Author Frank McCourt died yesterday of cancer (full report here). He was a public school teacher. He taught English and Creative Writing, just like me. McCourt wrote with such honesty. His stories made me laugh. More often, they made me cry. No one has pathos like Frank McCourt. It sounds silly if you've never read a great book before, but he was a friend. I projected myself into his stories. He was me. I was him.
I've quoted him in my classroom. I've read excerpts from ANGELA'S ASHES every year since I started teaching. He made me wish I lived in New York. He made me wish I was a few generations closer to my Irish ancestry. In a culture where I feel the need to continually apologize for my profession, he made me proud to be a teacher.
From an article in the Harvard University Gazette:
When the floor at Gutman was opened to questions and McCourt was asked what can be done about the "ineffectiveness of public school teaching," he had a ready answer: "Reduce class size and increase teachers' salaries."
Truly, I adore Frank McCourt.
He also said that something had to be done to increase the social status of teachers - so that mothers coo about "my son the teacher" the same way they go on about "my son the investment banker." Teachers need to become like the movie-star heroes of the "New Ireland," Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan, and Colin Farrell. "Teachers need to become sexy."
Frank McCourt had a miserable childhood, such a difficult life overall, and yet he wrote about the world with a smile. And now that he's gone, I can't help but shed a few tears for a person I never met.