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Monday, December 3, 2012

Teacher Man

Frank McCourt grew up in exceptionally unhappy circumstances. He was born in  America and then left for Ireland with his parents eventually moving back and forth several times. Then he became a teacher in New York City’s public schools. He retired after thirty years in the classroom and more than a decade ago Frank McCourt became an unlikely star when, at the age of sixty-six, he burst onto the literary scene with Angela's Ashes, the Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir of his childhood in Limerick, Ireland. As a retired teacher myself, I read the story of his teaching career titled appropriately enough as Teacher Man. I was both intrigued and appalled. 

The book is both strong and irreverent.  For a reader grown increasingly tired of the barrage of criticism of public education Teacher Man comes across as a tribute to teachers everywhere. The book records the trials, triumphs and surprises of teaching in big city public high schools. Teacher Man shows the author building on his honesty, creativity and ability to tell a great story as, day after day, year after year, he worked to gain the attention and respect of eventually thousands of students. These were students who often presented more than the average share of adolescent problems and misbehavior.

I grew up in the Twin Cities but spent my teaching career in rural Minnesota. McCourts career in New York City was alien territory to me. He portrays himself as a really bad teacher. I  find this suspect as it seems unlikely that he would ever have been given the jobs he got, nor would he have been allowed to continue with his completely unorthodox teaching methods.  He survived and eventually students clamored to be in his classes….

I’d rate this book a really good read.

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