Today I was garage saling and came across a book that has been on my list to read for some time (a couple of years). Since it was a quarter, I got it and decided I was going to resolve to read it within the month. Now, reading is something I haven't done much of for awhile (other than reading the Bible). It's not that I don't love to read, because I do, I just need to remember to make time for it. Rather than watch a rerun of a television show, I could read.
I grew up loving books. I lived on a farm and aside from the animals (which I wasn't a fan of) there was not a whole lot to do. I read a lot. My mom would tell me to go outside and play and I would smuggle a book underneath my shirt and find a place away from the windows to read (so my mom couldn't see)-I know, I was a terrible child :)
I have so many books for my classroom library (my spreadsheet has a few more then 400 and I need to log a few still) that I had to store them at my parents house until I get a classroom of my own (Kumon only allows certain books within their program, but they do purchase them all).
So what book did I buy? Educating Esme Diary of a Teacher's First Year by Esme Raji Codell. I read Part I tonight. It shares her struggles within the classroom with students, administration, motivating both other teachers and students as well as her sucesses, small and large, and the funny moments (working with children always involves those). All in all, the book is a fantastic insight! I love reading what other teachers write, because it gives me a look into their classrooms and gives me ideas (that's why I read other teacher's professional blogs). But I did have some concern with one part.
On page 69 (in the 2001 edition) she states: I was ambitious in the choreography of the dance routine [for a Christmas presentation]. It had many complicated parts, but under the threat of death and homework my thirty-one charges learned them meticulously, baring their teeth in a mandatory smile all the way. I'm exaggerating; I know they kind of enjoyed the rehearsals, the anticipation of performance and success. They know I would never let them fail. That's why they do what I ask, no matter how much they complain.
Although you probably did not need to know quite that much, I thought it would give you insight to her humor and context is important to understand the overarching point. I wonder about the second to last sentence. Is it entirely the responsibility of the teacher whether a child succeeds or fails? Some might say yes, but I don't agree. I feel that if a teacher applies his or herself and helps a student in every way possible, and the student still fails that this isn't the fault of the teacher. Several factors could play into the situation: the student's study skills or lack thereof, life outside of the classroom (including social time within school and out of school happenings), whether the student slept well the night before or is feeling well, the list could go on and on. I sincerely hope that Esme does not hold herself personally responsible for the success or failure of her students. For that is a heavy cross to bear. That being said, there are many things a teacher can do to aide her students, and they should be done so each student is given a chance at success. On a separate note, failure is also a part of life. It is something students need to have happen in order for them to learn and grow from it. If a student never fails, he or she never learns how to recover from the situation and rise to become a stronger person. I fear for the student that never fails.