Fear & Freedom

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.

2¢ Worth!

3 thoughts on “Fear & Freedom”

  1. Couldn’t agree more. The problem is that we live in a society that is motivated by fear, and so it’s not surprising that we’re being asked to change out of a sense of fear. Our fear of the world, however, has done nothing but bring even more isolation, and it won’t be any different for education.

  2. I can’t imagine any book making someone want to be a teacher. I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t going to be one – it’s as if it was in the bones. [Probably was – long family history.]
    I always felt that assumption carried me through the inevitable sticky patches.

  3. Your daughter should read this book after her first semester of teaching. “Teacher Man” is an honest account of what most, if not all, teachers experience. For me, teaching high school for ten years has been the greatest learning experience. McCourt’s book made me smile, laugh, think and made me feel great about being a teacher. Teachers don’t have all the answers. Strong teachers model “life-long learning”. This book may not motviate someone to join the teaching profession, but it will inspire current teachers to blossom and value the profession they have chosen. Pg. 255 is awesome is worth reading over and over. Find what you love!

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