A third memoir from the author of the huge international bestsellers 'Angela's Ashes' and "Tis'. In 'Teacher Man', Frank McCourt details his illustrious, amusing, and sometimes rather bumpy years as an English teacher in the public high schools of New York City. Frank McCourt arrived in New York as a young, impoverished and idealistic Irish boy - ...
A third memoir from the author of the huge international bestsellers 'Angela's Ashes' and "Tis'. In 'Teacher Man', Frank McCourt details his illustrious, amusing, and sometimes rather bumpy years as an English teacher in the public high schools of New York City. Frank McCourt arrived in New York as a young, impoverished and idealistic Irish boy - but who crucially had an American passport, having been born in Brooklyn. He didn't know what he wanted except to stop being hungry and to better himself. On the subway he watched students carrying books. He saw how they read and underlined and wrote things in the margin and he liked the look of this very much. He joined the New York Public Library and every night when he came back from his hotel work he would sit up reading the great novels. Building his confidence and his determination, he talked his way into NYU and gained a literature degree and so began a teaching career that was to last thirty years, working in New York's public high schools. Frank estimates that he probably taught 12,000 children during this time and it is on this relationship between teacher and student that he reflects in 'Teacher Man', the third in his series of memoirs. The New York high school is a restless, noisy and unpredictable place and Frank believes that it was his attempts to control and cajole these thousands of children into learning and achieving something for themselves that turned him into a writer. At least once a day someone would put up their hand and shout 'Mr. McCourt, Mr. McCourt, tell us about Ireland, tell us about how poor you were!' Through sharing his own life with these kids he learnt the power of narrative storytelling, and out of the invaluable experience of holding 12,000 people's attention came 'Angela's Ashes'. Frank McCourt was a legend in such schools as Stuyvesant high school -- long before he became the figure he is now, he would receive letters from former students telling him how much his teaching influenced and inspired them -- and now in 'Teacher Man' he shares his reminiscences of those thirty years as well as revealing how they led to his own success with 'Angela's Ashes' and "Tis'.
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Frank McCourt's "Teacher Man" was given to me by a friend at a time when, late in life, I decided I HAD to teach English Literature. I knew I was in for a struggle but I was confident that I loved my subject so much I was positive that I could make my students love it, too. I failed. I was at a school where cheating was common, no one had the desire to learn, teachers were not respected, and there was no discipline. I think the giver of this gift was trying to show me that I was not the only one who had problems with students! Too bad I didn't have the stomach to tough it out.
McCourt is a fine writer with that Irish melancholy that makes one identify with him on many levels.
It is interesting that, of all the movies I showed my classes in an attempt to get them to see that themes are eternal, they loved the screenplay of "Angela's Ashes" the best. This other work by McCourt will break your heart, yet he tucks in enough humor to keep you from killing yourself. His descriptions are without parallel, and the Irish village is a microcosm of the world--his, ours, and anybody's. Due to lots of begging, I showed the movie twice.
Please read this. It's a wonderful book and is way easier to get through than James Joyce. Plus, the reader has no doubt about what he's reading, while dipping into Joyce takes a priest and a seeing eye dog.
Apr 30, 2009
A must read for anyone contemplating teaching.
Fast easy read. Inspiring and funny without the morose tragedy of his Angela's Ashes.
Oct 30, 2007
Other than Teacher Man Frank McCourt has brought us many great novels such as 'Tis and Angelas Ashes. Teacher Man chronicals the life McCourt experienced in his many years as a high school teacher. The book describes how the psyche of adolescent childrenhas changed from the 60's to today and also points out some of the short comings of the public school system. While not as powerfull or heart breaking as his previous 2 novels Teacher Man is still worth giving a read just dont expect to be blown away.
Publishers Weekly, 2005-09-12 This final memoir in the trilogy that started with Angela's Ashes and continued in 'Tis focuses almost exclusively on McCourt's 30-year teaching career in New York City's public high schools, which began at McKee Vocational and Technical in 1958. His first day in class, a fight broke out and a sandwich was hurled in anger. McCourt immediately picked it up and ate it. On the second day of class, McCourt's retort about the Irish and their sheep brought the wrath of the principal down on him. All McCourt wanted to do was teach, which wasn't easy in the jumbled bureaucracy of the New York City school system. Pretty soon he realized the system wasn't run by teachers but by sterile functionaries. "I was uncomfortable with the bureaucrats, the higher-ups, who had escaped classrooms only to turn and bother the occupants of those classrooms, teachers and students. I never wanted to fill out their forms, follow their guidelines, administer their examinations, tolerate their snooping, adjust myself to their programs and courses of study." As McCourt matured in his job, he found ingenious ways to motivate the kids: have them write "excuse notes" from Adam and Eve to God; use parts of a pen to define parts of a sentence; use cookbook recipes to get the students to think creatively. A particularly warming and enlightening lesson concerns a class of black girls at Seward Park High School who felt slighted when they were not invited to see a performance of Hamlet, and how they taught McCourt never to have diminished expectations about any of his students. McCourt throws down the gauntlet on education, asserting that teaching is more than achieving high test scores. It's about educating, about forming intellects, about getting people to think. McCourt's many fans will of course love this book, but it also should be mandatory reading for every teacher in America. And it wouldn't hurt some politicians to read it, too. (Nov. 15) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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