Educating Esme (or Me)

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I recently began reading the novel, Educating Esme, for one of my classes, and well because first year teaching seems to be one of those fight club secrets you aren’t allowed to know about until you get that degree in your hand, I thought any advice would help me not go into the classroom completely blind. What I got out of this experience that is Esme Raji Codell’s first year of teaching is completely different than what I expected. She does things in an unorthodox way, not only in the classroom, but out of it as well. She blurs the line between what is morally acceptable and what is absolutely beyond being labeled as a “rookie mistake”. In one part of the novel, she decides to look after two of the children in her classroom and take them into her home since her mother said they were going to be taken out of an abusive situation. Granted, while I admire her bravery for taking in these kids, it is still completely unorthodox, illegal and against school policy. There is a way to follow correct protocol and protect the kids all while keeping your job. Not everything has to be made into a play for power or made into a point of who is right, which Madame Esme seems to do a lot.

Although, there was definitely a positive I can take away from the novel. I loved the way she implemented smart, important curriculum into her classroom, that not only helped the children get engaged in the lesson, but made them excited and eager to learn. She did this especially well when she discussed her book club method in regards of teaching Literature. She broke the kids up into 5 groups of 8 and gave each child within a group a specific job – whether it be the person who takes notes on the discussions, the person who leads the discussions, or the person who takes notes on vocabulary, every child gets involved and participates in class. Then the children go at their own pace, give a presentation to the class and are tested individually before the books are then rotated. I love this because the children are then involved, all feel as though they have an important role and something to contribute, and they get exposed to a variety of different genres and novels.

Overall, I found this book extremely witty, innovative and such a great read. It shows the power of teaching literacy in a smart inventive way to make children want to learn and is something I hope to embrace in my own classroom. (Minus the morally ambiguous tactics).

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