Confessions of a Rogue Teacher: A Novel
George L. Colon
Reviewed by Ron Standerfer for Reader Views (5/09)
Let me begin by saying that George Colon, knows what he is talking about. Born in Puerto Rico, he absorbed the lessons of life served up on the streets of the South Bronx, earned degrees in English and Education, and went on to teach English in the New York City schools for the past thirty years. In his latest book, “Confessions of a Rogue Teacher,” the harsh realities of teaching in the New York City public school system comes tumbling out in a torrent of taut, well-written prose that keeps the reader on edge throughout the book. It’s all there, the good, the bad, and the ugly; a graphic portrayal of a teacher’s life in arguably one of the most demanding education venues in America.
The principal character in the book is Manny Quesada, who is described as a jaded teacher whose ideals have long since been eroded by the new realities of urban education. He is a man who wallows in self pity and lives a life that is moving dangerously close to overindulgence in drugs and alcohol. Meanwhile, his infatuation with Maggie, a bright, beautiful student who shares his infatuation, is drawing him closer and closer to an improper, physical relationship.
But the worst is yet to come. After a physical altercation with a troubled student–an altercation that Manny felt forced him to act in self-defense–school officials remove him from his high school classroom and assigned him administrative duties in the “Rubber Room” of lore and legend in the superintendent’s office, where lost souls known as “rogue teachers” await judgment.
Those who have read Dante’s “Inferno” will find the description of the Rubber Room vaguely familiar. It too consists of a descending spiral, in this case a long corridor lined with airless offices where those condemned there spend months or even years performing meaningless tasks while awaiting their fate. But Manny is in no mood to wait. Convinced of his innocence, he wants to return to his classroom. Meanwhile, while performing his “meaningless” duties he makes a startling discovery. Educational officials are falsifying statistics; a fact that if made public, would create a scandal that could reach to the highest level of city politics. This is where the story really gets interesting. The question is, can Manny barter what he knows into a ticket back to the classroom in a kind of quid pro quo mutual blackmail arrangement; or more importantly, should he even try? In the end he decides to go for it.
The thing I like the most about “Confessions of a Rogue Teacher” is the authentic ring of the dialogue and descriptive prose. It makes me wonder how much of Manny Quesada is George Colon and vice versa. I hope to interview the author in the near future and will certainly ask him that question.
“Confessions of a Rogue Teacher” by George L. Colon is my kind of book. Short, interesting, and eminently readable!