Friday, July 31, 2009
If Frank McCourt Taught It
Frank McCourt, who died on July 21, was not only a master storyteller, but also a high school English teacher. Following his death, the New York Times ran an article about him in which several of his former students were interviewed. Susan Jane Gilman, remembered that, "...he had us write courtroom defenses of inanimate objects and recite recipes as poetry." I thought those sounded like innovative writing exercises.
Vernon Silver recalled that a common exercise was asking students to describe what they had done when they got home the night before. "He would coax it out of us, showing us how to pay attention to mundane but telling details."
McCourt's memoir, Teacher Man was written in 2005 about his years as a school teacher. Since he once said, "The main thing I am interested in is my experience as a teacher," this book might be a great source of inspiration for teachers--particularly those who work in inner-city schools.
Another student, Kwana Jackson, who learned to love the written word under his tutelage said, "Only McCourt could make suffering desirable. Hell, you were going to suffer in this life anyway; you might as well do it doing something you love."
Or as McCourt himself said, "I had no accomplishments except surviving. But that isn't enough in the community where I came from, because everybody was doing it. So I wasn't prepared for America, where everybody is glowing with good teeth and good clothes and food."
Click on this link for an interview with McCourt about why he wrote about poverty.
Frank McCourt, Teacher Man, writing exercises, High school English teacher