Monday 11 February 2013

McCourt, Frank "Teacher Man"

McCourt, Frank "Teacher Man. A Memoir 1949-1985" - 2005

Frank McCourt's third (and last) account of his interesting life. This time, he is telling us about his thirty years as a high school teacher in New York. He taught in poor and rich areas, he's seen it all. He tells us about some special students and his everyday life trying to teach them to learn English well and to learn enough about themselves to go out into this world.

I believe Frank McCourt must have been a great teacher. He tried a lot of different approaches, he didn't play the games the students try to play with all of their teachers, he saw through them but he also let them see through him. That is the part I admire the most, he opened himself up to the students, he wasn't just the guy who came in to ask questions, he was also the guy who told them about his childhood, his struggles to get where he was. He gave them hope that they could achieve their dreams one day, no matter where they came from.

After "Angela's Ashes" and "'Tis", you just have to read this one, it makes a complete life.

From the Back Cover:

"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 long 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 one 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 30 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 30 years and reveals how they led to his own success with ‘Angela's Ashes’ and ‘'Tis’."

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