As students and parents get ready to return to school, the eager and apprehensive butterflies of homework and academic achievement replace the summer malaise. It is a great time for parents and teachers to reconfirm the commitment to scholastic studies with some of their own summer reading. A great book to gain confidence and ideas is Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire by Rafe Esquith. This real life teacher inspires his students and their parents to dedicate the will and skills to succeed.
Rafe Esquith is a 5th Grade teacher in Los Angeles with over 20 years of experience. As a teacher in a high poverty and low achieving elementary school, Rafe Esquith uses all his physical and mental strength to make the lives of children better in all academic areas. The book is filled with ideas for elementary teachers in approving reading, problem solving and raising math scores. He does not use tricks or flashy, new pedagogy in child development, but the classic techniques of hard work, accountability, and enthusiasm to bring learning to the children.
For elementary teachers and parents of primary grade children, he explores all the academic areas with passion to give a child confidence and a well-rounded academic experience. He uses common sense games to expand the children’s learning, to make smooth transitions from subject to subject, and to encourage outside the school day learning experiences on class trips. If you ever have a question on what you could do to make a student’s life more enriching from physical education to financial education, you will find a good path in this book.
Rafe is not shy to admit the problems with public education and the overzealous nature of schools to test kids. He deals with a lack of materials, especially in science, and must supplement his classroom with books, movies, and materials. He challenges schools and teachers to remember the whole student is not a test score and we must reach what is personal in them. Inside Room 56, Rafe makes learning about character building, holds cooperative and collaborative learning as essential, and makes individual behavior the center of the classroom behavior.
The strongest part of the book is his 6 Levels of Behavior that has made his classroom successful. As parents and teachers, we would do well to implement and look for chances to raise the level of our children. A first level student is one that conforms because he Does Not Want to Get in Trouble. The second level is the student who Wants a Reward. The third level student will behave and try because they are trying to Please Someone. The fourth level student starts the path to maturity as they want to Follow the Rules. Rafe tries to get his students beyond this into Level 5: I am Considerate and Show Empathy. The final level, as Rafe admits that not even many adults have reached on a consistent level, is to Follow Your Own Code of Personal Behavior. It is in level six we have reached the maturity of Atticus Finch who does the right, moral thing even if it is against societal rules.
We always have a lot to learn. The best way to learn, as Rafe stresses, is to be lifelong readers who improve each day in our goal to be Level 6ers. Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire is a teacher’s story who believes in the mission of education to transform our society into a utopia, just like in Room 56.
You can follow James Dugan on facebook and on Twitter @jamesduganlb. Purchase his new book through Amazon What Baseball Teaches: A Poetic Odyssey into 2008 Season of the World Champions Philadelphia Phillies