By Frank McCourt
Simon and Shuster, New York (2005)
For anyone who has read the award-winning novel, Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, Teacher Man will be a 180-degree change in content. While Angela’s Ashes, was a somber book, Teacher Man is a bright testimonial to the tenacity and dedication of a high school teacher and the resilience of his students.
If you have been a teacher, this should be of great interest to you. To all who have been high school students, it might give you moments of laughter, reflection and reminiscence of high school days. In this short, but riveting novel you will experience Mr. McCourt’s 30 years of ups and downs teaching high school students five days a week, for five periods a day in New York City. We meet students who are inspired, indifferent, unruly, intelligent and hormonally challenged, rather a normal sampling of high school students.
His career starts at McKee Vocational and Technical High School on Staten Island and progresses, thanks to his innovative teaching techniques, to the prestigious Stuyvesant High School, where students joined a waiting list to enroll in his classes.
Some of his more imaginative teaching ideas included having one class write excuse notes from Adam or Eve to God, putting cooking recipes to music and taking a class of almost 30 rowdy high school girls to a movie in Times Square. Now you can see why so many students wanted to be in his class and why he often was in trouble with his superiors.
His personal life often suffered due to his dedication of his profession, with a failed marriage and often very little chance to socialize. His one-year switch to teaching in a community college was not a success and he returned to the high school classroom.
In the last chapter, as he is retiring from teaching , one of his students calls out to him, “Hey, Mr. McCourt, you should write a book”. His last words are, “I’ll Try.” I think most readers will be glad he did.
~ Peggy Kiefer