Thursday, September 06, 2007

Teach like your Hair is on Fire (copy)

“It’s a thankless job. It’s hard to find a reason to believe,” states author Rafe Esquith.

He continues, “It’s thankless and it doesn’t get easier. When you glance at your mental ledger, the red ink completely dominates the black. For every reason to believe, for every child you may help, there are dozens who make you want to give up. Most of the kids who walk into our classrooms do not even begin to comprehend how education can help them improve their lives.”

In Esquith’s 242-page book titled, Teach like your Hair is on Fire, these are the only words he allows himself to write which convey empathy towards his fellow teachers. Otherwise, the man generalizes the heck out of over-worked, over-wrought, just-teaching-for-the-test colleagues and it makes me mad.

How could anyone work around this egotistical know-it-all as he insinuates every teacher he comes in contact with is bad, lazy and/or ineffective? No wonder he loathes staff meetings where he must face those very teachers he has been so unkind to. Matter of fact, go back and reread his words in the second paragraph, replacing the words you, your, and our with I, me, and my, and this is Esquith’s personality in a nutshell.

Otherwise, I found his book to be inspiring and thought provoking. Between the self-congratulatory stories, there is a wealth of ideas from which to utilize. Esquith teaches the basics to fifth graders who consider English a second language in Los Angeles, California. A fact he says places them at a disadvantage when it comes to learning.

Okay, I can agree with this statement, but I think Esquith has an advantage Mississippi teachers do not. His kids are motivated to learn. His kids accompanied family members to the United States in order to pursue the American Dream. Most of our kids no longer harbor that hope and are generally less motivated.

Here’s my suggestion for reading this book. Skip over the first two chapters and concentrate on the specific subjects, such as reading, writing, and arithmetic, he covers per chapters three through eleven. Incorporate these ideas into your class, if you haven’t already, and then tackle chapters 12 through 17 as extracurricular activities.

Teaching is a hard enough profession without the constant negatives from self-anointed professionals. There is no need to put-down others, let the accomplishments do the talking.

11 comments:

Joy said...

Yep! I agree. :)

jenclair said...

I've read about this book, but only in publicity reviews. Your review reveals a lot more, Maggie.

Teaching kids who are motivated (as many immigrants are) is one thing. Attempting to teach (and motivate) students who have a tradition of scorning education is quite another. I've taught both and have had successes and failures. An inspiring teacher can make a difference, but without an internal desire to learn, even and excellent and inspiring teacher won't suffice.

Tiffany Norris said...

Thank you for this review. I had heard of the book, but now I'm curious.

And, after only two short years working in a school, I agree with y'all that: a) teachers are over-worked and under-appreciated and b) it makes a huge difference if the kids are motivated or not.

Then again, my husband is pursuing his MA in education, and he likes to say "If the student hasn't learned, the teacher hasn't taught."

Interesting discussion material. :) Thanks again.

maggie moran said...

Thanks guys. I thought I was being a little too harsh with him, then I read around and found an almost identical review at Teacher Magazine. Howard Good's article didn't mention the motivation, which was my major problem, I mean just look at the kids on the cover, the one hispanic hidden in the crowd, and think of our little faces, and well I feel valadated. Some readers really don't mind a know-it-all, but the author should consider his audience before he slings mud at them.

Anonymous said...

I have read this book and came away with a different view. As a teacher it is our job to motivate and inspire students, to build confidence, hope and stability. Many of my students speak a English as a second language, come from broken home, or both. These students do not trust or respect anyone because that is not modeled at home. Rafe offers some information that we should try to use as teachers, such as try to build trust and respect in your classroom instead of intimidating students. I have seen great teachers, good teachers, and other teachers. The great teachers that I know like this book and the good teachers even have positive reviews. The other teachers just try to degrade, usually because they do not want improve the educational process or are just teaching because of the hours and having summers off. Personally, I started teaching because I care about the students, not for the hours or summers off. Read the book and try to improve as a teacher, the reviews do not convey the heart of what Rafe Esquith is trying to share.

maggie moran said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting, bwk. If you wish your friend favorable reviews, maybe you should suggest he take the criticisms offered from reviewers to heart before writing more books. In customer service, if one person complains, ten people are thinking the same thing. Reviewers are the voice of complaint or praise, and it's not a bad idea to listen.

Anonymous said...

I think it is absolutely hilarious that you think that teaching recent immigrants is easier that teaching natural born children.

Also, I agree with BWK dijo, I have to say that the great teachers I know are easily able to gleen some great ideas from the book. Perhaps other teachers are so offended by the thought of Raef congratulating himself (and it appears to be well earned) that they prefer to make excuses as to why they don't want to try emulating some of Raef's ideas.

This brings to mind the difference between populist thinking and rational thinking -- It seems in the US that the average personal is often jealous of high achievers, and quick to point out every possible flaw, rather than striving to learn to be a better person and to accomplish more through very focused and challenging work.

Who cares if Raef has a big ego? Does that make him or any other strong personality any less accomplished?

BTW, you may as well know ahead of time that I am completely against the whole concept of our union. Paying equal pay based purely on years, regardless of a teacher's effectiveness, is totally unfair to the high achievers, and instead encourages a strong culture of mediocrity that has infested our educational culture.

That is why I can't list my name, as I'm sure I'll get flack at home from this....Call me weak if you'd like...

Anyway, thanks for publishing your blog, promoting discussion is always good!

maggie moran said...

Anon, thanks for participating, but I'm a little confused?!? Did you actually read my book talk or are you just looking to argue?

I quote, "Esquith teaches the basics to fifth graders who consider English a second language in Los Angeles, California. A fact he says places them at a disadvantage when it comes to learning.

Okay, I can agree with this statement, but I think Esquith has an advantage Mississippi teachers do not. His kids are motivated to learn. His kids accompanied family members to the United States in order to pursue the American Dream. Most of our kids no longer harbor that hope and are generally less motivated.
"

I also said, "Otherwise, I found his book to be inspiring and thought provoking. Between the self-congratulatory stories, there is a wealth of ideas from which to utilize."

As for thinking it a readable/useable book, I said, "Here’s my suggestion for reading this book. Skip over the first two chapters and concentrate on the specific subjects, such as reading, writing, and arithmetic, he covers per chapters three through eleven. Incorporate these ideas into your class, if you haven’t already, and then tackle chapters 12 through 17 as extracurricular activities."

It's funny how you and bwk assume only great teachers will get this book's message.
(Which, of course, places you and bwk in the great teacher category since y'all get the message.)

Hogwash! Great teachers, mediocre teachers, and bad teachers have been around as long as the profession. Um, dare I say, way before the book and Rafe. And, why the pigeon hole? Great teachers can experience bad days and bad teachers can experience great days; there is more to teaching than these stereotyped personas.

Motivation is a key factor in anyone's learning curve, whether they 5 or 75 years of age. What does one do when motivation is not in the mix-up of their pupils? (Work harder! Just what Mississippian teachers - the good, the bad, and the ugly - are doing!) But, Rafe does not address this concern, and for this reason I fault the book.

Chris Schumerth said...

May Esquith continue to speak the truth and may others join in with him!

maggie moran said...

Oh, thought he was a teacher not a prophet. So, what are you doing to change the world or are you just a follower, Schumes?

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