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There Are No Shortcuts Paperback – May 11, 2004
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“Half-memoir, half ‘Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul.’ . . . Esquith’s methods are not complicated, terendy, or political. . . . The perfect spokesman for the ‘pick yourself up by the bootstraps’ crowd.” –The New York Sun
“Freethinking, demanding, encouraging.” –Kirkus Reviews
“Passionate and inspiring...With anecdotes that are alternately amusing and disheartening, Esquith details the joys and frustrations of teaching and offers valuable insights to parents and teachers alike.” –Booklist
From the Inside Flap
But the statistics are not what you?d expect: Esquith?s students score in the country?s top 10 percent on standardized tests and go on to colleges such as Harvard, Princeton, University of Chicago, Swarthmore, Stanford, and UCLA. How do they do it?
Esquith?s view?that learning isn?t easy and that it shouldn?t be?is an increasingly unusual take among educators. Success, he believes, comes from a strong work ethic and from dedication and perseverance on the part of children, teachers, and parents alike. But such ideas prove to be a hard sell to those who believe that hard work and fun must be mutually exclusive. On the other hand, visitors from all over the world have made a pilgrimage to this astonishing classroom.
Esquith?s students work hard. They are in the classroom at 6:30 a.m. and stay until 5:00 p.m. They come to school during their vacations. Each year the Hobart Shakespeareans, as Esquith?s students are known, perform one of the Bard?s plays?Sir Ian McKellen and Hal Holbrook are passionate patrons. These Renaissance children are outstanding mathematicians and scientists; they read Steinbeck and Malcolm X; they are artists; they play classical music and blistering rock 'n' roll. Above all, they are recognized for their impeccable manners, which serve them well as Esquith accompanies them all over the United States. They are, as many observers have commented, the gold standard in American education.
His former students in middle and high school return on Saturdays, where they read Ibsen, Chekhov, and eight Shakespeare plays a year. In their ?Wake Up with Will? program, these eager youngsters travel the world with Esquith and his wife, from London to Paris to colleges all over the country. It?s a classroom where the American Dream really does come true.
There have been no shortcuts for Rafe Esquith, either. He had to learn the hard way: dealing with bureaucratic administrators, antagonistic colleagues, and his own impetuous and occasionally tactless, even confrontational, nature. But his history, peppered with funny and painful incidents, and a gallery of incisive portraits--Miss Mothball, Miss Busy-As-a-Bee, Mr. Incompetent--explains his extraordinary success as a teacher.
His scathing yet loving view from the front lines is the most trenchant look at American education to appear
in many years. It?s a full-alert warning signal, an inspiration, and a guide for teachers, parents, and all the rest of us who care about our country?s children.
From the Hardcover edition.
- Publisher : Anchor; Reprint edition (May 11, 2004)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1400030838
- ISBN-13 : 978-1400030835
- Item Weight : 6.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #486,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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This book is a source of great inspiration to us all, all the more so because Rafe tells us about his problems as well as his successes. These are problems with his teaching as well as with administrators, so the reader gets to see him as more human and approachable. This is important, since his effort and achievements seem superhuman at times and the reader can easily feel overwhelmed.
The book is very readable and enjoyable. It is an eye-opener and a must-read. Teaching really is a calling.
If educators applied even a fraction of the author's teaching methods and ideology, our education system would be phenomenal!
Rafe's story is inspiring, awe-inspiring, and cautionary. He himself acknowledges that he goes to extremes, that he doesn't advocate his level of fanaticism for every teacher. But he's a real classroom teacher who is writing from his direct experience, not an educational theorist or administrator who is fascinated by the latest educational buzzwords and trends. He writes about what he's found that works, and he writes about attempts that have failed spectacularly. But the one constant through all this is his total dedication to education and his students. Everything he does is for them, and he's not one for moderation.
To those who claim he's on an ego trip, that his activities are for his own self-aggrandizement, I've got to ask, "Did you read the same book I did??" He constantly points to the successes that are achieved as the successes of his students, not himself. Time and again, he says that he does not think of himself as an exceptional teacher; he just finds ways to help his students achieve exceptional things. And to the beginning teacher who complained that this was not a "how to" manual: he never claimed it was; in fact, he specifically says that this book is not meant to be that sort of guide. For that, he wrote another book ("Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire") that gives very detailed instructions for some of his activities.
I'd wish every teacher and every parent to read Rafe's books. They give hope for what's possible in education.
Top reviews from other countries
This is a book about what Rafe has learnt about the greatest job in the World - teaching primary school childern in a state school - and doing it in a socially difficult area. It isn't a do this do that and here's the check list sort of book. It reads like you've met up with Rafe at the pub after you've had a bad day and he tells you how it is. He says, so pull yourself togther, focus on the children, and raise your game to the best you can do, sod the system, focus on children and what they need rather than what you think they want.
Every teacher should read this book. If you don't like it, that probably says more about you than him. Can you spot a description that sounds like you? After all Rafe has won just about all the awards going - so he must be doing something right.
Here's Rafe's Bio - Rafe Esquith is an American teacher at Hobart Boulevard Elementary School, the second-largest elementary school in the United States, located in Los Angeles, California. A graduate of UCLA, Esquith began teaching in 1981. His teaching honors include the 1992 Disney National Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, a Sigma Beta Delta Fellowship from Johns Hopkins University, Oprah Winfrey's $100,000 Use Your Life Award, Parents Magazine's As You Grow Award, National Medal of Arts, and Esquith was made an honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth.
Esquith's fifth-grade students consistently score in the top 5% to 10% of the country in standardized tests. Many of Esquith's students voluntarily start class at 6:30 each morning, two hours before the rest of the school's students. Most of his students come from immigrant Central American and Korean families and are learning English as a second language. They volunteer to come early, work through recess and stay as late as 6:00 pm, and also come to class during vacations and holidays.
Good CV eh? I thought I could learn from someone like that. I was right. I wish I could make this book mandatory reading for all teachers, not only a music teachers like me.
I read about Rafe Esquith, the author of this book, in a newspaper recently, and wanted to find out more about him. This book told me a lot about how he thinks and what his motivations are, as he describes how his expectations of teaching have been changed over the years, and some of the people and situations that have caused these changes. He talks about his frustrations with the beaurocrats that run the schools and how they often don't have the interests of the children as their main concern. But most of all he talks about his love for teaching, and indirectly how he has been able to inspire those around him to such great heights.
He's an extraordinary man. His students love him and start lessons at 6.30 in the morning voluntarily. Most of them don't speak English at home because they are all from poor immigrant families. They stay in during breaks and lunchtimes to learn guitar with him, and weekends are spent learning Shakespeare for future productions. The man seems to have no free time of his own at all! But he makes it all sound worth it. He's been given many awards over the years and has an honorary OBE from the Queen, as well as Disney's 'Teacher of the Year' of 1993 (a big deal in the states).
The only reservation I have about this book is that it is couched in American terminology (I wasn't sure of the age of 5th- or 6th-graders, for example), and those who are hoping to get an in-depth analysis of his teaching methodolgy are better off looking at this book Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 . Parents wanting to apply some of his motivational approaches would do well to read this one Lighting Their Fires: Raising Extraordinary Children in a Mixed-Up, Muddled-Up, Shook-Up World .
As an introduction to the man, this book is perfect. If you're a teacher, this book is required reading if you're feeling a bit disillusioned about it all. Everything he says is common sense, but it's so nice to see it written so clearly. There's a wealth of experience within these pages.
Highly recommended. 4.5 stars.
Thanks Rafe for your work, also thanks to all the other good teachers! I fortunately had some of them.