Saturday, October 14, 2006

Teacher Man

I just finished reading Teacher Man by Frank McCourt. The book recounts his experiences as a NYC highschool teacher of grammar, literature, and creative writing. McCourt is a grand Irish story teller. Frequently the tales he tells have to do with making an authentic connection with the students in his classroom. He seems to have tried to dig through the well constructed teenage facade to catch a glimpse of the individual person inside.

He instructed his students to see themselves as writers and to observe the living of their own lives and those around them, as this was their unique subject matter. Given the content of his three books, he has apparently taken his own advice. After he retired, he wrote Angela’s Ashes, never expecting it to receive the worldwide acclaim it did. Angela’s Ashes, the story of his miserable childhood, was followed by ‘Tis, the story of his immigration to NY. And now Teacher Man, the story of his teaching career. Throughout all the books there is a consistent theme: finding his place in the world and coming to terms with his past. Knowing who he was and what he had to offer. Finding his own voice.

I find it comforting – more than that, exciting - to read about a talented person who took that long to find himself. I have struggled over the years with the same issues. I studied music but realized in my early 30s that I couldn’t really make a living in music in NYC. For many years full-time project management work and raising a family left time for little else. After a vacation in Ireland in 2003, I became fascinated with all things Irish, in particular Irish traditional music. Listening to this music, I had the distinct feeling I had come home. Very strange, since my ancestry is mostly German and British -- the British part being about as antithetical as you can get! (My only Celtic link is through one grandmother whose line traces to back Scotland several hundred years ago.) Nevertheless, I found traditional Irish music compelling in a way that no other genre has ever compelled me – to play, to learn, to take on challenges, to practice when I’m tired, to keep at it. Even though playing the music well is much more difficult than I initially thought it would be, I continue to feel an affinity with it. It's unclear where my pursuit of Irish traditional music will lead. With Teacher Man, however, McCourt gives me hope, gives us all hope, that it isn’t foolish to believe that even our sixties we too will find our own voice.

To see blog posts about other books I've read, click HERE.

© 2006, Linda Mason Hood
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1 comment:

mbg said...

You're inspiring, Linda. I'm constantly amazed with the enjoyment and committment that your Irish music pursuit brings. Keep on.