Book Review: Teacher Man

Today’s Book Review is Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt. I read, and loved Angela’s Ashes, when it first came out. I had avoided Tis, as the reviews were mostly unfavourable. But I expected quite a lot of this book, given how good Angela’s Ashes was, and also given that I do love a good school story.

Briefly, the story is that after a miserable Irish childhood, McCourt migrated back to the US, where he was born, and managed to educate himself up to becoming an english, and later creative writing, teacher. He taught in a variety of New York High Schools, finishing up at Stuyesant High School, which is a very academically select state high school, teaching creative writing. This book is about his life as a teacher

It was interesting, as an insight into the evolution of a teacher, and it was engrossing, as you got into the lives of his pupils. It’s also fascinating for sheer volume – he had 175 children a year to teach, which makes you realise just how hard it is for a high school teacher to really understand and individually teach all their pupils. It’s also a plea for creativity in teaching; not just teaching to the test; probably something I need to think about a bit more.

But the style is very stream-of-consciousness, and I found it quite hard to get into. One of the comments on the back is “I wish I could have been in one of his classes.” I suspect I wouldn’t have been creative enough for one of his classes. He was very into thinking up extraordinarily creative things for his classes to do (for example setting recipes to music). I think I would have been one of the boring swots up the front asking, “will this be on the exam, Mr McCourt?”

I enjoyed reading this, but I’m certainly glad I didn’t shell out for the hardback.