Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Teacher Man by Frank McCourt.

“You have to give yourself credit, not too much because that would be bragging.”

Truthfully, I've never read anything by Frank McCourt, even though I own his books and have heard marvelous things. He was always one of those authors I just ignored...for no good reason, but because I was never drawn to their work.

So I forced myself to pick one of his works as a choice for #15in31. I thought Teacher Man would be the perfect choice, as I always seem to hit a wall every October (I think most teachers do-it's a long month).

Unfortunately, I struggled getting into this one. And if it wasn't for the readathon and the promise of other books on the horizon, I would have had a horrible reading month. But I persevered and finished it, while I enjoyed the end much more than the beginning, it was not my favorite book.

Perhaps it's just McCourt's style of writing, but I almost found him flippant about his role and responsibilities. His writing, in places, lacked the depth and detail I enjoy in memoirs about teaching. For me, well, teaching is a serious job. And it's also a job that is pretty lonely. Think about it...a teacher spends all day in the company of people that are not their equal. At least, that's how many feel. It's your responsibility to teach children content they don't know. You have to be professional. There are rules. Paperwork. And sometimes you just want to talk to another adult.

I'm serious, teaching, while rewarding, is incredibly lonely. 

And in teaching memoirs, I really look for the depth and analysis that usually comes with it. And while McCourt did dive in later in his book, I missed it. But I think that was a clash of styles. I just found his writing a tad too dry for my taste.

The other piece that was frustrating for me, and that is more of a frustration with the system than with McCourt, it the manner of class content. I'm sure things have changed drastically in the last 20-30 years of public education, but teachers, at least in my area, have very little say in their class content. There are certain books I have to teach. There are topics, etc that I have to get across because my kids will be tested on it. And while I loved McCourt's combination of creative writing and food...I know that would never fly in this day and age. So maybe I'm just bitter. ;)

However, I did enjoy some of McCourt's more touching stories about single students. There were quite a few that I was rooting for, so I was glad to hear about their lives after the classroom. I think that many teacher worry about those kids. And some do manage to make it. :)

I also enjoyed McCourt's astute observations about education, like this gem, 

"This is the situation in the public schools of America: The farther you travel from the classroom the greater your financial and professional rewards.” 

Yep. We all know this. Again, perhaps I am bitter (after only a few years in a classroom officially), but public education is very much under attack in the United States, so it almost makes me feel better to know I'm not alone. And that others see it.

Anyway, it was a fun read after I got through the first 75 pages or so. And while I did enjoy some of the snippets, I found it to be a dry read overall. And I'm not too excited about getting to Angela's Ashes. We shall see.

*Finishing Teacher Man marks the 5th book read for my #15in31 challenge! Huzzah!


  1. Teacher Man is the only book I've read by Frank McCourt, although, like you, I own his others. It's been a few years since I've read it, but I seem to remember thinking the same thing about the "flippancy." Teaching is not easy! :)

  2. I had a hard time getting into McCourt in print but when I switched to audio, a whole work opened up! The books are 10 times funnier (even Angela with all the deaths) on audio than in print. I think he even won some awards for the recordings. That switch made a huge difference for me.