Monday, July 20, 2009

Teacher Man

Another day, another departure. This one caught me a little closer than the past few celebrity deaths. Frank McCourt, author of "Angela's Ashes" joined the choir invisible on Sunday. He was seventy-eight years young.
Even though he was known primarily for the story of his impoverished youth in Ireland, my own McCourt fixation centered on his recollections of teaching public school, "Teacher Man." Four years ago, when I really needed a shove from behind to get out the door on most days, I read this memoir and felt instant relief. I wasn't the only one who routinely felt that they were making things up as they went along. I wasn't alone walking the tightrope between administrators and parents. I took great solace in the thirty-year career that Mister McCourt enjoyed before retiring and beginning his writing career.
Most of all, he was the one who made it okay for me to share myself as a human being to my students. My own youth and upbringing, though at times completely disparate from that of the kids in my class, could still inform my teaching. Having a kid of my own allowed me a window on their world that I was careful about opening when I started. He's also the one who wrote so eloquently of the terror and pleasure of taking a group of inner-city kids out into the world. Taking a busload into Times Square to see a movie? Read the book and you'll understand.
"F. Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American lives. I think I've proven him wrong," McCourt later explained. "And all because I refused to settle for a one-act existence, the thirty years I taught English in various New York City high schools." Bravo for acts one and two.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, Angela's Ashes was sooo depressing! I started to give monthly to our local food bank after reading that book. RIP!