name last or last name first?
I gotta have a pass to the Men's Room. I know my rights; this is a democracy, ain't it?
Isn't. What's the trouble now?
There's glass all over my desk from the window.
Please don't do that. Don't touch that broken window. It should be reported to the custodian. Does anyone—
Me! Let me go! That's Mr. Grayson—I know where he is in the basement!
All right. Tell him it's urgent. And who are you?
I'm sorry I'm late. I was in Detention.
The Late Room. Where they make you sit to make up your lateness when you come late.
All right, sit down. I mean, stand up—over there, against the wall.
For parent's name, can I use my aunt?
Put down your mother's name.
I got no mother.
Well—do the best you can. Yes, young lady?
The office sent me. Read this to your class and sign here.
May I have your attention, please. Please, class! There's been a change in today's assembly schedule. Listen carefully:
PLEASE IGNORE PREVIOUS INSTRUCTIONS IN CIRCULAR #3, PARAGRAPHS 5 AND 6, AND FOLLOW THE
THIS MORNING THERE WILL BE A LONG HOMEROOM PERIOD EXTENDING INTO THE FIRST HALF OF THE SECOND PERIOD. ALL X2 SECTIONS ARE TO REPORT TO ASSEMBLY THE SECOND HALF OF THE SECOND PERIOD. FIRST PERIOD CLASSES WILL BEGIN THE FOURTH PERIOD, SECOND PERIOD CLASSES WILL BEGIN THE FIFTH PERIOD, THIRD PERIOD CLASSES WILL BEGIN THE SIXTH PERIOD, AND SO ON, SUBJECT CLASSES BEING SHORTENED TO 23 MINUTES IN LENGTH, EXCEPT LUNCH, WHICH WILL BE NORMAL.
Table of ContentsIntroduction
1. Hi, Teach!
2. Let It Be a Challenge
3. From Miss Barrett’s Letterbox
4. Intraschool Communication
5. And Gladly Teche #1
6. No One Down Here
7. And Gladly Teche #2
8. From The Calvin Coolidge Clarion
9. Those Who Can’t
10. Faculty Conference Minutes
12. A Doze of English
13. Enrichment Etc. Part III
15. From Miss Barrett’s Wastebasket
16. JJ’s Lament
17. From the Suggestion Box
18. You Still Teaching?
19. The Greek Underground Part IV
20. Life Situation
21. Bulletin Board, Room 304
22. A Probing Question
23. The Funny Sides
24. From the Right-Hand Drawer, Room 304
25. A Message to Garcia
26. Touch Wounds
27. Clarification of Status
28. From the Suggestion Box
29. The Road Not Taken
30. The Author Tries to Say
31. Communication Arts
32. Over the Time Clock
33. Open School
34. You’re the Teacher
35. Please Do Not Erase
37. Neatly, in Ink
38. Unfortunate Incident
39. Debits and Credits
40. From the Suggestion Box
41. Do You Plan to Indulge in a Turkey?
42. I’m Not Cheating, I’m Left-Handed
43. As Far as Marks
44. Lavatory Escort
45. It Has Come to My Attention
46. From the Suggestion Box
47. My Reading Life
48. What Did I Miss?
50. The Lighter Side of Education
51. Love Me Back!
52. “Teacher for a Day” Day
53. Up the Down Staircase
54. Greetings on Your Illness
55. A for Effort
57. Dear Sir or Madam 58. Hi, Pupe!
What People are Saying About This
“Up the Down Staircase . . . should be read by anyone interested in children or education.” —The New York Times
“Easily the most popular novel about U.S. public schools in history.” —Time
“The most excellent and useful portrait of a[n] . . . American teacher’s life that we are likely to have for a long time.” —Life
Kaufman continues to live and work in New York.