These are the reflections of Rafe Esquith, a 20-year elementary teacher who started his career in a suburban elementary school. After a few years, he shifted to Hobart Elementary School in a rough, low-income part of Los Angeles. Learning through hard experience, he shares his secrets of success, and the obstacles every teacher must overcome in order to become effective with his/her students.
His record of accomplishment is impressive. As a fifth grade teacher, he has received numerous awards, which include being named the 1992 Disney National Outstanding Teacher of the Year and a Sigma Beta Delta Fellowship from Johns Hopkins. More importantly, even though his students live in a neighborhood where violence is common, English is a second language and many teachers would rather be some place else, his fifth grade students consistently score in the top 10 percent on standardized tests, perform Shakespeare plays and routinely read top literary books, and eventually go on to top colleges where they perform Shakespeare plays and routinely read top literary books.
The basic lesson he learned as a teacher is “There Are No Shortcuts.” By challenging and inspiring his students and being actively available to them, his students put in long hours and work hard, even during vacations. He found students want to learn, but the teacher has to put in the long extra hours to enable students to challenge themselves. Esquith believes success as a teacher comes from emphasizing a strong work ethic and “from dedication and perseverance on the part of children, teachers and parents.”
He also found the major obstacle to student accomplishment is the system. He affectionately refers to his school as “The Jungle.” He relates how he often had to spend as much energy dealing with the system as he put into working directly with the kids. From “good enough” fellow teachers, to misdirected priorities from administrators, he relates anecdote after anecdote about how he overcame the system in order to do what he thought his students needed for a good education.
In his book, Esquith illustrates how teachers can accomplish anything if they are dedicated enough to really work with and for their students. This book is an inspiration and great teaching tool for those who want to learn what needs to be done to establish a school that will not compromise the education of children.