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Ron Costello spent his life dreaming about playing baseball for the Philadelphia Phillies, which explains why he wasn’t at the top of his high school class.
Even as a child he would dress up and play Phillies baseball in the backyard, back when kids played in the backyard, or even had a backyard. Suddenly, he realized he wasn’t good enough — actually, the baseball scouts were dead wrong, they miss a few sometimes — he had to start dreaming about something else.
So he created Jamil Jamil.
He got the idea when he quit his real job and taught in a charter school for one year. He faced five classes a day of inner city children, grades four through eight, social studies. As he was trying to get Columbus across the Atlantic — sailing west — a story popped into his mind. The truth is that the children he taught in the charter school gave him the idea of creating a character to defend liberty and justice. The children actually inspired their teacher to become an author.
“They were wonderful children,” the author said, “but they were a handful. Trying to control and teach 35 seventh graders was all I could do. But there was a young Asian teacher across the hall and you could hear a pin drop in her classroom. She was a master teacher. That gave me a sign that maybe I was in the wrong profession at the wrong age.”
Other than that one dreadful year teaching, the author has worked at major universities — Penn State University, the University of Illinois, Temple University and now at Drexel University — where he could close his office door and take a break once in a while. This he had to get back to because classroom teachers don’t have that luxury.
“They didn’t even have a room where teachers could take a break or eat their lunch,” the author explained. “You were with the children from beginning to end, and eating your lunch in a large basement room with 150 screaming kids — day after day — was no picnic. The noise level alone was all that I could stand.”
Born and raised a Philadelphia and currently making his home in South Philadelphia, Ron is currently Assistant Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Drexel University. He builds relationships with Drexel alumni and then asks them to give money for scholarships and programs at Drexel. Compared to teaching five classes a day, this job, he says, is a walk in the park.
Something interesting about the Charter School General is that many of the names in the book are the first names of students Ron had while teaching in the charter school. Plus, some of the scenes in the book actually happened, such as, in Chapter Two, The Yellin’ Man, where the author was the teacher in the classroom and was bullied, just as the children were.
Ron, the former teacher-fundraiser, is now dreaming of becoming a rich author, so he and his wife Denise can sail around the world with their feet up all day eating bon bons. He’s happy he wrote Charter School General, and hopes that you will buy a book because here’s what he found out: Anything is easier than teaching!