Thursday, June 29, 2006


Frank McCourt
ISBN 0684865742

Every teacher has a book inside them. In some cases it is as well if it just stays there. In Frank McCourt’s case I can only say I am glad it came out into the open.

In prose a bit like a stream of consciousness, he writes about his life in Limerick and the problems of moving back to New York and trying to make headway against poverty and prejudice. So far so depressing but he manages to make it come alive and make it highly readable.

And then in the second half of the book is his life as a teacher. His description of his first lesson with a sassy New York class is a delightful and frightening evocation of the problems everyone encounters as an NQT. I can recommend it to anyone who has ever come into a classroom and found the pupils know how to handle the situation much better than they do!

He is very open about his feelings even when these are discreditable, especially when these are discreditable. He does not give himself the benefit of the doubt or cloud his emotions. When he wants to be extremely rude to his mother or father he gives his exact feelings but concedes that he didn’t actually say any of these hurtful things.

He compares being Irish and being expected to be interested in “irishness” with being black and expected to be interested in specifically “black issues.” He adds that at least he could (if he wanted) have changed his accent but not the colour of his skin.

(Grammatical note – my use of the word “they”is wrong as any English teacher will readily assert. However the Oxford English Dictionary (no less) acknowledges, perhaps reluctantly, that “they” can be used as a substitute for “he or she” where the latter would be clumsy.)

Every teacher will find something to like in this book



Post a Comment

<< Home