Questions to ponder or discuss with a group.
1. He (the bus driver) quickly swerved the bus to a gravelly pull out by the side of the road, set the emergency brake while the bus was still in motion causing it to skid to a stop, and opened the front side door with a firm pull. ….. and, while the other riders sat in stunned silence, … The other riders had seen what had happened. Why didn’t they speak up? (Chapter 1)
2. At the staff meeting Gerald feels “mixed” about the comments made about him. (Chapter 1) What can we infer about Gerald or the people that have made these comments?
3. What is Mr. Whitehead’s mantra? When does he use it? What are its implications? (Chapter 1)
4. They (a student group described in Chapter 2) flaunted their dislike of school and showed a distinctive disdain for the other students. What could be the reason for this negativity?
5. Teacher Connie Snelder vents about student Malcolm Grimes and about sending him to the office, but Assistant Principal Tousley was not impressed. Should he have been? (Chapter 2)
6. The hour following the morning academic session had become one of the most difficult parts of Ms. Marston’s day. Why? (Chapter 2)
7. The well-intentioned English Department supervisor, Mrs. Beechwood, visits Ms. Marston’s class for a surprise observation and later the two meet. What do many of the comments made by Mrs. Beechwood indicate about her? (Chapter 2)
8. At the end of Chapter 2 the counselor presides over a meeting with Ms. Marston and two of her students. Should Ms. Marston have been more responsive these students’ concerns?
9. In Chapter 3, when a substitute teacher is not available, Ms. Marston covers a class for Mrs. Hartsong, and the differences in the two teachers’ teaching styles becomes very apparent. How would you describe these differences.
10. Assistant Principal Tousley’s role as official greeter to students who have been ejected from class by their teachers is dramatized in Chapter 4. Why is this a difficult role?
11. Ms. Marston has an incident with Haskins in the teachers lounge. Did she handle this well? (Chapter 4)
12. Ms. Marston reflects upon the conflicts of her professional life, her future family life, and her lack of a life. (Chapter 4) What advice would you give her?
13. A dispute develops between the teachers and administrators after some procedural changes have been made. Comment on the fairness of these changes. (Chapter 5)
14. During the third week of the last quarter, a notoriously difficult student is enrolled in the Marston/Fornay group. Why is this student a much greater challenge than other disruptive students. (Chapter 6)
15. Ms. Marston blames herself for an incident with this same student that results in his suspension. Why? (Chapter 6)
16. Shortly after the above incident, we meet the mother of this difficult student. (Chapter 6) If you were at this meeting, what feelings would you experience toward the mother?
17. Mr. Whitehead says, “Lois has a bad attitude.” Do you think the comments made by Mrs. Fornay on pages 130 and 133 indicate that Mr. Whitehead is right?
18. Ms. Marston becomes very frustrated at a meeting she attends with the school psychologist, the counselor, and several other professionals. Why? (Chapter 7)
19. A substitute teacher has a horrible experience with Ms. Marston’s afternoon session. What factors contributed to this. (Chapter 7)
20. Students playfully tease Colberson for something he did in Chapter 8. Do you agree with Colberson’s reason for doing this?
21. From Chapter 10: A distressingly large number of these kids had wandered into Vandemere as innocent, naïve, and dutiful sixth graders and had left a few years later as corrupted, scornful, cynical, and irresponsible eighth graders. Assuming this is correct, what might explain this? (Chapter 10)
22. Why was Mr. Whitehead so upset about the end-of-the-year assembly. (Chapter 10)
23. A parent and student survey was given during the last weeks of school. What was learned from this? (Chapter 10)
24. Much of this book is about the joy of teaching. What classroom activities and/or aspects of teaching does Ms. Marston seem to very much enjoy?
25. What strategies does Ms. Marston eventually develop to keep her classes orderly?