Thursday, September 1, 2011

Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire - Rafe Esquith

Overview from B&N: Perhaps the most famous fifth-grade teacher in America, Rafe Esquith has won numerous awards and even honorary citizenship in the British Empire for his outstandingly successful methods. In his Los Angeles public school classroom, he helps impoverished immigrant children understand Shakespeare, play Vivaldi, and become happy, self-confident people. This bestseller gives any teacher or parent all the techniques, exercises, and innovations that have made its author an educational icon, from personal codes of behavior to tips on tackling literature and algebra. The result is a powerful book for anyone concerned about the future of our children.

Okay, I’ll be honest. I’d never heard of Rafe Esquith before I read this book. And I’m a teacher…who reads books all the time about teaching, teachers, teaching methods, etc. After reading the book and about all he’s managed to accomplish, I’m wondering how I haven’t heard of him.

I did get a few key website and ideas and strategies for my classroom. For example, I will be instituting the “weekly essay” with my classes once we do our writing process/6 traits unit. Also, I love his economics system. I can’t use it, but our social studies teacher also does economics the first part of the year with our seventh graders. So I passed that idea on to her.

The book was easy to read. But it was also disconcerting at times – in that I wonder what I’m doing with my days and how I’m not able to manage all that he does (despite the fact I put in my overtime and such too). I found myself wondering how big his classroom is, how his family feels about all the time he spends at school, and what he does to get such amazing parental involvement and student interest. After all, his fifth graders aren’t that much younger and can’t be that much more un-world-weary than my 7th and 8th graders. So I would have liked to have some of those questions answered.

Additionally, much of the book came off as very condescending. “I accomplish all of this and if you were a halfway decent teacher you would too.” Or maybe that would just be my guilty conscious/wanting to be amazing and make my mark on the world self talking.

In the end, I would say it’s worth the read.

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