Teacher Man by Frank McCourt

January 31, 2012

Summary (from the publisher): Since the publication of Angela’s Ashes in 1996, Frank McCourt has become one of literature’s superstars. He is the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the American Booksellers Association ABBY Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Award. More than four million copies of Angela’s Ashes are now in print; its sequel, ‘Tis, has sold more than two million in America; and the books have been published in more than twenty countries and languages.

In Teacher Man Frank turns his attention to the subject that he most often talks about in his lectures-teaching: why it’s so important, why it’s so undervalued. He describes his own coming of age-as a teacher, a storyteller, and, ultimately, a writer. He is alternately humble and mischievous, downtrodden and rebellious. He instinctively identifies with the underdog; his sympathies lie more with students than administrators. It takes him almost fifteen years to find his voice in the classroom, but what’s clear in the thrilling pages of Teacher Man is that from the beginning he seizes and holds his students’ attention by telling them memorable stories. And then it takes him another fifteen years to find his voice on the page.

With all the wit, charm, irreverence, and poignancy that made Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis so universally beloved, Frank McCourt tells his most exhilarating story yet-how he became a writer.

Liked:

  • McCourt seemed like a wonderful teacher. In my academic career, I’ve had teachers that I’ve liked or admired, but none that truly inspired me. I have a feeling that MANY of McCourt’s students did receive a fair amount of inspiration along with their instruction, and for that I envy them. He mainly taught English, but I have a feeling that even if he taught wood shop or beginner guitar lessons, he would have been just as lovable.
  • This book is funny and poignant in many places. This was the first McCourt book I’ve ever read, so I didn’t know what to expect. I really like his style, though, and will be looking at his other works soon.
  • The best parts of the book were the ones that dealt with students and classroom happenings. I liked hearing McCourt’s impression of his students (didn’t we all want to know what our teachers REALLY thought about us?), and thought it was fantastic when he ran into a former student on the street a few years after the kid graduated and told the young man that he loved him like a son. Wow!
  • McCourt’s insight into teenagers’ feelings regarding teachers was absolutely spot-on. Every time he talked about what he should or shouldn’t do in the classroom and weighed the effect it would have on his students, I found myself nodding in agreement with him. Yes, when I was a high school student, that’s EXACTLY what I would have thought if my teacher did this, that, or the other.
  • I giggled imagining McCourt struggling through a whole year with a class of 29 black girls and 2 Hispanic boys. What an odd grouping that sounded like. And when the “ringleader” of the class (I forgot her name…Serena, maybe?) moved away and then wrote back to tell McCourt that she was going to go to college and become a teacher…well, that just shows how much of a profound effect he had on students.

Disliked:

  • There wasn’t much I disliked about this book, but I do have to say that the parts that veered into McCourt’s personal relationships with women, his odd jobs on the docks or wherever, and his adventures in grad school in Ireland weren’t that interesting to me. I skimmed most of those sections in order to get back to the kids and the classroom more quickly.

Rating:

I thought Teacher Man by Frank McCourt was a wonderful book. It brought back tons of memories from my own school days, along with a fair amount of wistfulness about never having had a teacher like McCourt. The digressions into his other jobs and his own schooling prevent me from giving this book a perfect rating, but it definitely deserves 4 stars out of 5.

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