Educating Esme' (Esme' Raji Codell)

The single most anticipated moment for a newbie teacher is when that classroom door clicks shut on the first day of school. Finally they can begin to practice the craft they've so passionately pursued and analyzed. They are giddy to finally meet and know all about the real kids whose lives they'll be sharing for the better part of the next year. Finally they can take all those exciting ideas and innovations and put them to use, all in the name of helping students learn. 

Somewhere between the first door click and the last day of the year, the greenhorn's glass castle of All Things New and Exciting shatters approximately seven jabazillion times. Sometimes it's encounters with apathetic colleagues who have not one kind thing to say about students, parents, or life in general. Sometimes it happens when a kid screams curses at them or who are beaten, starved, or abused. Occasionally it's being micromanaged by horribly self-centered and ineffective administrators and their insatiable thirst for power. Many times it's the disillusionment that comes with learning to navigate the tricky little minefield of the unique culture of each school.

Educating Esme' is the highly entertaining tale of one teacher's journey as a first year teacher in the Chicago public school system. Madame Esme', as she calls herself, is rather transparent with her thoughts and reactions to a nicely rounded smattering of purely absurd experiences. From inappropriate behavior by students and administrators to inspiring descriptions of classroom management practices, Madame Esme' strikes every peg in the continuum of the profession's highs and lows. 

Though the writing itself isn't stellar, the somewhat disjointed diary format easily lends itself to the naturally jolted rhythm of teaching. In a few sentences she goes from abuse to extra assignments to hoping a child doesn't shoot her...which is perfectly par for the course in many teachers' day.   

It's fair to note that Madame Esme' is a bit rough at times, much harsher with her language and reactions to students and administrators than would ever be considered acceptable here in the friendly South. I couldn't ever agree with some of her manners, statements, and actions...though it's important to point out that they might (and apparently did) work just fine for the inner city of Chicago.

What I can most assuredly thank Madame Esme' for is the reminder that those who teach well transcend all the silly political mandates and scripted, boxed programs that are smothering the life out of education. The power of a well-trained, resourceful, and passionate teacher cannot be tamed. And shouldn't.  

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