Educating Esme: Diary of a Teacher's First Year

Educating Esme: Diary of a Teacher's First Year

4.4 34
by Esmé Raji Codell, Esme Raji Codel
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Esme Raji Codell has come to teach. And she's not going to let incompetent administrators, abusive parents, gang members, weary teachers, angry children, dim-witted principals, or her own insecurities get in the way of delivering the education her fifth-grade students deserve. Fresh-mouthed and mini-skirted, Esme can be both pig-headed and generous, churlish and…  See more details below

Overview

Esme Raji Codell has come to teach. And she's not going to let incompetent administrators, abusive parents, gang members, weary teachers, angry children, dim-witted principals, or her own insecurities get in the way of delivering the education her fifth-grade students deserve. Fresh-mouthed and mini-skirted, Esme can be both pig-headed and generous, churlish and charming. As she embarks on her first year teaching in an inner-city public school, she quickly becomes a thorn in her principal's side. A twenty-four-year-old teacher with the enthusiasm of a ten year old, Esme is too willful to play bureaucratic politics, too dedicated to give up - and too young to know better. In Educating Esme, the uncensored diary of her first year, we find this irrepressible teacher wearing costumes in the classroom, dancing with the kids during rallies in the auditorium, rollerskating down the hallways, and putting on rousing performances with students in the library. Not just for educators and parents, this poignant and often hilarious chronicle gives voice to anyone who has ever had an irritating boss, struggled to be an individual in a bureaucratic abyss, given 105 percent without getting thanked, and yet cared so much.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

bn.com
Educating é is the autobiographical diary of a gutsy fifth-grade teacher, Esmé Raji Codell, who is so full of a lust for teaching and a love of children that no crumbling public school system or stagnant bureaucracy can get in her way. Her inner-city Chicago students face intimidating odds -- poverty, violence, gangs, miseducation, and a long line of adults who don't believe "these children" can ever amount to anything. Madame Esmé, however, is undaunted. Her diary reveals a woman with boundless zeal determined to be herself and to educate her children with every last drop of energy in her body. From a Zydeco Christmas pageant and a Multiplication Cha Cha to a Fairy Tale Festival complete with Frog Prince cupcakes and an Emperor's New Clothes Fashion Show, Madame Esmé creates an endless stream of whimsical (and educational) projects for her students to enjoy.

While one may not agree with her every teaching decision, it's impossible not to get a kick out of her verve and sassy attitude in the face of trouble. When her incompetent principal persists in calling her late at night, Madame Esmé handles the situation by returning his call at three o'clock in the morning, saying, "Oooh, did I wake you up? I'm so sorry. It's just that you called me so late. I knew you wouldn't call me so late if it wasn't terribly important" -- and has no further trouble with late calls. When another incompetent administrator moves a poster in Esmé's classroom, she responds in kind by marching into the woman's office and rearranging a plant. This woman, too, leaves her alone.

But Madamee Esmé is not just flip. When one of her boys and his mother need a place to stay because of a domestic violence problem, Esmé opens her own home to them. Another day, a student brings her two-year-old sister to school, so Esmé carries the child in her arms all day as she teaches, saying "What else could anyone do?" When a student is ashamed of the saris her mother wears, Madame Esmé dons one herself, and soon the girl and all her friends are wearing beautiful, silky saris to school. Yet no one ever seems to acknowledge her work, let alone thank her, and she is not even granted the graciousness of being left alone in her choice of names -- the principal persists in insisting she be called "Ms." Esmé. Despite the lack of support she receives, Madame Esmé devotes her entire life to her students, to the point where she has no time off and even her relationship with her boyfriend suffers.

Anyone who has been underappreciated or downright encumbered by a boss or bureaucracy will empathize with the story of Madame Esmé and be inspired by her ability to stick up for herself and her students with confidence. At the beginning of the school year, when some teachers tell her that her room is overstimulating, Madame Esmé responds to herself, "They are totally jealous because I have the most insanely beautiful classroom ever, of all time.... I feel sorry for any kid who's not in this room." She will not be put off, and she will not be toned down.

