Book Review: Teaching in the Terrordome: Two Years in West Baltimore with Teach For America by Heather Kirn Lanier

Gareth Mitchell


In the years since Heather Kirn Lanier attended summer institute, Teach For America has become a strong component of the debate surrounding education reform.  At least until the conclusion of the narrative, Teaching in the Terrordome: Two Years in West Baltimore with Teach For America, Kirn does not attempt to lend aid to one side of the debate.  Nor does she give detailed solutions on how to improve failing urban schools.  Instead, Kirn eloquently describes her experience completing a task most recent college graduates would find incomprehensible: teaching for two years in a failing school with only five weeks of training for preparation.  The narrative aims to educate those outside of the education field of the ineffectiveness which infiltrates all levels of urban education in today’s American city.  However, Teaching in the Terrordome accomplishes much more, offering different forms of insight depending on the reader’s prior experience; the strength of the narrative is its relevance to a variety of reader demographics.  For those who have worked at a school outside of an urban setting, the book can be used to compare successful and unsuccessful schools in a multitude of ways.  Alternatively, those who have worked at a similar school to Kirn’s, such as myself, will appreciate reflecting on difficult experiences with a narrative that captures the daily and yearly frustrations only a high-needs school educator would fully understand.


Urban Education; Teach For America; Neoliberalism

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