Music in the HallsPact Press Titles
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Through vignettes, essays, snapshots, portraits, and poems, Music in the Halls reveals the inner workings of a high-poverty District of Columbia Public School. In it, Jankowski brings to light the visceral and emotional nature of childhood poverty and trauma and how it not only impacts a student’s ability to learn but also how it restricts their ability to live a full life. Uncovering the interwoven worlds of children and their parents, teachers and administrators, and the DCPS bureaucracy—all residing in close proximity to the nation’s capitol—Music in the Halls is not simply a tale of hard knocks; it is an exploration of how one man’s understanding and compassion can be transformed and expanded to encompass and embrace this world.
Praise for Music in the Halls
Music in the Halls is not a book that you can prepare yourself to read; maybe I was a little overly ambitious, thinking I could absorb it all in one sitting. From the Introduction, the reader is drawn into the author’s world, one of high pressure/high stakes, where immediate outcomes are demanded. Music in the Halls is a memoir, documentary, and wakeup call neatly packaged into one text. In turning the pages, Lean on Me, Spike Lee, and Abbott Elementary are pictured in my mind. Jankowski’s book is one of intimacy, crying, violence, anger, animalistic desperation and isolation. Jankowski confronts us repeatedly, which education do we want? Which education do we value? "We expect a curiosity for learning to magically spring from this turbulent terrain filled with imminent, real, and embedded danger. We are the fools." And now, after the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual learning, and every assortment of challenge known to human beings, this book, this call to action is more relevant than before. Do not simply put down this book after you have read the last word. Decide in this moment how you will live with a focus on "social emotional needs more than strict education."
- Marja Humphrey, PhD, NCC, LGPC Assistant Professor, School Counseling Bowie State University
Being a teacher in a public school at times is like being a juror in a courtroom. One can be caught listening and watching not realizing that more than a witness (or parent) that one is responsible for justice - in this case the education of our youth. In his book Music in the Halls, Bernard Jankowski, a special education teacher in a D.C. public school, soon learns that all children must be considered special if the job of teaching is taking seriously. It’s unfortunate that so much is broken in our educational system. Jankowski provides written testimony as to how educational experiments too often fail. Music in the Halls is filled with a symphony of children stories. Jankowski has an ear and a heart for his students. It’s impossible to read this book without swaying or shuckling with sadness. This book will make one pray for change in our school systems.
- E. Ethelbert Miller, writer and literary activist
I have known Bernard Jankowski’s writing in all its forms over the years, and in no way was I prepared to read a book of such consummate humanity and prowess as Music in the Halls. I began to scan the text to get a generalized understanding; and then found myself riveted to every word on every paragraph through every page; the story is like a knife you hold in your hand that you can’t let go, and must be held carefully.
The book is one large conceit for the wound in our society but told through the brown eyes of the children and the broken hearts of their teachers. Society’s wretched wound is the classroom where teachers are heroes or failures, or both, against inestimable odds of poverty, hunger, anger and shame. The organization of the book is a masterful structure for the “teaching poverty” experience with anecdotes, quotes, stories, characters, situations, tolerances, authority, traditions, customs. And, more than anything, a try for what can be saved.
In my younger years I taught in the lower grades. My classes were made of children who came to school well- dressed after a hearty breakfast, and yet the stressors were always enormous. I cannot imagine navigating the lifelines that were extended in “Mr. J’s” book. I see those many faces with all those children’s names, as straining and struggling toward some sort of hope as if it is the sun- yet so out of reach.
“Will you be my dad tomorrow, Mr. J?” Bernard Jankowski was that and more, but took away words burned on his soul: “Happy Now, Sad Later.” How do we get every member of Congress to read this book? Nevertheless, I am confident that Music in the Halls will reach many readers who are passionate about children and education, not only for the profound statements, but for its emotional purity and rasp. It is a Masterwork. A Masterwork.
- Grace Cavalieri, Maryland poet Laureate