City public school teachers, particularly those on the verge of burnout, may look longingly at private schools with the image of smaller classes and well-behaved, eager little students.
They should first talk to Gerry Albarelli.
The Elmhurst resident taught for five years in a Brooklyn yeshiva, and describes what it was like in his recently released book, "Teacha!" (Glad Day Books, $10.95).
It wasn't at all what he had expected. "Think of it this way: You're going to Mars," the rabbi told him when he interviewed and hired him. "These boys live in a very insulated world. They speak Yiddish at home, some don't speak any English at all. We're up against the impossible."
It didn't help that the youngsters had a 12-hour school day beginning at 6 a.m., had their English classes near the end of the day with no recess, and were told by the rabbis that their secular courses - which the yeshiva provided only because it was required to by state law - weren't all that important, anyway.
"They're pent-up by the time the English teachers get them," Albarelli told Qguide. The result is that the kids are about as bad a discipline problem as in troubled public schools.
"When the boys saw me walk in," Albarelli writes in the first chapter, "they stopped what they were doing - chasing each other, walking on the tables, screaming, laughing - only long enough to let me know they were not going to stop."
Albarelli, who was living in a small apartment above a luncheonette in Greenpoint several train stops away from the school in
Williamsburg, doesn't limit his pointed descriptions only to the Hasidic yeshiva. "Brooklyn through the scratched window of the elevated train goes on and on, like Chinese boxes, one fitted into the next," he writes in Chapter 2. "Only it's laundry lines, little squares of yard, the tops of buildings, smokestacks, houses like gray cards."
Albarelli, 43, is the founder of the Times Square Project and founding editor of the journal, "Times Square and Other Vanishing Places." He is currently the administrator of the Actors Studio in Manhattan.
His next book, "Gay Cops and Other New York Stories," is due out soon.
"Teacha!" is available at bookstores or can be ordered by calling 888-874-6904.
Reach Qguide Editor David Glenn by e-mail at glenn@time
©2001 Community News Group
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