Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My work place soul mate.

Finally, a teaching story that I can relate to! At least once a year I have to resist the urge to gather together all of those books and movies about how a teacher miraculously and single-handedly takes a rag tag group of young hoodlums and inspires them to reach inside themselves and turn their lives around - you know, ones like Dangerous Minds. I gather these stories of overly dedicated teachers together and then call on strength deep in my soul and somehow resist the temptation to chuck them all in the blender and puree the bajezus out of them. There are stories of perfect teachers, and I can not relate to them (check out the middle paragraph of this past column).

But I have found the greatest book called Teacher Man. This is the third book Frank McCourt has written about his life. The first was Angela's Ashes - one of the most touching book I have ever read. His descriptions of growing up in Irland had me in tears - on one page because it was truly horrid and on the next because I was laughing so hard. The second was about his journey to America, and was nothing to write home about. But so far this book has more than made up for the previous one.

In Teacher Man, McCourt talks about his experiences teaching. While most teacher memoirs talk about their successes, he shares his struggles and failures. This is a man I can relate to.

He was an English teacher, working with at risk - disinterested kids, and also wanted to write. It is encouraging to me that he got his first and huge book out at the age of 66. There is hope for me, even though I hope I do not have to wait that long.

I love the quote he uses in response to his late bloom as a writer:

I was teaching, that's what took me so long. Not in college or university, where you have all the time in the world for writing and other diversions, but in four different New York City public high schools...When you teach five high school classes a day, five days a week, you're not inclined to go home to clear your head and fashion deathless prose. After a day of five classes your head is filled with the clamor of the classroom.

He shares his struggles, faults, mistakes. There was one example where he wanted to comfort some students but believed that he would only muddle it, so he didn't. I would like to say that I would never act this way, but to be honest, I am not sure.

Don't think that this is a downer book - quite the opposite. By the end of his career in the classroom, he does get better. Again, there is hope for me.

Joie de Vivre ~ A Hearty Joy of Living!

1 comment:

Flippant said...

I can relate to the need to read about "struggling teachers". I taught for a number of years and it's true that you only hear about the good things. Then people tell you what a saint you must be and how patient... I never really felt patient, i felt like i was struggling to maintain an exterior of patience! I prayed a lot. I wish more teachers opened up and shared about their struggles, it would make the journey more human and less saintly. ;)