Book Review: On The Edge, Charlie Carroll

This book is written by a young English teacher, a few years into his career, who decides to witness the worst of what the country’s students have to offer. He buys a camper van, and does supply across the country, choosing the cities based on some thorough research into a number of factors that affect student behaviour.

The book is quite sad, in that this chap is obviously a skilled teacher with a strong passion and a real belief in the value of what he is doing, and that is systematically stamped all over by the students he meets.

You can see what I mean about his demeanour, and how much he cares, simply by the fact that he does manage to get through to some of the students. He despairs over their future in the camper van at night, remembers all their names and their demeanours at the end of his adventure, and at one point is inconsolable over a particular issue. I won’t spoil it for you by telling you what it is.

The behaviour he encounters is atrocious. The most striking thing for me was the language, and the X-rated graffiti he so often encounters. He is physically threatened on a number of occasions, at one point being thumped in the back with a girl’s handbag.

He talks in detail about the set up at each school that he visits, so you really get an idea of how the structure, policies and management of a school effects a teacher’s working life. Some of the practices in some of the schools are shocking, I recall most of all the school in which he is tricked by one of the regular teachers into taking a terrible class for the afternoon.

At all times there is really a sense of the fact that he is just one person stood at the front of the class, left alone to fight an impossible battle where he is very definitely in danger, and anything that happens within those four walls will be directly accountable to him and him alone.

He mentions frequently the statistic that nearly half of all new teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years. Some of the teachers he meets are suffering quite badly, and he has nothing but sympathy with them, again explaining exactly how they are working against insurmountable odds.

He does suffer himself at some points in the adventure, and it is actually all because of student behaviour, which is then attributed in detail to the management at the school and the system the government has in place. Aside from the teacher who tricked him that I mentioned, he encounters minimal suffering at the hands of other teachers.

He mentions in detail the places that he visits, which I enjoyed a lot, having lived in and even taught in some of the cities he visits. I particularly note the beach in Hartlepool he visits, with the power plant virtually on it, and the terrible depression he experiences while there, as being a very familiar scene.

I loved it, and I cried reading it, for myself, for Mr. Carroll and for all the kids who aren't getting saved from themselves.

You can visit Carroll's Facebook Page, or his Twitter Page where he will engage with anything that you post there. 

You can also purchase a copy of the book in The Edudicator Shop, or by clicking on the link at the top of this post.


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