Behind the Teacher's Desk

The Rules Were Made for Everyone but Me

Non-Fiction - Education
423 Pages
Reviewed on 08/31/2014
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Patricia Reding for Readers' Favorite

In Behind the Teacher’s Desk by Chris Williams, readers follow Claire Hebert, a high school instructor, through the second term of a high school year. While Claire’s hours are filled with student requests, class preparation, instruction, hall duty, extracurricular activities, and more, she longs to be able to spend more time with her love interest, Matt, and the golden retriever he gave her, Boomer. As the weeks pass, members of the school and community seek to identify the person responsible for a hit-and-run that left one of Claire’s fellow teachers seriously injured. Meanwhile, the pressures of teaching cause difficulty in Claire and Matt’s relationship. But it is not just the demands of Claire’s work that prove difficult. It is that she works in a system designed to fail. This is a system that provides no repercussions when parents, in their efforts to keep their children from failing, do their work for them (thereby fulfilling their own greatest fears). This is a system that employs teachers too busy trying to be liked by the young people to have any authority over them. This is a system that allows students to carry and use their electronic devices in the classrooms, distracting all those who want to learn. This is a system that, if it were a private business, would have closed its doors long ago. The solutions to fixing many of these problems are all too obvious, but alas, those with the ability to make the changes have failed to do so.

I will confess I find the entire public education system to be in such a shambles that my blood pressure rises whenever the very subject comes up. My own experience with my children in both public and private settings taught me a great deal. The differences between the two are profound. So, I suppose it would come as no surprise that I found Behind the Teacher’s Desk an accurate, if not frustrating journey into the land of our public schools where, all too often, teachers are caught in the middle between parents and institutional policies. When those who care do speak up, they often are shouted down. It is easy to blame teachers for the results. I admit to having done so myself from time to time. Let’s face it: some of them ought not to be teaching. But my greater issues are with the system itself, one that continues to spend more tax dollars, regardless of the outcome. In the end, the pressures imposed upon teachers leave them — especially the best of them (some of whom I know) — wanting to leave their profession, while parents and their children are often left wondering why so many of them bother to stay. Chris Williams offers a sincere and honest look into the public school system, showing how these issues play out in the real world.

Ray Simmons

Behind the Teacher's Desk by Chris Williams is a very realistic look at the modern school system and the teachers who work in it. It is also an accurate portrayal of the new student body and their attitudes toward education. The major characters are teachers and each chapter shows a different aspect of their job and how they struggle to cope with the demands it makes on them. Clare Hebert is a young biology teacher that most of Behind the Teacher's Desk focuses on. I think Claire may even be considered a typical modern teacher, if there is such a creature, and though she is dedicated and very professional, she struggles daily with the question of whether or not to quit and do something else for a living.

I like Claire Hebert. She is not flashy and she certainly doesn't have all the answers but she is organized, knowledgeable and, most of all, dedicated. What I like most about Behind the Teacher's Desk is that it shows us the life of the teacher without the heightened dramatics that you get in a television show or movie. This makes Behind the Teacher's Desk a useful tool for anyone thinking about being a teacher or for people who have children in a school system in America, Canada, or England. Behind the Teacher's Desk features chapters about children with disciplinary problems, children with special needs, and the many ways kids work the system to get what they want. The situations and the resolutions are not glamorous but very very real.

Valerie Rouse

Behind the Teacher’s Desk is an inspiring tale about the challenges teachers face at the Amberton District High School. This story focuses specifically on Claire Hebert, a biology teacher who faces many issues with her students and her boyfriend Matt. As a result of an unfortunate accident involving Paul Fraser, a fellow teacher, Claire had to take over classes that she was unfamiliar with teaching. She goes head to head with unruly, obnoxious students who really don’t have any interest in learning. She also encounters a few committed students that she treasures and form bonds with easily. Claire’s enviable dedication to all her students creates friction between her and Matt. In time, Matt and other teachers come to realize that Claire was instrumental in changing some of the negative behavior patterns of the students.

Behind the Teacher’s Desk is a refreshing book about the role of teachers in schools. It is written in colloquial language and is easy to understand. What is unique about this novel is that it is written from the perspective of the teacher. I have not read many books exposing the teacher’s viewpoint and this feature is very impressive. The creative genius of author Chris Williams is evident because the reader can identify with the main character. You can feel her emotional highs and lows throughout her work week. I appreciated the fact that the main character is fully developed. She has a work life as well as a personal life. I applaud the author for showcasing a realistic view of the main character. I thoroughly enjoyed the book. This book shows that you have not experienced stress until you step into the classroom as a teacher.

Tina Gibbons

Claire Hébert - a work-a-holic teacher who always wants to be prepared because she knows how out of hand things can get if she's not - is the main character in Chris Williams' book, Behind the Teacher's Desk: The Rules were Made for Everyone but Me. When a teacher is injured in the school parking lot, all her prep work goes out the window because people have to be shifted around to cover for the fallen co-worker - whose accident is a mystery yet to be solved. Combine this chaos with her love life (her boyfriend surprises her with the added responsibility of a puppy.) Mix in the eclectic group of staff members and students at the school. Add the daily pressures and turmoil, and you get a view from behind a teacher's desk.

Chris Williams delivers a strong character in Claire Hébert. I feel she represents what I'd want to see in a teacher mentoring my own children. She is dedicated and her struggle within the system, trying to fight for her own beliefs about how best to educate the children, was very engaging. It is enlightening to see the components of the educational system from the viewpoint of a teacher, and even though it is a fictional story, I believe it could be something that happens every day in real life. The experience of the author makes the story credible. The students in the book are all unique and beg for your attention. Behind the Teacher's Desk: The Rules were Made for Everyone but Me is an informative and thought provoking read.

Cheryl E. Rodriguez

Behind the Teacher’s Desk, written by Chris Williams, reveals the unseen story of today’s classroom. When a teacher is tragically injured in the school parking lot, the school and the community are forced to face the truth - our students are out of control. Claire Hebert is a devoted teacher, really more like a workaholic. Facing students with no respect or regard for learning, much less for the teachers, unruly classrooms, parents who are blind to behavior issues, and over-indulgence from school administration, Claire’s life becomes undone. All at once, everything begins to pile up. As a result, her personal life gets thrown into the mix of the constant confusion. Before she knows it, Claire and her boyfriend Matt are quarreling and could possibly be through. Thoughts of quitting haunt her days and nights. Yet, she is drawn to the students, desiring to make a difference. The world is a harsh place and caring can be cruel at times. Claire must decide if all the stress and frustration is worth it.

Chris Williams writes a “tell it like it is” story in Behind the Teacher’s Desk. She wrote confidently from her own life experience. The story begins with a “who-dunnit?” mystery. The plot unfolds while the mystery remains nicely tucked away under the surface. Williams’ writing style is simple but effective in telling the story. Characters’ lives intersect and flow nicely from one chapter into the next. The characters develop and are woven decisively into the plot’s rising action. As a reader, you sense the bond of the teachers growing, the dissension of the administration, and the turmoil of the students and the tension of the main character’s relationship. Being a dog lover, I enjoyed the inclusion of the puppy, Boomer, as a side-kick character. The story’s climax is held at bay and then, with a surge of discovery, it peaks and recedes into the denouement. Behind the Teacher’s Desk leaves you hopeful and believing one person’s devotion can make a difference.