In my mind, the lasting legacy of the book is to display the transformative power of effective teaching and learning. Seeing the transformation of Braithwaite's students is something that has become the basis of all education success stories. The notion that one committed individual can enter a classroom of discarded students and can perform effectively to help change them and their climate of learning serves as inspiration to all prospective and current teachers. This is a realm where test scores do not constitute success, nor do external mandates about charting Adequate Yearly Progress help to mark effectiveness. Rather, the transformative power of teaching on the lives of students is the legacy most taken away from the work. I would also suggest that another transformative quality in the work is the change in Braithwaite himself. From a teacher who was hesitant and not one who fully embraced the life of a teacher, he becomes one who is vested and invested in the lives of his students in bridging the gap between real world and the world of the classroom. Braithwaite changes from one who is purely intellectual and reserved and into one who is more affective and effective in his approaches to teaching and learning. It is because of this that one sees the awesome power of teaching on the lives of teachers, and another legacy of the work.
For me, To Sir, With Love is appealing on two different levels.
On one level, it is the story of a black man trying to make it in a white-dominated society. Ricardo Braithwaite fails to find a job in his chosen field, electrical engineering, because of strictly racial reasons. He eventually takes a job as a teacher, in which he must fight the prejudices of his students, their parents and some of his colleagues. He falls in love with a white woman, which of course leads to more racial tensions.
In all of these racial struggles, Braithwaite presents himself as a very likable hero. He is brave, but certainly not super-human.
To Sir With Love is also a story about a young teacher who struggles to find a way to connect with a difficult group of students. Since I am a teacher (and one who has struggled with some difficult students!) I found Braithwaite's story to be particularly appealing. Braithwaite presents some interesting ideas about curriculum, discipline, classroom management, and adolescent psychology. (It doesn't hurt that I happen to agree with most of his ideas; check out the link below.)