Monday, 14 May 2007

Teacher Man

Shortly before the paper we were working on was submitted, my employer and I went through a furious stretch of editing, rewriting and pruning of the bibliography. We worked remotely, updating one another via phone calls, SMS messages and emails. Several hour later, the paper was ready and emailed to New York, its destination. The storm had passed. We sighed with relief. Alhamdulillah.

I hope that this didn't scare you from ever considering to join academia, my employer remarked.

Nope, I told my employer, reading Teacher Man did that to me already.

Teacher Man is a reminiscence of Frank McCourt's life as a teacher in New York. It is the part of his life shortly covered in his previous memoir, 'Tis. I finally got around to finish the book, which was bought last year. I know from experience that once I pick up anything by McCourt, I would have difficulties putting it down.

This book confirms what most people think of the teaching profession. We all believe strongly in it. But it's basically a job that nobody really wants to do, understands or appreciates. Just take a look at what teachers wrote in the letters section of the newspapers' education pullout. As woefully described by McCourt, teaching is the "downstairs maid of professions."

But despite all that, McCourt held on. He braved flying sandwiches, ethically-diverse classes, administration interferences and personal crises to deliver his student the English and Creative Writing lesson they deserve.

He also never shies away from confessing his weaknesses: his drinking habit, his womanising ways and other things that may deem him as an unworthy teacher. Teacher Man is a cold and hard at a teacher as a person. I heard from somewhere that one of the most important lesson parents must teach their children is that parents are just humans. I guess this goes for teachers as well.

McCourt is undoubtedly masterful as a storyteller. Reading his books is like pulling a chair and joining him at his table. He sometimes mirrors the speech pattern of the person he's talking about, like the way some people refer to him as Mr."McCord" or Mr."McCoot". McCourt definitely has a keen eye for human idiosyncrasies.

Teacher Man is hugely humorous and personally heartfelt. An emotive read for anyone who's interested about education and teaching.


ieka said...

tulisan sempena hari guru? selamat hari guru.. moga dpt mendidik dgn baik samada dlm senyap atau terang.. secara terus atau tersembunyi..:)

rol said...

Heh, lupa pulak pasal Hari Guru. Serius, tak terlintas lansung...

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