Thursday, May 31, 2007
Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire, by Rafe Esquith
I finished my first challenge read--Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 by Rafe Esquith, for the Non-Fiction Five Challenge. It is the story of an extraordinary teacher who has been teaching fifth grade at a public school in a poverty-stricken and violent Los Angeles neighborhood for the last twenty-two years, and he has created an oasis in his classroom. By challenging his kids to follow a personal code of behavior, he gets them to behave and to learn without "ruling with an iron fist".
I probably have more reason to be interested in this book than most people, because my oldest child is exactly the age of the kids that Rafe Esquith teaches. And Esquith's suggestions are great--he inspired me to introduce my child to Shakespeare, and he has many great suggestions for books, movies, music, plays, and math and science projects that I think will inspire all my (three) children.
I would have to agree with one reviewer who called Esquith's tone "arrogant", but at the same time, he tells many humble and self-deprecating stories about the mistakes he's made as a teacher over the years. It's an interesting combination. Maybe there is something approaching arrogance in the way he seems so sure about things--he is very confident in his assessments of the terrible state of many public schools today, and of the pitfalls many teachers can't seem to avoid. But I found, ultimately, that his voice didn't turn me off to his message.
I will also say that this book gave me many, many ideas about encouraging and supporting my kids' education, but it also made me feel inadequate as a parent at the same time. This guy has so many great ideas, I don't know how I would fit them all into my kids' lives. But the book did inspire me to try.
I am also interested in hearing what teachers think of this book. I think teachers would be more qualified than I am to judge it, and I'd be curious to hear what they think.