I am finishing up Frank McCourt’s (author of Angela’s Ashes) new book Teacher Man. It’s not exactly what I was expecting, and I’m mixed on whether I should recommend that my daughter (who’s studying to be a high school teacher right now) read the book. It is not about the motivating and exciting adventures of an eccentric young teacher that The Water is Wide (Pat Conroy) was, a book that made me want to be a teacher.
Teacher Man is about the thirty year struggles of being a teacher. It is an honest story of failings as a teacher. We are, none of us, perfect. Yet a teacher is supposed to be. But after many years of random stumblings on to techniques that are personal, eccentric, and almost zen’esque, he begins to feel success, even amongst continuing failures.
It’s not the kind of book that’s going to make you want to become a teacher. However, it does help us to understand teachers.
My point here is something that McCourt says in the end of the book, as he explains how he grades his high school writing students. He says that he writes to the far left of his page a capital “F”, and to the far right, another capital “F”. He asks his students to mark the degree to which they have moved from “Fear” to “Freedom”. This seems quite perfect, to me. In all endeavors of education, isn’t this what we are trying to do? To move our students from fear to freedom, from a fear of their world and its experience to a freedom to experience the world.
I will close this blog entry with one editorial note, that any education system that instills fear in its children and teachers, is doing the wrong thing.