Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mixed emotions

I just read Rafe Esquith's Teach Like Your Hair Is on Fire.

His book confirms my core beliefs about valuing students' intellects and holding high expectations. It especially highlights the ideal that teachers don't merely teach content, we teach human beings with amazing potential, and that we have the opportunity to teach them how to be.

Rafe, as his students call him, teaches his students problem solving (before school), guitar (during lunch and recess), baseball (during PE), and Shakespeare (after school). He assigns weekly essays, providing useful feedback on each one (on the weekends). He holds tutoring sessions for former students and takes students to sporting events (in the evenings and instead of personal hygiene, I can only presume).

He echoes my bleak outlook on popular culture. Tired of hearing students tell him about the movies they spend hours watching over the weekend (stuff like "Johnny Killed Everything"), he began his own film library. He takes his students to Washington, D.C. and Ashland, Oregon's Shakespeare Festival (during vacations). He deplores missed opportunities to educate students about how to be, teaching them about the value of money and saving through a class economy begun on the first day of school, teaching them to applaud excellent plays no matter which team makes them, teaching them to try new things, be kind to others, and help the less fortunate (on Christmas Eve, performing at a homeless shelter and serving dinner).

Are you inspired? Or tired?

Yes, he's married. Yes, he's been doing the teaching thing for over 25 years. Yes, Disney, Oprah, and the Queen of England have noticed him*. Yes, he's written three books. Yes, he's in Wikipedia. Yes, he rises before 5 am.

When does he plan? When does he grade? When, forgive me, does he pee?

Dedicated teachers struggle with balance; it's a normal part of a job that is fascinating and rewarding and frustrating and liberating. Reading about how this guy's entire life is Room 56 is overwhelming, and I feel guilty, like that's how I am supposed to do a better job, like that's what I owe the 150+ kids that walk into B-5...

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