Sunday, June 17, 2012

Book Review, Sunday, June 17, 2012: Educating Esme

Madame L knows she already mentioned "Educating Esme," by Esme Raji Codell, in her review of "Sahara Special" for Aunt Louise on Friday; but she's mentioning it again because it's such a good book, so worthy of being read, that she wants to encourage her Dear Readers and Friends again to read it. 

It really is, as Madame L wrote there, "...that good, that enthralling, that wonderful. In fact, it was so good that Madame L is thinking that after she reads it one more time and returns it to the library, she'll order it from (for only $5.18---why not?!?)."

Here's an excerpt from the book:

     April 15

     I'm glad I didn't yell at Latoya today.

     I almost yelled, "This is the fourth day in a row you're a half-hour late! You're missing important math  instruction, and I don't appreciate repeatng myself!"  But then I remembered I promised myself to try not to single children out for public humiliation, which has been my modus operandi of late, but to talk --- and listen --- privately instead.

     "Is there a reason you have been late four days in a row?" I asked her, alone in the hall.

     "We are in a shelter this week, and I have to drop my little brother off and take the train over. It takes longer than I thought. I'm sorry, I'll be with my aunt next week and then I can walk over."

     "Don't apologize. I'm proud ofyou for coming each day. It wouldn't be the same here without you, don't forget that. And even though we can't wait for you, if you miss an explanation in math, just ask me or a classmate..."

     For the rest of the day I was glad I listened instead of yelled, but I still burned with shame at the thought of what I almost said and at all the occasions I have spoken harshly.

The whole book isn't like that, of course. There are moments of humor, moments of inspiration, moments of rage at the laughably incompetent administrators Madame Esme had to deal with that first year of teaching, moments of pure delight as the children made progress, and moments of exhaustion.

This is a quick read, not because it's easy or light on substance, but because you'll want to get every moment of it as fast as you can, you'll be greedy for more. You'll want to know more about the teacher who "burned with shame" at not living up to the best ideals of teaching every moment of every day. Those Dear Readers who are or have been teachers, you'll especially relate to these first-year-teacher experiences. Those Dear Readers who haven't taught, you'll have more empathy for teachers---even your own (horrible, or mediocre, or great) fifth-grade teachers. Enjoy!

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