Dispatches from Frontier Schools (Paperback)
Dispatches from Frontier Schools is a collection of poems that pulls the reader right into the brutalities, and beauty, of teaching in a struggling charter school. With humor, wit, tears, anger, exhaustion, elation, and a refusal to give up, these poems highlight the struggles of a teacher trying to maintain her dignity and her identity and do right by her students and her own children-while being pulled apart by a system that doesn't support or defend teachers. More than just an anthem for teachers, however, this collection is a cry for all women who try to give all they can to everything and everyone.
These poems are brutal, laying bare the tragic and terrible ways our country is failing us all. But they are also full of moments that are often missing in contemporary education - like humility, compassion, and empathy: "we stand in the hallway as D. tells me / she is pregnant she is due in December She cries and covers her / face with her hands I well up but hide it by biting the inside of my bottom lip." This book should be required reading for career administrators, board of education politicos, and all the legislators who pay little more than lip-service to our nation's educators. These poems-unique in structure and perspective, and full of beautifully orchestrated lyric turns-are a criticism, and a call for a reckoning, to be sure.
Sarah Kain Gutowski, author of Fabulous Beast: Poems
In her memoir-in-poems Dispatches from Frontier Schools, Sarah Beddow creates a vital frontline record of American education as it abuts the pandemic. Here, we meet a woman teacher in full, frank embodiment: an educator unwilling to subsume herself entirely to the twinned demands of capitalism and data-driven academic achievement bearing down on her and her students by her charter school employer, yet one who still burns to offer her entire intellectual and energetic self to her under-resourced students. Throughout Dispatches from Frontier Schools, Beddow contrasts the sterile and un-seeing language of corporate education with her own vibrant, devastating personal testimonies and disclosures, granting us an intimate, eviscerating glimpse into the negotiations, struggles, heartbreaks, and joys as lived from her side of the overflowing teacher's desk.
Rachel Mennies, author of The Naomi Letters
These Dispatches unsparingly critique not just the institution, but the complicity of every adult working within it, including Ms. Beddow the teacher, who sometimes yells or slams a door. "I listened to my ideas come out of his mouth my own mouth / muted / And it's like I am not here I am / divorced from my / thoughts I am told again and again to join the / team." An institution with incompetent management can tank the best teachers, run the best future leaders out the door. "But no amount of reflection will reveal to me how to be / professional in a system so broken it / shreds me leaves me a corpse in underwear and an ancient / t-shirt spread / on the classroom floor." The students will break your heart, but the administrators will crush it.
Krystal Languell, author of Systems Thinking with Flowers