Book Review: It Wasn’t In the Lesson Plan


It wasn’t In the Lesson Plan, by Anne Tenaglia, is not truly a memoir. Rather it is a jumbled, self-serving collection of thirty-five verbal snapshots from Tenaglia’s tenure as a teacher in the Philadelphia school system.

There is an odd self-congratulatory quality in the book that I find peculiar. In the first story, “Andrew Learns to Listen,” the author informs us about the time she is told that one of her students is significantly hearing-impaired.

“Looking back on the three months I had been his teacher, I began to see telltale signs of his hearing loss. When I read a story on the rug, he was always twitchy to do something else (I attributed that to perhaps being a [sic] overactive child). During playtime, he was very loud which I figured was due to being an exuberant boy. When I gave directions, he never followed them the first time and I had begun touching him on the shoulder before announcing anything to the class. I made sure he was looking at me before I taught anything. Wow! I had already been making accommodations for his lack of hearing without realizing it.”

While she is busy patting herself on the back, all I can think is how horrible it must have been for Andrew to spend three months being treated like he was just being hyperactive. The student ended up with a hearing aid, so it isn’t like he had a mild hearing issue. He was suffering from profound hearing loss.

In the story “Silvio’s Mom Saves the Day,” the author tells us about how she badgered the principal into allowing her to take her pre-kindergarten class to a playground off of, but adjacent to, the school property for recess. The principal finally relents under the condition that she must have four parent volunteers present to help watch the children.

On one January day (winter, in Philadelphia, on metal playground equipment…I am sure you can do the math here), a student fell from the top of a slide and had to be rushed to the hospital to treat his injuries. The child was knocked unconscious, but the author never called 911. Instead, she allowed the mother to remove the child from the site. The child was hospitalized for several days.

““When Silvio finally was able to talk about it, he told his mother, “My hands were cold, so I let go of the slide.

“So there was nothing you could have done to prevent the accident, Mrs. T. you did nothing wrong. The whole thing was Silvio’s fault. He just didn’t think about what would happen when he let go. You did everything you could. I don’t want you to lose your job. We are not going to sue.””

This was a four year old child. But the author happily allowed the four-year old to take the blame for the accident. There is no sense in the narrative that the author was actually concerned about the boy’s well-being. Her sole concern was whether or not she would be fired. The title of the story, then, is about Silvio’s mom saving her hide.

Everything is about the author. The children are merely characters in the story of her life. She is the heroine of her own play, and the only things that matter are her thoughts and feelings.

This self-serving approach to the subject matter could be forgivable (or at least entertaining) if the author didn’t have such a bland writing style. There is a lot of needless repetition. The delivery is dry and lifeless. And then there are the mechanical issues. The author capitalizes things that don’t need to be capitalized (like School District). She places commas in places that they not only are not needed, but where they actually convolute the meaning of a sentence.

I cannot in good conscience recommend this book. It simply reads too much like a vanity project with no real value for the reader.

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