Author : Frank Mc Court
I have raved and raved about Frank’s earlier books,Angela’s ashes and Tis’. I find his style of writing irresistible with dollops of self-deprecating wit. It’s really surprising that this slim book took me almost 2 years to finish.Some books are just destined to get read in snatches , I think.
Synopsis from Goodreads
The author of Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis has been winning such superlatives since he broke onto the literary scene as a self-proclaimed “old man.” In this third volume of memoirs, the Pulitzer laureate turns to one of his first loves, teaching. He describes his sometimes-bumpy coming-of-age in the classroom and explains its integral relationship with his writing career. McCourt’s ability to fine-tune even short anecdotes eventually makes readers feel like partners in his apprenticeship
What I thought of the book:
I wouldn’t say I loved it.It was entertaining in snatches and Mc Court’s legendary squabbles with the corridors of power at schools gives a lot of scope for humour.Somehow,the book falls flat in stretches and was self-indulgent to the point of irritating me. Let me tell you more about the book. Mc Court reminisces about his teaching career spanning almost 30 years-a career that was spent among pimply teenagers surging with adrenaline in some of the meanest vocational schools in New York.Now,teaching teenagers is one heck of a challenge and more so if they are from some of the shadiest neighborhoods where education really isn’t priority. Traditional methods of teaching English and creative writing would definitely not work with these kids.
Frank talks of the unorthodox methods of teaching he used like letting a class sing recipes ,taking his students to a potluck picnic (to introduce new gourmet related words in their vocabulary),asking the kids to write excuse letters and many such “fun” things.Oh,how i wish I had a teacher like Frank.Infusing fun into classrooms is a laudable idea ,but at times I really wondered what the point was. Was it just Mc Court’s way of rebelling against the principals and review boards.Teachers have to stick to a teaching plan that is normally filed in beforehand,something Frank didn’t believe in.He freewheeled in his classes and told the students stories of his Irish upbringing and his childhood impoverished conditions.
Frank has never shied away from exposing his deepest thoughts .In his first book Angela’s ashes ,he barely manages to disguise the contempt he had for his father.In Teacher Man he takes us through his crumbling marriage and how one fine day after teaching hundreds and hundreds of kids for years,he finds himself in a dead-end job and in a rut. His hate-hate relationship with the Catholic church obviously gets mentioned (many, many times) in the book.What did impress me was Frank’s unwavering belief that education was not about letting kids cram pages and pages of literature only to have them vomit it out in the exam,but was about equipping them to find their footing in the world- something Mona lisa smile and The dead Poet’s society also talk about. Whatever Frank was not,he loved his students as individuals and not just as random kids sitting at random desks in a classroom.
Despite an engaging narrative,the book somehow didn’t work for me in the way his first two books did. Frank just came across as a self-absorbed writer who just wanted to fill the pages of his book. Not as entertaining as his first two books.Maybe,I can’t read books by self-absorbed writers any longer.. Overall,its an okay read. Not earth shattering,but a decent read that delves into the “business of education”. I would recommend it to teachers and people who work with adolescents and would rate it 3/5.
I am off on vacation for a week and wont be able to read your posts. Have a super week and stay safe ,people.