The Unteachables are a notorious class of misfits, delinquents, and academic trainwrecks. Like Aldo, with anger management issues; Parker, who can’t read; Kiana, who doesn’t even belong in the class—or any class; and Elaine (rhymes with pain). The Unteachables have been removed from the student body and isolated in room 117.
Their teacher is Mr. Zachary Kermit, the most burned-out teacher in all of Greenwich. He was once a rising star, but his career was shattered by a cheating scandal that still haunts him. After years of phoning it in, he is finally one year away from early retirement. But the superintendent has his own plans to torpedo that idea, and it involves assigning Mr. Kermit to the Unteachables.
The Unteachables never thought they’d find a teacher who had a worse attitude than they did. And Mr. Kermit never thought he would actually care about teaching again. Over the course of a school year, though, room 117 will experience mayhem, destruction, and maybe even a shot at redemption.
“The Self-Contained Special Eighth-Grade Class,” or, as the school calls them, “the Unteachables,” are the kids that the school has given up on. I was in a class like this in high school. After I was diagnosed as autistic, the school administration had no idea how to help me. So, their solution was to put me in a class with all the students they didn’t want to deal with. I was in that room for one period a day every other day for two years. The messed-up part was I was a pretty decent student. But instead of giving me any sort of accommodations, they said that I ‘should have been diagnosed sooner’ and then shoved aside. Can you tell I’m bitter?
Mr. Kermit was a compelling character. He was a great teacher until a student got caught cheating on an important test, and all the blame was put on Mr. Kermit. Afterward, he lost his spark for teaching and has been coasting for 27 years. It’s depressing and so unfair how he is forever remembered for one mistake that wasn’t even his fault. Being a teacher really is a thankless job. Everyone demands so much from them but bad-mouths them for the tiniest thing.
Seven students in total, they all have their quirks and different reasons for being in the Unteachable class. They could be good students if anyone bothered to try to teach them. That’s why having a teacher who cares can make all the difference in a student’s life. I was rooting for these kids. Even when they were doing something bad, I was cheering them on. I’d like to share more about each student, but I don’t want to spoil anything.
Like most of Gordon Korman’s books, the story is told from multiple perspectives, mainly from Mr. Kermit and his students’ points of view. While I enjoyed the teachers’ perspective, I didn’t like how some of the students got more narrative chapters than others. One student had nine chapters, another got six, three students only got two chapters, and two students didn’t get any. It wasn’t consistent.
Overall, this is a funny and heartwarming comeback story that will appeal to students and teachers alike.