Sunday, December 03, 2006

Teacher Man and Other Thoughts

Lately, I've been kind of busy, but I've found time to read. Recently, I read Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt. My father gave me this book last Christmas, but I didn't finally get around to reading it until a few weeks ago. Teacher Man is a book about an Irish immigrant who teaches in New York City public schools for twenty or thirty years. Being a teacher in public inner-city schools, I was able to relate to many of the stories in the book.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things about the book was that it wasn't just another story of teacher successes in the classroom. Frank McCourt discusses his successes, failures, and weird ideas in the classroom. He openly admits that he did some kids an injustice by not reaching them. In addition, he tells stories of having his English classes read cookbook recipes in classes. He knows some of these ideas are unique, but discusses how they really got his classes interested in the English language.
The part of the book that relates most to MTC is the author's discussion (throughout the book) of his experiences as a new teacher. With over thirty students in his classes, he tells about how he failed to get control over the class. Sometimes, in fact, he settled for telling stories about growing up in Ireland in order to keep his classes quiet. Clearly, this isn't what Dr. Bounds (State Superintendent) thinks we should doing in the classroom. However, I think this book should be required (or at least recommended) reading for MTCers because it's NOT the classic story of a great teacher coming in and saving the day. It's a story of a good teacher struggling to reach his students, while facing the real challenges of inner-city public schools. We as new teachers must realize that 99 percent of us won't come in the first day and transform problem-filled schools into havens for learning. Rather, it is a step-by-step, hard work, struggling day-to-day, PROCESS. There will be setbacks. But you will reach students. Enjoy the book.


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