Summary and book reviews of Teacher Man by Frank McCourt

Teacher Man

A Memoir

by Frank McCourt

Teacher Man
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2005, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2006, 272 pages

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Book Summary

McCourt's long-awaited book about how his thirty-year teaching career shaped his second act as a writer.

Nearly a decade ago Frank McCourt became an unlikely star when, at the age of sixty-six, he burst onto the literary scene with Angela's Ashes, the Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir of his childhood in Limerick, Ireland. Then came 'Tis, his glorious account of his early years in New York.

Now, here at last, is McCourt's long-awaited book about how his thirty-year teaching career shaped his second act as a writer. Teacher Man is also an urgent tribute to teachers everywhere. In bold and spirited prose featuring his irreverent wit and heartbreaking honesty, McCourt records the trials, triumphs and surprises he faces in public high schools around New York City. His methods anything but conventional, McCourt creates a lasting impact on his students through imaginative assignments (he instructs one class to write "An Excuse Note from Adam or Eve to God"), singalongs (featuring recipe ingredients as lyrics), and field trips (imagine taking twenty-nine rowdy girls to a movie in Times Square!).

McCourt struggles to find his way in the classroom and spends his evenings drinking with writers and dreaming of one day putting his own story to paper. Teacher Man shows McCourt developing his unparalleled ability to tell a great story as, five days a week, five periods per day, he works to gain the attention and respect of unruly, hormonally charged or indifferent adolescents. McCourt's rocky marriage, his failed attempt to get a Ph.D. at Trinity College, Dublin, and his repeated firings due to his propensity to talk back to his superiors ironically lead him to New York's most prestigious school, Stuyvesant High School, where he finally finds a place and a voice. "Doggedness," he says, is "not as glamorous as ambition or talent or intellect or charm, but still the one thing that got me through the days and nights."

For McCourt, storytelling itself is the source of salvation, and in Teacher Man the journey to redemption -- and literary fame -- is an exhilarating adventure.

Prologue

If I knew anything about Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis I'd be able to trace all my troubles to my miserable childhood in Ireland. That miserable childhood deprived me of self-esteem, triggered spasms of self pity, paralyzed my emotions, made me cranky, envious and disrespectful of authority, retarded my development, crippled my doings with the opposite sex, kept me from rising in the world and made me unfit, almost, for human society. How I became a teacher at all and remained one is a miracle and I have to give myself full marks for surviving all those years in the classrooms of New York. There should be a medal for people who survive miserable childhoods and become teachers, and I should be first in line for the medal and whatever bars might be appended for ensuing miseries.

I could lay blame. The miserable childhood doesn't simply happen. It is brought about. There are dark forces. If I am to lay blame it is in a spirit of forgiveness. Therefore, I forgive ...

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About This Book

From the author of the huge international bestsellers Angela’s Ashes and Tis comes this charming third memoir

Leaving behind his impoverished childhood in Ireland, Frank McCourt arrived in New York young and idealistic. Quickly acknowledging his interest for literature he joined the New York Library and began educating himself in his spare time after work. Drawing confidence from these efforts, he talked his way into a NYU and gained a degree in literature. He then embarked on a career in literature that would span over 30 years. Looking back now, he estimates that he probably taught up to 12,000 children and long before his writing fame he recalls how he would receive letters from former students...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Why is Frank McCourt a publishing sensation when the memoirs of thousands of others lie forlorn and forgotten at the bottom of a drawer under a pile of rejection letters? A large part of it is due to the simple and undeniable quality of his writing, but another part is down to that mysterious process known as luck ... As McCourt himself says, 'When I taught in New York City high schools for thirty years no one but my students paid me a scrap of attention. In the world outside the school I was invisible. Then I wrote a book about my childhood and became mick of the moment....   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

McCourt throws down the gauntlet on education, asserting that teaching is more than achieving high test scores. It's about educating, about forming intellects, about getting people to think....should be mandatory reading for every teacher in America. And it wouldn't hurt some politicians to read it, too.

Booklist - Brad Hooper

[A]nother easily embraceable memoir by the best-selling author of Angela's Ashes (1996) and 'Tis (1999)...a tough but poignant and certainly eloquent defense of the sacrifices and honorableness of those in the teaching profession ...and a lesson itself in taking yourself seriously--but not too.

Author Blurb Billy Collins
Moving out of the poor Irish lanes of his childhood and now into the high school classrooms of New York City, Frank McCourt exchanges one garden of suffering for another, but always with a comic eye, a sympathetic heart, and the perfect timing of a master story-teller. Teacher Man is a cry from the barricades of public education and should be required reading not just for all teachers but for anyone who ever set foot in a high school. Happily, there will be no test.

Reader Reviews

johnnyo

Another Fun Read!!
Another very good book from Mr. McCourt, I was really touched with the last few chapters of the book.

Delfi

The art of teaching
I would have traveled to the States only and exclusively to talk to him personally. I'm studying to become a teacher.His voice would have sounded like angels singing from heaven to me! I will miss him!

Jackson Rine

Great book
This book was amazing. I literally got through it in a week because it was page turning.

Kathryn

A Different McCort!
Don't be put off reading McCort's Teacher Man because you didn't care for his other books. Although his melancholy nature comes through in the telling of his own teaching career, this book is an uplifting tale about what life in his classroom was ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Frank McCourt taught in the New York City public schools for twenty-seven years, the last seventeen of which were spent at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. After retiring from teaching, Frank and his brother, Malachy, performed their two-man show, A Couple of Blaguards, a musical review about their Irish Youth. In September 1996, Scribner published Frank's childhood memoir, Angela's Ashes, which spent 117 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. After more than sixty-five printings, there are over ...

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