The Cruelest Months:
A Teacher's Coming-of-Age Story


The hopes of any society are etched in the faces of students in classes all across America. Donna Webster, a newly graduated, white English teacher, could see these hopes as she looked out at her classroom at Paul Lawrence Dunbar Senior High School, a predominantly black inner city high school in Jacksonville, Florida. From Yasmina's poetic letters about unspeakable tragedy to Thomas' wasted potential to Rochelle's feisty presence. Donna came to realize, as all teachers do, that education is as much about learning as it is about teaching. All of her first year lessons, those taught and those learned, are chronicled in The Cruelest Months, and Donna's Webster's baptism into the cruel world of teaching is a testament to the power that one individual has in shaping this world.



Real-life teachers are not always as breathtakingly beautiful or musically talented as those in Fox TV's Boston Public. Not every suave instructor is scandalously involved with the popular cheerleader, or embroiled in an arduous legal struggle with the school board. In Dorothy Fletcher's The Cruelest Months, schoolteacher Donna Webster—white, optimistic and nervous—is sent to an inner-city black school where her initiation into the cruel world of teaching reveals her power to shape the world. Webster discovers through her academic journey that education is not for the faint of heart. From Yasmina's poetry of unspeakable tragedy, to AIDS-stricken Rochelle, who dies a week before her seventeenth birthday. Only an educator with extensive teaching experience like Fletcher's could so accurately depict the condition of America's public schools, where violence and disrespectful behavior abound, and where money and moral support from parents are lacking. Still, Fletcher's thirty years with the Jacksonville, Florida, school system has shown her that minimal pay and the lack of appreciation have not discouraged a few passionate and caring individuals who have ventured in the noble profession of molding young minds.

A review of The Cruelest Months was written by Danita Sain Stokes in the April, 2004, edition of Women's Digest Magazine.

You can read it at Another review, by Community Columnist Kay Day can be viewed here.