Educating Esme’ Diary of a Teacher’s First Year
Esme Raji Codell
She’s a fifth grade teacher with panache.
A true story, Esme’s diary of her first year of teaching should be a must read for all educators. Hat tip to Meredith Lee for the book recommendation. Never mind the colorful “F”, the “B”, the “S”, the “D” words spattered throughout the text. Esme’ follows the child instead of the rules to create a love of learning for thirty-one inner city children from Chicago.
Though her style is not mine- I’d rather eat staples than live in a classroom with a time machine (aluminum covered refrigerator box stuffed with interesting history books) topped by an operational flashing red light all day- she wins my praise by being her best self with the children.
Esme’ does what the greatest of all teachers do- inspires.
Here are a few passages:
I read in Melanie’s journal that her birthday came and went without a cake. She had to remind her mom that is was her birthday. So I got her a cupcake and a candle and gift-wrapped a little purse. I had her wait in the room after school, while I picked up her little sister outside. We had Melanie cover her eyes. When she uncovered them, the candle was lit. We sang “Happy Birthday” to her. She looked moved- kind of a weird thing to see in a ten-year-old- quiet, thoughtful, smiling. She said thank you very nicely, very sincerely. I was glad, because I think she understood that I did it because I care about her.
Mr. Turner (the principal of Madame Esme’s school and the villain of the book) walked in as all thirty -one kids were on the floor, laughing, cutting, and coloring in a fabulous mess. They didn’t stop when he entered.
“There’s no control!” he mourned.
“There absolutely is!” I raised my thumb, which is the signal for attention, and like a magic trick, within twelve seconds every mouth was closed, thirty-one thumbs were in the airto show they got my signal, and all eyes were on us.
“Just checking” I explained. The kids went back to work.
It’s not that I’m so great or that they love me so much. It’s just that I’m consistent, and they know if they don’t follow my guidelines, I will be a dragon lady. Still I loved seeing Mr. Turner’s face just then.
Esme’ had me in stitches and tears in the few hours it took me to pour over the 194 pages. I’ve taken notes and made a booklist to read with my own children from her book.
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