I'd like to think that this, his first book, was a kind of exorcism of his frustrations, and that he has since let go of some of his anger and spite. In reading it, try to do something I think Rafe Esquith didn't do in writing it: give him the benefit of the doubt and trust that, even though his attitude can be appalling, he still has good ideas and is worth listening to.
Parents, young teachers, those who are thinking about becoming educators and those who want to know more about teachers' working conditions will get the most from this book. Most teachers are humans- with families, personal responsibilities and an aversion to thousands of dollars of credit card debt when they usually make $35,000 a year. 99% could not replicate what he has done working a very respectable 9-10 hour work day and limiting personal spending of classroom supplies to the usual couple hundred dollars. (Almost all teachers spend hundreds of dollars of their own money to purchase necessary classroom supplies.) This is not an apology for the few teachers who do as little as possible to get by- this is in defense of those who give everything they can, but at the end of the day have to return home to their own children and families. It is not the ONLY thing you need, but having money for books, copies, trips & supplies is necessary. As he notes, the school day should be longer- but instead of having teachers like Rafe stay from 6am to 7pm, perhaps we should have 2 shifts of teachers.
He has had to overcome the problems that all teachers have had to overcome: administrational frustrations, colleague incompetence, unrealistic budgets, and well-intentioned people who think teaching would be better off if run like a business. It sucks, but if we want kids to learn, we're gonna fork over the little money we make and reinvest it into the students. He spends time after school working with the students, I already do that too by coaching chess and volleyball. And if you have built a certain rapport with many students and their families and want to invite them to VBS during your off time, go for it. He makes a big deal about not ostracizing students based on belief, then on page 67 when he's talking about all the ways he's forking over his own money to the kids he quietly adds in, "On Christmas Day, I would go to the home of every Christian child and leave a present on the door." I hope he didn't have the Jehovah's Witness kid in class THAT year... And I'm writing too much about the problems with the book. Teachers, read it. Parents, don't expect all teachers to be Esquiths.
I'm all for teaching good manners, but why is a public school teacher doing it? Schools should help reinforce that kind of lesson with certain procedures for the cafeteria because parents, teachers, administrators and students should be working together as a community.
As a Teacher I appreciate Rafe's message, passion, and dedication.
Honestly, Esquith's story was just as discouraging as it was inspiring. The less-capable, enthusiastic, and caring individuals that Esquith encountered as well as his many harsh evaluations of the public school system are discouraging to read about.
To his credit, Esquith never fails to champion his students.
He had heard the kids were reading The Diary of Anne Frank and told me that this book was too controversial for a classroom. He had created a reading list for the entire year!" While I enjoyed this book very much, there was one passage that left a poor taste in my mouth: "'Rafe,' Katherine interrupted me, 'that guy takes tickets in a line for a tourist attraction. And now Katherine is insulting the man because of the job he holds and Rafe just says 'there's nothing more I have to teach you?' This doesn't make sense. But since I liked the book so much, I'll just go ahead and assume Mr. Esquith did not mean this passage this way.
Rafe Esquith is to be appreciated, despite that fact that I personally feel that he could have demonstrated his experiences in a different manner. He is trying to add his voice on "Civil Disobedience." Let's hope we can change systems rather than "one "classroom" at a time." That we can develop an educational system where teachers have support rather than blockades of red tape, legislation, and meaningless tests to administer to their students.