That teacher would be 5th grade teacher Rafe Esquith from Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles. He has taught for nearly 30 years and written several books. But I'll let Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post's Answer Sheet tell you more:
*When he goes to China he is so popular he needs security guards to protect him from the crush of the crowds.
*He is the only K-12 teacher to be awarded the president’s National Medal of the Arts.
*A documentary, “The Atticus Finch of Hobart Elementary,” was made about the famous Shakespeare program
he has run for years at Hobart, where all of his students appear in at
least one full-length production a year. The English actor Ian McKellen
actually noticed some of Esquith’s young students mouthing the words to a
Shakespearean play in which he was performing in Los Angeles.
has been given the Kennedy Center’s Sondheim Inspirational Teacher
Award, Oprah Winfrey’s Use Your Life Award, and Disney’s National
Outstanding Teacher of the Year award. He’s gotten more awards and
honors, but you should have the idea by now.
So I think we can all agree; the guy knows his stuff.
Meanwhile, Bill Gates is pushing hard on Common Core. From Diane Ravitch:
The long arm of the Gates Foundation reaches out to create a rating
system for Common Core-aligned materials. Not content to have paid for
the writing of the CCSS. the evaluation of the CCSS, the implementation
of the CCSS, and the promotion of and advocacy for the CCSS, the
foundation wants to take the next step to make sure no one uses anything
less than stellar CCSS.
The story from Politico:
A new nonprofit funded with $3 million from the
Gates Foundation and the Helmsley Charitable Trust launches today with
plans to review textbooks and other instructional material for fidelity
to the Common Core. EdReports.org will start by bringing in teams of
classroom teachers to evaluate K-8 math materials. The curricula will be
judged by how well it matches the Common Core and assesses student
learning and by whether it offers teachers guidance in reaching children
at all levels.The group will post its ratings online and invite
response from the publishers. Up first: Pearson’s enVision Math,
McGraw-Hill’s Everyday Math, Houghton Mifflin’s Go Math and more than a
dozen other widely used curricula. EdReports will turn to high-school
math and language arts in future years.
They want to to be a kind of "Consumer Reports" for Common Core. I can only say that considering how many teachers they actually used and listened to for Common Core, I have to wonder if the teachers for this effort will be window-dressing as well.
And it won't be the first time that people have put their faith in a Gates-funded effort. (InBloom, anyone?) As well, you can check Helmsley Charitable Trust site and here's their opening sentence about their work in K-12 public education:
The Trust's Education Program aspires to advance American economic competitiveness as well as individual social mobility.
To that end, it supports the adoption and implementation of policies
aligned with college- and career-ready academic standards, and the
development and dissemination of the resources, training and exemplary
instructional practices that educators need in order to bring the
standards to life in classrooms.
That's fine wording but I always get worried when "American economic competitiveness" comes before educating great citizens." Oh wait, they don't care about the citizen part - just that everyone is educated enough to be socially mobile.
Some of the groups they fund? Many ed reform groups: New Venture (charters), Achieve, Council of Great City Schools, Council of State School Officers (those who brought us Common Core), and TFA.
So back to Mr. Esquith. He has just published a new book for new teachers and this is what he has to say on public education:
- In the United States, professional development is usually just some
publishing company talking to you about some book they are selling. It
has nothing to do with the education of children. In China, it’s the
government bringing me in to try to help teachers learn how to do their
jobs better. I give them credit.
- I am not saying this to be conceited, but I’m a very good teacher and
I want them to know that I fail all the time. There are factors beyond
my control. But I have to understand there are issues of family and
poverty. Sometimes even if you do reach a kid it’s not going to happen
in the year you have them. They aren’t going to sing ‘To Sir With Love’
at the end of the year.
And to the veteran teachers who really
understand what’s going on, every month it’s a new [school reform]
flavor of the month. The Common Core [State Standards initiative] isn’t
going to do anything. They are spending tens of millions of dollars but
it isn’t going to do anything. In my classroom you still have to put a
period at the end of a sentence…. I don’t need a new set of standards to
make that clear to me.
-I have a chapter called ‘Keeping it Real.’ If you ask most kids in
school who are doing an assignment, why they are doing it, they will
say, ‘Because my teacher told me to.’ In my class, if you ask a student,
‘Why are you writing this essay or doing this problem,’ they will say,
‘Because I will learn a skill and my life will be better.’… I tell my
students, ‘Of course I want you to do well on the test at the end of the
year, but the real test is what you are doing in 10 years.’
- Q) What is different about public education today versus when you started?
A) The obsession with testing. We always gave tests, but basically now
it’s the entire day. Basically if it’s not on the test don’t teach it.
Teachers spend hours and hours and hours trying to figure out what’s
going to be on the test.
- He says that nutrition and sleep are two of the biggest issues he sees with kids in school who are poor.
- Q) You mentioned the Common Core a little earlier. You are
clearly not a supporter. What do you think about some of the other parts
of the school reform movement? How about Teach For America and its
five-week Summer Institute that serves as the training for all corps
A) They [TFA corp members] are in my room all the
time. Good kids. Nice. Bitter joke: TFA really stands for ‘teach for a
while.’ Like all other teachers there are some great ones who are there
for the right reasons who want to make a difference and some who want to
pad their résumés. I certainly don’t think anybody can be a great
teacher in five weeks.
They [TFA leaders] are incredibly defensive about hearing an alternate
idea. What’s said is that they are constantly throwing data and money
showing they are successful. But they are really not.
- Q) You have long used the slogan in your classroom, “Work Hard.
Be Nice.” That is now the motto of the KIPP network of charter schools.
A) Yes, Mike and Dave [KIPP founders Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin]
followed me for a year, and used all my slogans. And I have to be
careful. They are nice guys. But I don’t think they captured the spirit
of what I’m doing. We don’t agree about how you get kids from A to B….
‘Be nice’ in a lot of these schools means being obedient.
One of the expressions Teach For America borrowed from me is, ‘There are
no shortcuts.’ That’s in my classroom on the wall. If you want to be a
guitarist it takes thousands and thousands of hours of disciplined
practice. You don’t’ get to be Eric Clapton in a week. But it’s ironic
that an organization that believes there are no shortcuts trains
teachers in five weeks.
He's nicer than I would be to people who basically took ideas from him and now pass them off as their own.
So honestly, who would I listen to? To the person who has put in the time. To the person who has been recognized as an education expert.
I'd listen to the teacher.