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Teacher Man: A Memoir (The Frank McCourt Memoirs) Hardcover – November 15, 2005
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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
From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
"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.).Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The 3rd of his books is just as great as "Angel's Ashes", which is a heart breaking story that I couldn't put down. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Scott B.
I gave this book as a gift. My friend recommends all books by Frank McCourt.Published 14 days ago by Amazon Customer
Brief, frank, to the point and telling. I was a bit put off by the scene changes but the author's ability to tell the reader how he felt when he goofed up was heart warming. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Jim Misko
I enjoyed reading Frank McCourt's memoir, it was very interesting to see the perspective of a NY City teacher on his career and life. Read morePublished 1 month ago by R. Rusu
I felt this book dragged on & on, liked his first book so much morePublished 1 month ago by Marianne, Sarasota, Florida