Teaching is hard work. In the public school system, teachers are cruelly overburdened. Dedication is overlooked. Innovation is scorned. Teachers like Esmé who take on the job with enthusiasm and love are precious to our society and our children. They deserve to be celebrated. In telling her own story, Esmé is honoring all teachers like her.

—Kate Montgomery

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781565122253
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
04/01/1999
Pages:
210
Product dimensions:
5.28(w) x 7.32(h) x 0.85(d)
Lexile:
790L (what's this?)

Read an Excerpt

September 27

After lunch each day I ready aloud to them. We push the desks out of the way, pull down the shades, and turn off all the lights, except for an antique Victorian desk lamp I have. It is a very cozy time.

I was reading them The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, about a Polish immigrant girl who is so poor that she wears the same dress to school every day but insists that she had a hundred dresses lined up in her closet. The girls tease her mercilessly until she moves away. Her antagonists discover that she really did have a hundred dresses...a hundred beautiful drawings of dresses. Oh, God, it took everything not to cry when I closed the book! I especially like that the story is told from the teaser's point of view.

Well, everything was quiet at the end, but then Ashworth asked if he could whisper something in my ear. He whispered, "I have to tell the class something," and discreetly showed me that he was missing half of a finger. It was a very macabre moment, but I didn't flinch.

I faced him toward the class and put my hands on his shoulders. He was trembling terribly. "Ashworth has something personal to share with you. I hope you will keep in mind The Hundred Dresses when he tells you."

"I...I only have nine and a half fingers," he choked. "Please don't tease me about it." He held up his hands.

The class hummed, impressed, then was silent as Ashworth shifted on his feet. Finally, Billy called out, "I'll kick the ass of anyone who makes fun of you!"

"Yeah, me too!" said Kirk.

"Yeah, Ash! You just tell us if anyone from another class messes with you, we'll beat their ass up and down!"

Yeah, yeah, yeah! The class became united in the spirit of ass-kicking. Ashworth sighed and smiled at me. The power of literature!

September 29

New girl, Esther, from Haiti. Dark, eyes darting, frightened. "She's got a record of fighting from her other school," Ms. Coil explained. Who asked her?

"Salut, mon amie!" I welcomed her. Her shoulders dropped, relaxed. Her smile is beautiful and full of mischief.

The Kids like something new I made: the Thinking Cap. It's an oversized hat made of prismatic gold paper, with a long prismatic paper tree coming out about two feet off the top. It says THINKING CAP in black press-on letters across the front. The kids have become very thoughtful since it's been introduced.

September 30

Shira is Filipino and speaks mostly Tagalog. Sometimes she goes into fetal position under her desk. She has four brothers, named Vincent I, Vincent II, Vincent III, Vincent IV.

Today Shira was crying because she felt Twanette took her pen. Twanette said no, it was her pen, she got it for 10 cents at Walgreen's. The pen looked more expensive than that, so I didn't really believe it. Plus, I know those kind are sold in sets. And finally, Shira had work in her notebook in that pink ink.

After school, Shira's stepfather came in and told me that Shira complained that Twanette took Shira's menstrual pad our of the garbage in the bathroom and showed it to the other girls.

Twanette also chews big wads of gum and took neon green glue she was not supposed to use and gooped up a whole table, almost ruining some expensive books.

So when I saw Twanette's mom had come to pick her up after school, I asked to talk with her. I started by telling her that Twanette has really been improving in completing her work and that I was proud of her efforts. Then I told her the rest, explaining that I hadn't actually seen the menstrual pad thing but that the father complained and we had to be extra sensitive because Shira had been only in the country only a couple of months and had trouble speaking up for herself.

