Educating Esme

June 19th, 2008

Last weekend a friend recommended the book Education Esme. I took Lexi to the library yesterday, checked out the book and finished it in the same day. It’s a quick read, but I couldn’t put it down and I will be back at the library next week checking out the rest of her books.

The short summary of the book is that Esme is a first year teacher in a fifth grade classroom in the inner-city of Chicago. And she rocks as a teacher.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

Responding to a staff member freaking out over something not worth freaking out over and missing what’s actually important:

But certain people just think it’s their job to freak out. As long as they’re freaking out, they feel busy, like they must be doing work. Getting upset is force, but no motion. Unless we are moving the children forward, we aren’t doing work. (page 52)

On making sense:

It does not make sense to say something does not make sense to someone who does not make sense, but sometimes, what else can you say? (page 60)

On being liked as a teacher:

“It’s not our job to be liked,” I reminded her. “It’s our job to help them be smart.” Secretly, I thought, Who gives a rat’s ass if they like us? Sometimes I can hardly stand them!” (page 87)

On a teacher’s day:

When someone asks me, “How was your day?” I never know what to answer. I have thirty-one days every day, a different day with each child. A good day with Ruben, a rough day with Billy…it’s too much. They talk about rewards and gratification in teaching school, and there is a share of it, but they don’t tell you it’s like joining a monastery or going to hell or sleepwalking or being afraid, afraid as you were when you were small. They don’t tell you how it feels when you get dizzy in front of a room full of children, ow what it feels like to tug at the tense bodies of children lashing, hating, fighting, spitting, scratching. They don’t tell how it feels to her “I hate you!” or how it feels to say, “That’s okay, I still love you.” They say now, in the education classes, “You have to be everything to them: counselor, mother, friend…” on and on: The List. I hear the ones who have been teaching for many years run it off with a certain pride. Well, I don’t think it’s anything to be proud of. I don’t want to play mama, I can’t play mama. They need a real mama. And they need a real teacher. (Page 160-161)

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