<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d18993034\x26blogName\x3dRed+Cedar+Writing+Project\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dBLUE\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://redcedarwritingproject.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://redcedarwritingproject.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d-3332046782463705441', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Opening of the 95th (Frank McCourt Show)

Opening Session 95th NCTE
November 18, 2005 8:15 a.m.

Pre-program musings early in the morning from downtown Pittsburgh:

This convention room is a monster! There are so many people pouring into this room, yet it still feels like we are sitting in a large airplane hanger. The center has provided numerous screens, placed strategically around the outside of the room, so no matter where one’s seat is, a person still will have a very good, up-close view of the presenters. Frank McCourt just strolled up to the dais. I must admit he looks much older than I expected he would look. He has kind of a rock-star like quality, about him, as teachers are “rushing” the podium to snap his photo with digital cameras, or attempting to introduce themselves and shake his hand.

The program begins with the presentation of the Literacy Award for 2005. The award is going to presented not to one individual, but to a group of people. Many of these folks have been with the WQED since 1954 (or earlier). This is public television at its finest. WQED serves the community by providing educational TV for students, parents and interested persons, not only on the local level, but broadcasts some of its programs nationally.

Agathaniki Locklear is now going to introduce Frank McCourt (I sat next to Niki at the newcomers breakfast at 7:00 a.m. this morning…a very nice woman who is afflicted with laryngitis this day, turning her voice into something reminiscent of an overworked line coach hollering at the Pittsburgh Steelers!) She gives a short bio of Frank, especially plugging Angela’s Ashes, Frank’s first novel that he wrote at the age of 66. She also talks about the newest work, Teacher Man, Frank’s memoirs of his 27-year teaching career in New York City.

Frank McCourt quotes (or what I personally feel were important things the man had to say):

“All the religions are spread out for me like a buffet. Nobody but the teacher knows what it likes to teach. When was the last time you saw a teacher on a talk show? But politicians have their noses stuck into education…it’s all about the money. Do politicians interfere with the AMA (out of the way doctor, I’ll show you how to remove that spleen). It just pisses me off! We test them, test them, test them. Teachers must teach to the tests and all the joy is sucked out of the classroom. I’m on my soapbox! Teachers get very little exposure in the media; we’re not a glamorous profession. Why don’t you go out and sin so we can get more media attention. If we could pin the “sexy” label on teachers, we would be on our way. Politicians don’t understand what it is like to go into a classroom. When I first went into the classroom, I didn’t know my ass from my elbow. Blackboard Jungle was the movie at the time, and what was unrealistic is that Glenn Ford only had one class. The rest of the time, he spends walking the hallways bothering kids. If you have a first hour class, and it contains seniors, you might as well be an undertaker…they are asleep (if they are even in attendance). Politicians still do not understand this! They don’t cut teachers a break! Teaching is a 24-hour a day profession that follows me everywhere. Teach America: bright individuals that are all very happy, and the principals protect them. They talk about their experiences and they get a lot of attention, but in two years they are gone, the contract ends…did they give back? They have an idea of teaching as a nice profession but they don’t know. Any teacher who has worked more than 5 years should be invited to the Oval Office to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor…or a flak jacket. The real reward is what’s in your heart when you go home at the end of the day. Sometimes it is not a reward. There is an insult to the image of a teacher now. We have all experienced it. There’s no occupation that requires more doing than teaching. And the salary…we all pinch pennies, especially if we are raising families. The energy that a teacher expends is immeasurable. On my first day of teaching, I got into trouble. It involved a sandwich. Pete threw his brown paper bag lunch at his adversary and I made my first sound of my teaching career…HEY! Stop throwing sandwiches! And the result? They had to recognize that I was the boss, that I was in charge, that I wasn’t going to take that shit. I picked up the sandwich (a grand description of a wonderful sandwich follows, too much for me to type here)… and I ate the sandwich! That was the break through that connected me with kids. (9:00 a.m. and I ate a kid’s bologna sandwich). They might put a letter in your file…please don’t, I’ll never be a principal. You do various things to survive in the classroom. Another break through for me: Mikey hands me a note from his mom…obviously forged blatantly by him…these are brilliant notes written by the kids…here was American HS writing at its best…raw, real, exciting…trying to write as their parents would…they didn’t realize their parents’ actual notes would be dull…you’re so lucky to have a teacher like me who has taken the excuse-note and turned it into something to study…you will use them for the rest of your life…a rhapsody of excuses…for the first time I saw HS students so immersed in an activity that they had to be urged out of the classroom by friends to go to lunch. If only school boards would leave us alone to do our work…quit sending us so many memos. The last day of my teaching career the teachers gave me a lunch…I felt cast aside, I wasn’t significant anymore. But when I went home, I thought, I’m glad I did that! It was a great career.”


Blogger Nobis said...

Thanks for this post Paul. I've heard so many comments about McCourt's talk, and via your record of quotes (great idea for a blog entry!), I get a very good sense of what he talked about. And I see why everyone raved about it. Thanks!

10:22 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home