I avoided this book like the plague for as long as I could until my brother-in-law bought it for me last Christmas. Many people told me I would love it because it was basically my life (without the illicit behavior, of course), which is why I tried to keep away. However, my loyalty to my wife’s brother dictated I make use of his gift, and so read it I did.
I’ve been teaching high school English for about six years now. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it. I hoped McCourt’s memoir detailing his experiences as an English teacher for thirty years would serve inspirational and motivate me to press on. It didn’t.
I think it’s because of this that the book rather succeeds. He doesn’t pull any punches. He talks about how teaching can completely wear you away to a shadow of your former self, but he also talks about those triumphs that occasionally take place in the classroom. Best of all, he doesn’t give a fairy tale version of what teaching is like. He doesn’t pretend he was super-teacher with no personal problems of his own. In fact, he is quite candid in talking about affairs and other inappropriate behavior, both in and out of the classroom.
I know memoirs can be juiced up a bit, but I think this is about as true to life as a memoir can get for a retired teacher looking back over a thirty year career. I think everyone should read this book to, if nothing else, get some idea of what it’s like to be on the other side of the desk.
But, prepare yourself-McCourt candy coats nothing.