Day 4: Book 3. “Teach Like Your Hairs on Fire” by R. Esquith

Today is DAY 4 of my 365 day challenge to read one book a day.  There are, as I said, a few catches.  One of which is that I can pick up a couple of books I liked, but for various reasons had to put down to finish later.  One of those is this really great book by a guy called Rafe Esquith.  In this blog, I will be saying a couple of things about Rafe’s book and also promoting another teaching book by a man called Fred Jones.  First, though, let’s talk about Rafe Esquith.  This guy is a teacher at Hobart Elementary School in America. (Sorry, Tasmanians, he’s not one of ours).  The only teacher in history to receive the National Medal of Arts, he runs a group called the Hobart Shakespeareans.  The kids in Rafe’s classroom (Room 56) act out a different play by W. Shakespeare every year.  The kids play contemporary rock music as accompaniment.  In Part One, Rafe uses two chapters to detail the values he teaches as the bedrock for everything else he does.  In Part Two, each chapter is devoted to his methods of teaching one core curriculum area.  Chapters 3 and 4 of the book are on reading and writing, respectively. Following this he explains his methods of teaching math, test taking strategies, social studies, science, art, sports and business studies.  This format allows teachers to have a quick look through the curriculum areas that are most of use to them.  Part 3 uses a similar format, but in this case Rafe is writing on more elective, extra curricular stuff like the use of cinema as a teaching tool, school trips, critical thinking, community service and, of course, the school plays his class has become famous for.  Just read the book or better still check out his homepage.   What are you still doing here?  Go and check out what Rafe’s been doing for almost 30 years.  Wait.. wait… I also wanted to put in a big plug for another excellent teacher’s resource, this one by a man called Fred Jones.  Fred is great on details about classroom management, seating arrangement, monitoring, the role of rewarding good behaviour by giving the class activities of choice.  He is also pretty good on stress.  His book is more no nonsense in a fashion, but its probably the best book there is on the details of teaching.  Combine bits and pieces of strategy from both books and you’ll be well on the way to being a truly amazing, award winning teacher yourself.  I’m not sure where the book is right now but some of the things Fred wrote have served as an internal reminder to me.  Fred Jones on stress: “It’s hard to teach without a cerebral cortex.”  “There’s about forty of them and only one of you, you’d better have your thinking cap on and your nerves calm.”  The last is a paraphrase, but that was the chapters essence.  Thanks for reading.

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