Right about then, the mom started wonking Twanette over the head with a rolled-up magazine she was holding. She assured me that she would whip Twanette with a belt at home, adding apologetically that she usually whips Twanette every six months, but she's been behind schedule.

When I suggested that perhaps a belt would not be effective in changing Twanette's attitude, the mom assured me, "Twanette's attitude's gone change after this, believe you me, you won't have no more problems with this girl!"

Twanette was hysterical and denying everything. Mom called her a "big dork" and other things. It was very depressing, and I felt responsible. I acted very calm, but when they left I dry-heaved into the wastebasket. I felt like hell.

I hope Twanette doesn't shoot me tomorrow for telling on her.

Twanette didn't shoot me today. She wrote me a thank you not for saying something good about her to her mom. We also had the alphabet museum. Three kindergarten classes came through. It was a big success.

The kids keep journals. They can write in them during Free Reading if they choose. If they don't want me to read something, they put an E with a circle and a line through it at the top of the page, a symbol for "No Esmes allowed." I read them anyway, but I don't tell. I find out interesting things. For instance, Ashworth was upset all day because I wore pants, and I never wear pants. He thought his real teacher must have been abducted by aliens.

October 5, my birthday

Terrible thing. Somebody stole the Columbus comic book. I said, "Whoever did it, just put it back," but nobody did. So after school I took the whole library down and shoved it in the closet and locked it. The kids noticed right away the next morning.

"I told you if you stole from me, I'd take it all back. I'm not a liar."

"That's not fair," one girl complained. "We didn't all steal the book!"

"No, I'll tell you what's not fair. My working Saturdays so that you can read real literature and then having the books stolen from under my nose. That's really not fair. I only share with friends. I'm not going to leave my personal possessions out when I can't trust the people I'm with. Would you?"

Nobody answered. I passed out the reading textbooks. The children complained noisily. "You're getting what the rest of the school gets," I reminded them. "I don't see what's the problem."

The mood was grim for the rest of the day. I thought, They have good taste. They know this is boring.

But I'm worried. What if they never get the book back? Am I going to have to teach reading like this all year? I have to be consistent with my threat, or they will never believe me again. I'll have no discipline. I won't be able to teach anything.

God, Kid! Give me back the stupid book and let me teach you the best way I know how!

I'm so disappointed. It was a struggle not to cry in front of them.

Excerpted from Educating Esmé: Diary of a teacher's first year. Copyright (c) 1999. Reprinted with permission by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

