Have you ever wanted to keep a diary about your daily struggles as a teacher? Jim Haskins, the author of Diary of a Harlem Schoolteacher, did just that. When I saw the book in library next to the book I was going to read, I found myself instantly hooked. I student taught in The Bronx, New York and I was intrigued by what his feelings were on teaching in a New York City public school. Throughout the book, I found myself transported back in time when racism was a much stronger issue than today.
The book, Diary of a Harlem Schoolteacher, was set during the 1967-1968 school year in Harlem, New York. Jim Haskins taught in P.S. 92, Manhattan. He was a CRMD teacher, Children with Retarded Mental Development, which today would be special education. The children in his class ranged in age from nine to eleven. Mr. Haskins had his hands full with his class and the school itself. The children in his class were sons and daughters of alcoholics, on welfare, abused, under nourished, poverty stricken and had poor hygiene. He struggled daily with the guidance counselors, parents, students, racism, and faculty members in a year that also took the lives of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. Jim Haskins rose above this adversity to teach children in an ever-changing society. .
I have selected six different highlights from the book that really caught my attention. The first highlight was date Monday October 16, 1967. Mr. Haskins wrote about how Monday is a hard day to teach after the weekend and that the students in his class need time to settle down. "They have a lot to say about their weekend-fires, stabbings, the police, etc. Usually the assignment is to let them tell the class "what happened on my block over the weekend-(Haskins, 1969,pg.9). At first, I was surprised but when I read over it again, it was a novel idea. As educators, we are suppose to relate teaching to the student's life and make it relevant for them.