Click here to read reviewer Karen D. Haney's take on Schooled or
here to read Julie Sobowale's review.
Straight out of Columbia University and filled with humanitarian ideals, Anna Taggert snags a teaching job at an exclusive, pricey private school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan—to the profound disappointment of her parents, who admonish her by saying that a degree from Columbia could help her be “ANYTHING,” which is apparently what they’d rather she become than a teacher. But teaching English to middle-schoolers within the tony walls of Langdon Hall proves to be far more lucrative than Anna or her parents imagined, once Anna gets into the tutoring game. Indeed, it’s outside the classroom that teacher Anna Taggert gets Schooled.
Lonely in her new job setting, insecure about her wardrobe that’s put to shame by twelve-year-olds sporting Juicy and Dior couture, and skeptical as to whether she’s making a difference in the lives of her students, Anna gratefully bonds with fellow teacher Randi Abrahams, who guides her into the shadowy world of tutoring (a.k.a. doing students’ work for them for a hefty $250-400 per hour, paid by their parents). Before long, Anna is treating herself to Henri Bendel, going to Bergdorf Goodman for highlights, and dancing at her students’ bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs and faux mitzvahs.
The only problem with the whole setup is that Anna strongly suspects she is working against everything she stands for as a teacher.
Schooled is written in “the tradition of The Nanny Diaries,” according to the back-cover blurb. Readers will recognize the unbelievably thin, youthful mothers, the work-pressed fathers, the domestic help from Central and South America, and the impeccably groomed children from Diaries. Unfortunately, this book lacks—or perhaps doesn’t inspire—the gut-wrenching compassion for its younger subjects that The Nanny Diaries so ably conveys. It’s just not easy, frankly, to feel as sympathetic about enormously wealthy teens who haven’t been taught how to do their homework as about preschoolers who simply, achingly, want their parents’ attention. Reading about the food, clothing, penthouses, and celebrations of the veddy, veddy rich who populate the Upper East Side is entertaining, but the story isn’t as compelling as it might be. Much of the book is buildup to Anna’s surrender to the dark side of tutoring; too little page space is devoted to her struggle as she attempts to reassert her beliefs.
Author Lakhani taught English at the Dalton School in Manhattan, attended Columbia University, and is herself an “exotic” beauty like her protagonist Anna. As explained in a note to the reader, Schooled is inspired by her experiences as a teacher.