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Teacher Man: A Memoir Audio CD – Audiobook, Unabridged

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Teacher Man: A Memoir + 'Tis: A Memoir + Angela's Ashes
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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio; Unabridged edition (November 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743549937
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743549936
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (396 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #757,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For 30 years Frank McCourt taught high school English in New York City and for much of that time he considered himself a fraud. During these years he danced a delicate jig between engaging the students, satisfying often bewildered administrators and parents, and actually enjoying his job. He tried to present a consistent image of composure and self-confidence, yet he regularly felt insecure, inadequate, and unfocused. After much trial and error, he eventually discovered what was in front of him (or rather, behind him) all along--his own experience. "My life saved my life," he writes. "My students didn't know there was a man up there escaping a cocoon of Irish history and Catholicism, leaving bits of that cocoon everywhere." At the beginning of his career it had never occurred to him that his own dismal upbringing in the slums of Limerick could be turned into a valuable lesson plan. Indeed, his formal training emphasized the opposite. Principals and department heads lectured him to never share anything personal. He was instructed to arouse fear and awe, to be stern, to be impossible to please--but he couldn't do it. McCourt was too likable, too interested in the students' lives, and too willing to reveal himself for their benefit as well as his own. He was a kindred spirit with more questions than answers: "Look at me: wandering late bloomer, floundering old fart, discovering in my forties what my students knew in their teens."

As he did so adroitly in his previous memoirs, Angela's Ashes and 'Tis, McCourt manages to uncover humor in nearly everything. He writes about hilarious misfires, as when he suggested (during his teacher's exam) that the students write a suicide note, as well as unorthodox assignments that turned into epiphanies for both teacher and students. A dazzling writer with a unique and compelling voice, McCourt describes the dignity and difficulties of a largely thankless profession with incisive, self-deprecating wit and uncommon perception. It may have taken him three decades to figure out how to be an effective teacher, but he ultimately saved his most valuable lesson for himself: how to be his own man. --Shawn Carkonen --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This final memoir in the trilogy that started with Angela's Ashes and continued in 'Tis focuses almost exclusively on McCourt's 30-year teaching career in New York City's public high schools, which began at McKee Vocational and Technical in 1958. His first day in class, a fight broke out and a sandwich was hurled in anger. McCourt immediately picked it up and ate it. On the second day of class, McCourt's retort about the Irish and their sheep brought the wrath of the principal down on him. All McCourt wanted to do was teach, which wasn't easy in the jumbled bureaucracy of the New York City school system. Pretty soon he realized the system wasn't run by teachers but by sterile functionaries. "I was uncomfortable with the bureaucrats, the higher-ups, who had escaped classrooms only to turn and bother the occupants of those classrooms, teachers and students. I never wanted to fill out their forms, follow their guidelines, administer their examinations, tolerate their snooping, adjust myself to their programs and courses of study." As McCourt matured in his job, he found ingenious ways to motivate the kids: have them write "excuse notes" from Adam and Eve to God; use parts of a pen to define parts of a sentence; use cookbook recipes to get the students to think creatively. A particularly warming and enlightening lesson concerns a class of black girls at Seward Park High School who felt slighted when they were not invited to see a performance of Hamlet, and how they taught McCourt never to have diminished expectations about any of his students. McCourt throws down the gauntlet on education, asserting that teaching is more than achieving high test scores. It's about educating, about forming intellects, about getting people to think. McCourt's many fans will of course love this book, but it also should be mandatory reading for every teacher in America. And it wouldn't hurt some politicians to read it, too. (Nov. 15)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Frank McCourt (1930-2009) was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Irish immigrant parents, grew up in Limerick, Ireland, and returned to America in 1949. For thirty years he taught in New York City high schools. His first book, "Angela's Ashes," won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the L.A. Times Book Award. In 2006, he won the prestigious Ellis Island Family Heritage Award for Exemplary Service in the Field of the Arts and the United Federation of Teachers John Dewey Award for Excellence in Education.

