Title: Girl Meets Class
Author: Karin Gillespie
Publisher: Henery Press
Release Date: September 2015
Length: 232 pages
Series?: Girl Meets Class #1
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Humor
The unspooling of Toni Lee Wells’ Tiffany and Wild Turkey lifestyle begins with a trip to the Luckett County Jail drunk tank. An earlier wrist injury sidelined her pro tennis career, and now she’s trading her tennis whites for wild nights roaming the streets of Rose Hill, Georgia.
Her wealthy family finally gets fed up with her shenanigans. They cut off her monthly allowance but also make her a sweetheart deal: Get a job, keep it for a year, and you’ll receive an early inheritance. Act the fool or get fired, and you’ll lose it for good.
Toni Lee signs up for a fast-track Teacher Corps program. She hopes for an easy teaching gig, but what she gets is an assignment to Harriet Hall, a high school that churns out more thugs than scholars.
What’s a spoiled Southern belle to do when confronted with a bunch of street smart students who are determined to make her life as difficult as possible? Luckily, Carl, a handsome colleague, is willing to help her negotiate the rough teaching waters and keep her bed warm at night. But when Toni Lee gets involved with some dark dealings in the school system, she fears she might lose her new beau as well as her inheritance.
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This book intrigued me because I am an educator in a public school. While it was interesting how often so many of Toni Lee’s struggles are real in schools across America, one thing was solidly not: a person without a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate and a special ed certificate would not be hired at any campus to work with SPED students. This element of the storyline REALLY bugged me.
This book is humorous, heartwarming, and heartbreaking. The author eloquently establishes the playing field for Toni Lee and her coworkers. Clearly, from the beginning readers are supposed to root for and support her and Harriet Hall.
Toni Lee is a washed-up tennis player. After a wrist injury that changes the trajectory of her life, Toni takes full advantage of her trust fund spoiled brat status. When she is arrested, her Aunt Cordelia (who runs the family food company, which is the source of their wealth), has had enough. She stamps out this churlish, embarrassing behavior. There’s an ultimatum: keep a job that is actually challenging for a year, walk away with five million.
To Toni, that’s the easiest thing ever. Until she realizes she gets cut off while doing so. No more lush condo. No allowance. When the Harriet Hall SPED position pops up, Toni jumps at it and quickly finds herself in an unknown part of her own city she never knew existed. As much as she doesn’t want to be there, she finds her kids don’t want to be there even more. Through building relationships with these kids and the addition of a new student to the mix changes everything for Toni.
She struggles to hide her newfound reality from her friends, and her true self with her new coworkers. In the end, Toni finds a new woman beneath the layers she’s piled on and what I liked most about this new Toni was that she moved forward in life with integrity.
The book also has a focus on the naive perspective an individual can have walking into public education – and the realities Toni faced are not just at inner-city schools. I face these challenges at my school, which is too property wealthy (yet portables at every campus) that we fall under the “Robin Hood” legislation and must pay out several hundred thousand dollars to poorer districts. There are not desks from this century, and any minute you one of the crappily welded legs can go flying and drop a person (this happened to me this year) or it can bend and become a shank to any unsuspecting passerby. No air conditioning except in the office until students arrive. And that’s not even in a portable! Broken faucets. How are we supposed to promote good hygiene? Behavior students who seem to magically be placed in the exact same classes and prohibit learning from happening. Admin turning the other cheeck or pretending they don’t hear the most vital complaints and needs of teachers to make our primary job role (TEACHING!) possible. Referrals for repeat offenders deleted. Admin admitting they should have sent students to the alternative campus due to behavior, and yet continuing to do the same things and not addressing misbehavior and disruptions as serious classroom issues. Admin that are fearful of parents, so they must have a 1000% customer service role. This is education today, and Toni wasn’t making up anything in her teaching experience.
Toni encounters corruption and political agendas individuals have in public education. She finds that there are some straight jackass people who teach students. This is true. I have encountered this too, and I’m like “Why? Why are you here?”
I enjoyed seeing Toni become strong. A strong woman, a strong employee, a strong individual within her family unit. She got some class. Overall, a great ultimate feel-good read that takes some turns and requires some strong backbone.