Read More

Meet the Author

A nationally renowned advocate for literacy and literature-based instruction, Esmé Raji Codell is today "one of the nation's most sought-after voices for empowering teachers" (People) and a "Superstar of Education" (Scolastic Instructor). Esmé has been interviewed on CBS This Morning, CNN, C-SPAN’s Book Talk, and NPR. The author of How to Get Your Child to Love Reading as well as award-winning books for children, Esmé lives with her husband and son in Chicago, where she spent many years as an educator in Chicago public schools and now runs the popular children's literature Web site PlanetEsme.com and the unique literary salon, the PlanetEsme Bookroom.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Educating Esme 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
bridget3420 More than 1 year ago
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to teach children for a living? I'm sure we've all taught at least one child one thing or another in our lifetime. Witnessing my nephew learning to do new things makes me so happy. He gets a big ole grin on his face and you can just see how proud he is of himself. He also whispers, "I did it!" and you can hear the pride in his voice. It is a wonderful thing, teaching a child. I couldn't imagine teaching a class of twenty kids and feeling a surge of emotion every time a child learned something new. At the same time, it would be extremely difficult to try to teach a child who doesn't understand what you say. When I first received an email about EDUCATING ESME, I knew that I had to read it. I've always been fascinated with education and still to this day, one of my goals is to learn at least one new thing a day. Even if it is something as simple as a new world. Knowledge truly is power and I actually have a craving for learning. Anyway, enough about me. Esme catalogs her experiences as a teacher in a diary her first year. She's the kind of teacher kids need growing up. She is an independent, no-nonsense, straight to the point, understanding person who truly wants to guide her students through the school year. She isn't your average teacher, she doesn't just want to teach these kids, she wants them to really learn. She's not satisfied with her students knowing 2+2=4. She wants them to understand why it equals 4 and how they can apply their knowledge in everyday life. Esme quickly learns that she has her work cut out for her. The good thing is, she knows just how to handle the situations placed in front of her. She's has a wild spirit and enjoys shocking the students as well as fellow teachers. Esme is known to roller-skate in the school hallways and dance during a math session. Not only do Esme have what it takes to reach these children, they also have what it takes to teach her a few lessons as well. A wonderful, uplifting read that will keep you doubled over with laughter.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Amazing, as always! Add more emotion. It makes it way more exciting. I like how you thre in a bit of humor; it nicely weaved in with the story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Steph53282 More than 1 year ago
I read this book waaaaaaaay back in high school when it first came out in my teacher prep class. Madame Esme was touring and came to an event to speak. I met her and she even signed my copy! The book itself was wonderful and it gave you an incite as to what it would be like to teach at an intercity school (with a horrible principal too). I would highly recommend this book to anyone thinking about becoming a teacher. She had it rough, but she came out of her first year of teaching on TOP!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Georgia_girlGA More than 1 year ago
While some of Madame Esme's stories are almost unbelievable, this book is entertaining to say the least. I originally thought this would be helpful to me during my first year of teaching; however this seems to be meant more as entertainment than a memoir. It's definitely worth reading, but don't expect any stellar teaching advice or even any really useful information. It's mostly fluff.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good and inspiring for future teachers. Esme is honest and that honesty is greatly appreciated!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book with a lot of interesting ideas. The book reads very easily, and is humorous and thoughtful. Esme is a teacher who tests the boundaries of her school environment. She ruffles a few feathers, but betters her students in the process. This book is an excellent read for beginning and seasoned teachers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a somewhat spiritual event. Esme is very open and frank about all her struggles in her first year of Teaching. She makes mistakes but she honestly wants to be the best teacher she can be! I think every first year teacher should read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Educating Esmé by Esmé Raji Codell is a diary of her first year teaching fifth grade in a Chicago public school. It is written in journal form and describes her trials and tribulations while teaching. The book describes how Esmé handles parents, disciplining students, and unruly principals. It explains her thoughts and feelings as teacher as well as her teaching style and her classroom. The book gives inside to a first year teacher¿s life and explains the ups and downs of it. She is a creative teacher who loves to make a difference in her students¿ lives, no matter how hard it is. She loves finding new ways to teach, just like when she made the time machine for the students to read in. In this book I like how she explains exactly how teaching is. Esmé explains both the good and bad times and how she handles them. She is able to be successful and enjoy teaching for the love of the students instead of just a job. I also like how she makes teaching fun and creative. She involves the students and makes them work hard and enjoy going to her class. She has great ideas and is very inspiring. She is also able to make the book humorous and enjoyable to read. I did not like how the book is written in journal form because it makes the book choppy. There is not much flow but it¿s easy to understand her life. Anyone who is a teacher or planning on becoming a teacher should read this book. Overall, I liked this book and it was fun to read. It gave great inside into teaching in a public school and all the events teachers incorporate.