Friday, September 08, 2006

Must Reading for Teachers, Active and Retired

A Book Review of Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt (Scribner, 2005)

By the time he published this memoir, Teacher Man, in 2005, Frank McCourt was over seventy, and his great triumph, Angela's Ashes, had been published nearly ten years earlier. He had also published 'Tis, about his early years in New York. However, for teachers and retired teachers, like me, this is perhaps an even more fascinating book to read.

After struggling through his introduction to high school teaching at some of New York's more difficult schools, McCourt finally complered his career at the prestigious Stuyvesant High School, where his unorthodox techniques were criticized, but ultimately appreciated more often than not. He had his creative writing students reading recipe books aloud, with musical accompaniment. He told them, "Every moment in your life, you're writing. Even in your dreams you're writing. When you walk the halls in this school you meet various people and you write furiously in your head." I like McCourt's "writing is for everyone" message and his advice to his students to write down their grandparents' stories before it is too late.

I was impressed with his growing understanding of his students' reactions and their lives and their problems. If Frank McCourt's insecurities seem a bit overemphasized at times, the book does arrive at a positive message that we can share: writing material is everywhere, for everyone, and we should all make use of it as we move from fear to freedom. This is possible for the young (like our students) and the old (like Mr. McCourt and me).

Copyright 2006 by Marlys Marshall Styne

1 comment:

mucha said...

I'm a teacher and a writer. O write in English and Spanish. I live in Miami