I'm reading Pat Conroy's newest book, South of Broad, this week, but I looked back on my bookshelf at his books and remembered when I first encountered him.
It was the book, The Water Is Wide: A Memoir, which is about his teaching experience on a very poor South Carolina island in 1969.
The book came out while I was an undergrad and I read it along with a shelf full of other books about teaching by teachers as part of my prep to start my own teaching career.
Many of those books were about well-meaning, optimistic young teachers who were in frustratingly impossible classroom situations.
Conroy's isolated island community had the same students who were far behind where they should be, no funding, no real curriculum, no textbooks, racism and bonehead administrators that I found in books from To Sir, With Love to Up the Down Staircase.
All these books painted a really horrible picture of what I should expect in the classroom. But, they also offered humor and, ultimately, teachers triumphing over adversity. Conroy also realized that he didn't all he wanted to accomplish. A good lesson.
The book also became a movie called Conrack (the name his students gave him).
I don't know that I ever consciously used any of the book in a class I taught, but I bet that Pat Conroy's books have had an impact on me as a teacher.