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Educating Esmé by Esmé Raji Codell is a diary of her first year teaching fifth grade in a Chicago public school. It is written in journal form and describes her trials and tribulations while teaching. The book describes how Esmé handles parents, disciplining students, and unruly principals. It explains her thoughts and feelings as teacher as well as her teaching style and her classroom. The book gives inside to a first year teacher¿s life and explains the ups and downs of it. She is a creative teacher who loves to make a difference in her students¿ lives, no matter how hard it is. She loves finding new ways to teach just like when she made the time machine for teh students to read in. In this book I like how she explains exactly how teaching is. Esmé explains both the good and bad times and how she handles them. She is able to be successful and enjoy teaching for the love of the students instead of just a job. I also like how she makes teaching fun and creative. She involves the students and makes them work hard and enjoy going to her class. She has great ideas and is very inspiring. She is also able to make the book humorous and enjoyable to read. I did not like how the book is written in journal form because it makes the book choppy. There is not much flow but it¿s easy to understand her life. Anyone who is a teacher or planning on becoming a teacher should read this book. Overall, I liked this book and it was fun to read. It gave great inside into teaching in a public school and all the events teachers incorporate.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Esme is an amazing teacher. If only all teachers could have the drive that she does. This is a very good book. It was very funny and touching. The epilogue had me in tears, literally. I would read it again, and recommended it to all future and practicing teachers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Educating Esme': Diary of a Teacher's First Year is a compelling, compassionate read. It also has a special place for those whom society calls disadvantaged. I am a 25 year veteran of teaching in the public schools and this book reads as true as UP THE DOWN STAIRCASE or GOODBYE MR. CHIPS...I very highly recommend that young people going into education as a career read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Educating Esmé by Esmé Raji Codell is a diary of the author¿s trials and tribulations during her first year teaching. She learns that sometimes everyone doesn¿t like ¿her¿ way of doing things in this inner city Chicago school. She never gives up though, due to her extraordinary will to succeed. Madame Esmé, as she likes to be called, talks as though she is the only teacher in the school. She writes about being the only one in her school that really cares about the students, and she is the lone one who tries to connect with them. This book was good, but not great. I wouldn¿t read it again, and I would only recommend it to someone going into teaching. I believe that I wasn¿t too interested in it merely because I¿m not into teaching. This book is full of details, but none seem to go anywhere. Nothing eventful happens in this book that makes readers want to keep going to find out what happens next; every event is predictable. Overall, I enjoyed the reading experience, but would not read this book again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Educating Esme is a wonderful book about an eccentric teacher at a public school in Chicago. The book would be interesting to all, not just teachers and soon-to-be teachers. Teachers to get creative ideas of things to use in their own classroom can use the book. She is very creative and does special things in her classroom for the children. She has a lot of inviting decorations and activities for the kids to do. She is very firm and consistent in her teaching style. She also shows the problems involved with teachers, like dealing with parents, undisciplined children and unruly principals. The book is written in diary form, which gives the reader a better day-to-day recount than, if it was reflected on at the end of the year. The book is rather humorous and you can follow her ups and downs throughout the first year. It is a good read for anybody to see into the live of a rookie teacher.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Educating Esmé is an excellent book about first year teacher Esmé Codell. Esmé is teaching in a school in inner city Chicago. The book is written in a journal form, with daily entries. Esmé writes in this journal throughout the year discussing triumphs and failures. She describes her thoughts and feelings, the way her classroom is set up, activities she does in her classroom and outside the classroom, her unique teaching style, problems she has with the principal, Mr. Turner, and the students she taught. It is clear through Esmé vivid descriptions that she is a very unique and creative teacher who has a wonderful ability of reaching the students, even if it means upsetting other teachers or Mr. Turner. Esmé does what she wants to do, but with a purpose. Her insight into teaching and some of her ideas can be very useful for future and current educators. Educating Esmé is a great book that once you start to read, you can not wait to find out what kind of crazy thing is going to happen next. Esmé¿s connection with her students and her creativity are incredibly inspiring. The school system would be an incredibly interesting place if more teachers were like Esmé Codell.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My friend recommended this book to me. We are both in the elementary education program in college and she told me I HAD to read this book. I finished it within the day! It was so inspirational! It gives you a real-life look into teaching and how being creative and a little different can go a long way. It also outlines just how hard it can be and how she was able to overcome a lot of obstacles. She had so many amazing accomplishments just in her first year. It really makes me excited to go into teaching. I really took away a lot of good ideas/advise from this book that I will incorporate into my own class.