Frank McCourt's lyrical homage to his three decades in New York City's public schools is a bittersweet account of the simple joys and grinding frustrations of the craft of teaching. No surprise that it finished on top. Also noteworthy was Other People's Children, Lisa Delpit's remarkable account of the role of prejudice, stereotypes, and cultural conflict in the classroom.
We asked McCourt, veteran teacher and author of the memoirs Angela's Ashes and 'Tis, to give us his favorites. He was kind enough to oblige us with this missive:
"The first book about teaching that moved me was Bel Kaufman's Up the Down Staircase, made into a movie with Sandy Dennis. Even though the teacher had but one high school English class, it was closer to reality than any other book I've read. It showed the turbulence that is part of any gathering of teenagers and how a teacher has to learn to handle it. (That takes years.)
"Then there was The Blackboard Jungle, again a novel (by Evan Hunter) made into a movie. That, too, was realistic, though very little actual teaching occurred: too many defiant boys making life dangerous for the teacher. It all works out in the end -- but that ain't the way it is in real life.
"The saint of writers on education, for me, is Jonathan Kozol. His book Savage Inequalities is the most passionate, informed book on contemporary education you can find. If you have tears, prepare to shed them."