April 30, 2012
2. Frank McCourt’s Personality Traits
4.4 Misery of a Teacher
4.5 Multicultural Classrooms – Problems and Conveniences 4. Language
5.6 Humor, Sarcasm and Irony as Rhetoric Devices
Frank McCourt: Teacher Man - Review
We all know the rules in classrooms.
“Children are to keep the voices down. They are not to roam room or hallways. There can be no learning in a noisy atmosphere. The classroom is not a playground. There should be no throwing of things. If students want to ask a question or answer a question they are to raise their hands. They must not be allowed to call out. Calling out could lead to pandemonium and that would make a bad impression on Board of Education officials from Brooklyn or educators visiting from foreign parts.”(p. 148)
Take these rules and make the opposite the classroom’s reality. In Mr. McCourt’s classroom, the reader witnesses a chaotic school life, far from discipline and order. The author does not even wait until page 3, until he reveals how his students throw around sandwiches and fight with each other. Not only this scene demonstrates why principles and officials see frequently the necessity to fire this untypical Irish teacher. “Good teachers run a tight ship.”(p. 149) So, does that mean that our teacher here, is a bad teacher? In the following analysis, I want to argue for the opposite, namely, showing how this teacher can be defined as a good teacher, as an outstanding one, even. Particularly three personality features will be focused, along with two important messages, the book sends out. Finally we want to see how this book is not only a lesson for the reader but also amusement.
In his thirty-years teaching career, Mr. McCourt learned one thing: “Honesty is the best policy.” In many instances, the teacher just reveals his honest feelings in front of the whole class and does not fear any controversial reactions. Whenever he is asked for something he is unsure about or does simply not know the correct answer, he would just admit that he does not know and that he would look it up later. He feels that there is no use in not being honest. He even confesses that at times, he is struggling with negative feelings: “I told my class I was so uncertain about teaching.” (p. 58) The reason why he sticks to his morals and principles of honesty is simple: “Even if they [the students] lie to themselves and the world they look for honesty in the teacher.” (p. 203) A teacher should always uphold this principle. He learned this lesson particularly at one school: McKee vocational school, where “you have to make your own way in the classroom. You have to find yourself. You have to develop your own style, your own techniques. You have to tell the truth or you’ll be found out. “ (p. 113) At this school, the reader perceives his belief in honesty also at one passage where he is showing, and indirectly criticizing, the corrupt procedures of grading executed by his fellow teachers there. Those just assign their grades according to their likes and dislikes, distorting and manipulating the evaluative factors (see p. 108). His good morals are also visible when a mother offers him to spend an adventurous weekend on whatever resort he chooses just to let her daughter into his class. He takes it for granted to turn down this offer, as it is corrupt. His colleagues, however, do not hold the same position and make fun of him: “What’s the matter with you?” (p. 201)
Nevertheless there is more that makes him a great teacher. Not only his honesty but also his loyalty towards students is outstanding. We always think of the teacher-student relationship as being an antagonistically one, sometimes even aversive. Not for Frank McCourt. The reader sees that when he had to attend the first Open School...