Customer Reviews

I listened to the Audio Book as McCourt read it himself.
B. Breen
McCourt's stream-of-consciousness style of writing worked very well in Teacher Man.
Carolyn Rowe Hill
I read both Frank McCourt books Teacher Man & Tis Memoirs.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

212 of 239 people found the following review helpful By John Kwok HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
McCourties of the world rejoice! You have nothing to lose but your tears of woe anticipating when he'd return with his next book; the foremost memoirist of our time is back. Frank McCourt's "Teacher Man" is a spellbinding lyrical ode to the craft of teaching. It is a rollicking, delightful trek across nearly thirty years in New York City public school classrooms that will surely please his devout legion of fans, and perhaps win some new admirers too. Truly, without question, it is a splendid concluding volume in his trilogy of memoirs that began in spectacular fashion with "Angela's Ashes". Indeed, we find much of the same plain, yet rather poetic, prose and rich dark humor that defines his first book, along with his undiminished, seemingly timeless, skill as a mesmerizing raconteur. Is McCourt truly now one of the great writers of our time if he isn't already, with the publication of "Teacher Man"? I will say only that he was a marvellous teacher (I still feel lucky to have been a prize-winning student of his.), and that this new memoir truly captures the spirit of what it was like to be a student in his classroom.

"Teacher Man" opens with a hilarious Prologue that would seem quite self-serving if written by someone other than Frank McCourt, in which he reviews his star-struck existence in the nine years since the original publication of "Angela's Ashes". In Part I (It's a Long Road to Pedagogy) he dwells on the eight years he spent at McKee Vocational High School in Staten Island. It starts, promisingly enough, with him on the verge of ending his teaching career, just as it begins in the lawless Wild West frontier of a McKee classroom (I was nearly in stitches laughing out loud, after learning why he was nearly fired on two consecutive days, no less.).
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106 of 119 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In "Teacher Man," Frank McCourt sheepishly looks back on his thirty years of teaching, and admits that he wasn't always comfortable educating adolescents. He candidly states in his prologue, "How I became a teacher at all and remained one is a miracle." This memoir is a bittersweet look back at McCourt's not entirely successful career in the New York City Public High Schools, and at the often hilarious goings-on in his classrooms.

As he made clear in his Pulitzer-Prize winning "Angela's Ashes," McCourt had a miserable and impoverished childhood in Ireland. His alcoholic father walked out when Frank was ten. Three of his siblings died. Frank's schoolmasters were always quick to beat their recalcitrant charges with sticks, straps, and canes. He left school at fourteen and fled to America, where he worked as a manual laborer. McCourt was a man with horrible memories, low self-esteem, and no goals.

After he served a stint in the U. S. army, McCourt dozed through four years of New York University on the GI Bill. At the age of twenty-seven, he became a teacher after barely passing his licensing examination. When he began his first teaching job at McKee Vocational and Technical High School in Staten Island, it didn't take long for him to realize that he was in way over his head. Merely getting the kids to pay attention to him would count as a major triumph.

"Teacher Man" is a story of survival. McCourt basically threw out the standard English curriculum and played it by ear. He told stories of his wretched years in Ireland instead of diagramming sentences and discussing great works of literature. He had the students talk about their experiences and make up original stories.
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57 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous on December 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Almost 30 years ago I was a student in Frank McCourt's creative writing class at Stuyvesant High School. He was one of the most memorable teachers I have ever had. The class had a wide range of talent and he treated both the good writers and the weak ones with the utmost respect. After he won the Pulitzer for Angela's Ashes, I thought about how it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy or a better teacher.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By bensmomma on December 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The familiar lilt of Frank McCourt's voice (somehow you can hear it even on the printed page) from the previous book "Angela's Ashes" is now applied to McCourt's years as an English teacher in the public high schools of New York City. In reading this endearing combination I've learned more about teaching than I ever could from a textbook, and been quite entertained in the meantime.

The backbone of the book are McCourt's stories about the classroom - the romances, the games students and teachers play to see who's boss, the sheer creative force and improvisation a good teacher must develop in order to make something good happen in the classroom. Clearly McCourt started with great instincts and became a master: a student drops a sandwich in defiance, McCourt picks it up and eats it. Students provide a prodigious number of forged excuse notes "from their parents," McCourt gets them to write excuse notes from characters in history (Adam and Eve to God, for example).

Around this backbone McCourt fleshes out the story with his personal history - his marriage, his failed attempt at getting a PhD at Trinity College, his daughter, his own struggles to write. These stories are well told (although they don't have the pathos of his "Angela's Ashes" childhood), but McCourt seems most alive in class.

This would make a great gift for any McCourt fan, but particularly for any teacher you know. I particularly recommend the audiobook form, which is read by McCourt himself.
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