I wasn't sure what to expect when I received this book. Karin is so humorous in real life I was assuming that it might be more along the lines of her previous books or a Stephanie McAfee type novel, but I was wrong. This is a serious novel with serious subject matters between the pages. It does have humor and frivolity in places, but there are real issues behind it.
It's a great story of an extremely privileged young white woman who loses her way in life and is forced by her family to find it again. Cut off from her non-ending funds, thrown to the world with not a skill except tennis, she finds herself in a teaching program that is so desperate to fill difficult positions in difficult schools that they take her with not a single teaching skill to her name.
What follows is a tale of inter-racial relationships, backlash across the board because of it, school politics, cheating scandals, abusive relationships, misused and abandoned children who attend school mainly for warmth and food and finally, a woman finding her true calling and standing on her own.
It grabs you and keeps you, I definitely recommend this book!
Also, as a special treat for us, Karin wrote a blog post (below) that describes her years of teaching in an inner city school and how it relates to her newest novel.
CLICK HERE FOR BOOK EXCERPT
September 8, 2015
The unspooling of Toni Lee Wells’ Tiffany and Wild Turkey lifestyle begins with a trip to the Luckett County Jail drunk tank. An earlier wrist injury sidelined her pro tennis career, and now she’s trading her tennis whites for wild nights roaming the streets of Rose Hill, Georgia.
Her wealthy family finally gets fed up with her shenanigans. They cut off her monthly allowance but also make her a sweetheart deal: Get a job, keep it for a year, and you’ll receive an early inheritance. Act the fool or get fired, and you’ll lose it for good.
Toni Lee signs up for a fast-track Teacher Corps program. She hopes for an easy teaching gig, but what she gets is an assignment to Harriet Hall, a high school that churns out more thugs than scholars.
What’s a spoiled Southern belle to do when confronted with a bunch of street smart students who are determined to make her life as difficult as possible? Luckily, Carl, a handsome colleague, is willing to help her negotiate the rough teaching waters and keep her bed warm at night. But when Toni Lee gets involved with some dark dealings in the school system, she fears she might lose her new beau as well as her inheritance.
My Very Worst Day Teaching
I taught at an inner-city high school for ten years, and I used to say that a good day was when none of my students threw a chair at me. Most people thought I was joking, but over the years I’ve had all kinds of objects heaved at me: desks, scissors and insults. Lots and lots of insults.
My students often came to me from youth detention centers and many had severe behavior disorders. During the decade I taught, I experienced my share of harrowing incidents but the worst came in my last year.
I had a student named Olivia and most times she was manageable, but every now and then she would lose her temper and become completely uncontrollable. Everyone was aware of her tantrums and more than once a security guard hauled her off the premises as she screamed, bit and kicked.
One day Olivia came to class after finding out she was pregnant. I don’t know if it was the hormones or her unfortunate news, but Olivia was in a terrible snit, cursing, screaming, and threatening physical harm to me and her fellow students.
I pushed the panic button, waiting for someone to come and get Olivia. Fifteen minutes past and no one arrived. Olivia’s behavior continued to escalate and I feared she was going to cause serious injury to herself or someone in the classroom. I pushed the button and again and the office secretary said, “We’re working on it.”
Another ten minutes passed. Olivia was in my face, spewing obscenities, her fists balled, her face a mask of malevolence. Finally two assistant principals and a security guard appeared, and Olivia was removed from my classroom.
Later one of the assistant principals apologized for the delay and said, “We know how violent Olivia can be and we didn’t want to come until we could locate a security guard.”
Both of the assistant principals were women so I can understand why they didn’t want to deal with her but they didn’t mind letting me weather her tantrum without any assistance. I’m 5 foot 2 inches tall and at the time, I weighed 115 pounds. In other words, I was no physical match for a teenager fueled on anger and adrenaline.
A few months earlier a student stabbed one of my colleagues at a local middle school. She lapsed into a coma and later died. That, coupled with the Olivia incident, woke me up. I knew my job could be crazy at times, but now I understood that it could actually kill me. I was the single mother of a young child and decided I could no longer take that risk.
I accepted a much lower paying job as an editor of a parenting magazine and not long afterwards I sold a series of novels to Simon and Schuster. I’ve been writing ever since and Girl Meets Class, my sixth novel, is based on my experiences teaching at an inner-city school. Although it deals with serious subject matters, it’s actually a lighthearted novel and my main character Toni Lee Wells gains much from tenure in the inner city classroom.