Saturday, October 14, 2006

Teacher Man

(Throw no tomatoes, please)

Teacher Man was the first book I have read by Frank McCourt. When this book came out, the two copies plus the audio copy at my public library were in high demand. It wasn't until six months later that the copies were available without a wait list. It must be a good book, right? I only loosely knew what the book was about, and always looking for teacher-inspiration books, I diligently put it on my to-read list.

If you read this earlier entry, you know that Master and Commander was not the flavor of book that I needed to read at that moment. Hence the switcheroo choice of Teacher Man.

I'm not sure what I expected out of Teacher Man. Probably an encouraging teacher success story. If the reader reviews at Amazon are any indication, Teacher Man is a teacher success story. At least for some. For me, though, I couldn't wait to get through it. I was bound and determined that I wouldn't quit the book, but that I would employ the scan-to-finish tactic. Frankly, I thought Teacher Man was a dark and dreary sort of book. Whatever I expected, Teacher Man didn't produce. It didn't scratch where I itched. McCourt's proclaimed master storytelling style just didn't interest me.

Typically, I highlight portions of text I want to remember or to use in a lesson later. With library books, I flag. (Actually, I both flag and highlight in my own books.) Compare the lines I flagged in Teacher Man (on the bottom) with those I flagged in a recent read, The Day I Became an Autodidact (Hailey).

As I flip thorough the very few flagged lines (six in all) of Teacher Man, this one speaks for all the other five:

"I brought to America....The Works of William Shakespeare: Gathered into One Volume....A well-thumbed books, well marked. There are passages underlined that once meant something to me though I look at them now an hardly know why."
Exactly what I think when I read the sections I flagged in McCourt's book.

Maybe Teacher Man will work for me at a different time of life. I don't know. But it doesn't work now.

Typically when I need some teacher inspiration, I reach for anything Marva Collins. Or Hirschberg's A Priceless Gift. Ben Collins' Gifted Hands.

As if she knew, my friend in real life and board friend e-mailed me the title of a book she said she knew I would love--It Doesn't Take a Genius: Five Truths to Inspire Success in Every Student. She's right. I love it. It scratches where I itch.

Notice the number of flags already?

From the first line on page 7, I knew I would love the book:
"I've always had such respect and appreciation for Marva Collins."
Because my personal reading time as been cut short this semester, I treated myself to a long, uninterrupted stretch of reading time this morning. No arising at 4:30 a.m. Rather, I slept until I awoke, filled an insulated carafe with coffee, climbed back in the warm bed and plenty of coffee, picked up It Doesn't Take a Genius: Five Truths to Inspire Success in Every Student, and enjoyed the first fifty pages.

My day still has lots of chores to complete, but at least, I have spent some personal time for much needed inspiration.

By the way, the very first line of inspiration in my new book is

Always try to play another octave of the piano.


Patti said...

Thanks for the review, Janie. I had looked for it when I was at the library last because of your last post about it. This particular branch didn't have it and now I don't think I'll miss it. I flag, too. Usually I highlight things that I think will be memorable for life in general, and I flag if I want to pull stuff together on a specific theme or topic.

Carol in Oregon said...

I think some of McCourt's popularity comes from curiosity about his life after _Angela's Ashes_ (I have GOT to learn HTML tags). Thus, I read this story as a continued memoir.

I remember reading the part about parents complaining that their kids weren't reading the classics and thinking, "I would have been one of those parents."

Dare I admit that I've never heard of Marva Collins? I bopped over to and looked at the choices. She's on my ever expanding list of books to find.

Thanks for your thoughts.

norah said...

Thanks for the flag idea.. I have so many books in progress and hate to take the time to write down all of these wonderful thoughts - and where would I find where it's written anyway?? lol. So the flags might just work. From an aspiring writer/blogger.