This final memoir in the trilogy that started with Angela's Ashes and continued in 'Tis focuses almost exclusively on McCourt's 30-year teaching career in New York City's public high schools, which began at McKee Vocational and Technical in 1958. His first day in class, a fight broke out and a sandwich was hurled in anger. McCourt immediately picked it up and ate it. On the second day of class, McCourt's retort about the Irish and their sheep brought the wrath of the principal down on him. All McCourt wanted to do was teach, which wasn't easy in the jumbled bureaucracy of the New York City school system. Pretty soon he realized the system wasn't run by teachers but by sterile functionaries. "I was uncomfortable with the bureaucrats, the higher-ups, who had escaped classrooms only to turn and bother the occupants of those classrooms, teachers and students. I never wanted to fill out their forms, follow their guidelines, administer their examinations, tolerate their snooping, adjust myself to their programs and courses of study." As McCourt matured in his job, he found ingenious ways to motivate the kids: have them write "excuse notes" from Adam and Eve to God; use parts of a pen to define parts of a sentence; use cookbook recipes to get the students to think creatively. A particularly warming and enlightening lesson concerns a class of black girls at Seward Park High School who felt slighted when they were not invited to see a performance of Hamlet, and how they taught McCourt never to have diminished expectations about any of his students. 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. McCourt's many fans will of course love this book, but it also should be mandatory reading for every teacher in America. And it wouldn't hurt some politicians to read it, too. (Nov. 15) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Here is the long-anticipated final installment in the trilogy of memoirs by Pulitzer Prize winner McCourt (Angela's Ashes). His previous volumes told the tale of his life through many categories of struggle and triumph, from a poverty-stricken childhood in Limerick to a return to his birthplace, New York City, and his quest there for a better existence. In Teacher Man, however, McCourt focuses upon his particular journey as a teacher in New York City public school classrooms, from his first day in front of a class at a vocational high school in Staten Island-he had not graduated from high school himself but had talked his way into NYU for a college degree covered by the GI Bill-to his accomplishments as a veteran instructor, skilled in unorthodox methods of teaching English and creative writing to exceptional students. McCourt's characteristically vivid storytelling, with his rendering of the distinct and searing voices of particular students, enables his readers to see, hear, and feel this story, a voyage of discovery for students and teacher and, ultimately, all who read this marvelous book. A particular interest in the teaching profession is not required: Teacher Man relates to us all. Every bit as good as Angela's Ashes and 'Tis, this is highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/015.]-Mark Bay, Cumberland Coll. Lib., Williamsburg, KY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.