As usual, award-winning author Gordon Korman’s latest book is a satisfying glimpse into the world of middle schoolers. In The Unteachables, Korman gives us a sort of pre-teen version of To Sir, with Love—a class full of misfit kids that the education system has given up on and the teacher that fights through his own disillusionment to become the mentor the students need.
After 30 years as a teacher, Zachary Kermit is burned out and ready for retirement. But the superintendent, Dr. Thaddeus, wants him out before he can draw a full pension, so he assigns Mr. Kermit the class called SCS-8, or the Self-Contained Special 8th-grade class. Known as the “Unteachables,” Dr. Thaddeus hopes they drive Mr. Kermit to quit before the year’s end. Mr. Kermit knows it’s going to be rough, but he figures he’ll just keep his head down and coast until May.
He is not surprised by the students. There is the slow worker, Parker Elias, social dweeb Mateo Hendrickson, anger-management challenged Aldo Braff, ex-athlete “Barnstorm” Armstrong, potential bully Elaine Okafor, sleep-deprived Rahim Barclay, and new student Kiana Roubini. Through many hilarious and touching escapades, Mr. Kermit figures out that what he really has is a group that just needs help, patience and the recognition that, really, they may be the most teachable of any class.
Written in chapters that explore the viewpoint of each character, The Unteachables is a heartwarming story about not giving up on yourself or others. Another home run for Korman for which all of us, adults and children alike, can cheer.
Jennifer Bruer Kitchel is the librarian for a Pre-K through 8th level Catholic school.