In Teacher Man: A Memoir, we look at Frank McCourt’s thirty-year path to becoming an effective teacher of adolescents.
McCourt had a miserable and impoverished childhood in Ireland. After fleeing back to America, the U.S. Army, and as manual laborer on the docks, McCourt turned to teaching at the age of twenty-seven. He barely passing his licensing examination. But this was good enough for the McKee Vocational and Technical High School in Staten Island, where even getting the students to pay attention was difficult. McCourt didn’t teach the standard English curriculum- his students wouldn’t stand for it. He told stories of Ireland and encouraged the students talk about their own experiences. Surprisingly, the administration in NYC at the time (late 1960s) actually encouraged McCourt, as he was able to regain control of his classroom, which at this school made him a rare commodity.
Later McCourt completes a Master’s Degree at NYU. He tries his teaching at the cushy community college but finds the remuneration lacking as does his troublesome wife. He struggles further at the Fashion Industry and Seward Park High School in Manhattan.
It was interesting to read about his adventures back in Ireland at Trinity College in Dublin. This could be a book in itself. McCourt failed to get his doctorate, because he wanted to change his course of study. Now-a-days that would be no trouble, but Trinity wanted him to start over.
Back in New York, he landed a dream job teaching Creative Writing at Stuyvesant High School. NYC’s finest public high school. Finally, students that want to learn. McCourt finds a great deal of humor in himself, his fellow teachers, the administration, the parents and students.
The books is not a how-to manual but it should inspire any would-be teachers. We learn along with McCourt to understand his students, motivate them without spooking them. How to deal with troublemakers. McCourt through the use of stories captures the student’s imaginations through non-traditional approaches to teaching.
Excerpts From My Kindle
Or had the word spread that this McCourt just rambled on and then disbursed high marks as easily as peanuts? – location 2988-2988