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There Are No Shortcutsby Rafe Esquith
Synopses & Reviews
The banner in Rafe Esquith's classroom at Hobart Elementary School reads: There are no shortcuts. And his students are a testament to the power of that philosophy. These are kids who speak English as a second language, fourth--and fifth--graders who go to school in a part of Los Angeles where violence and despair are the norms of the neighborhood.
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.
The winner of the 1992 National Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award explains how he has transformed the lives of his inner-city students, offering a simple formula for success--spend extra time with the kids, expect more out of them, instill a strong work ethic, and help them understand the world outside their lives. Reprint. 30,000 first printing.
Year after year, Rafe Esquith’s fifth-grade students excel. They read passionately, far above their grade level; tackle algebra; and stage Shakespeare so professionally that they often wow the great Shakespearen actor himself, Sir Ian McKellen. Yet Esquith teaches at an L.A. innercity school known as the Jungle, where few of his students speak English at home, and many are from poor or troubled families. What’s his winning recipe? A diet of intensive learning mixed with a lot of kindness and fun. His kids attend class from 6:30 A.M. until well after 4:00 P.M., right through most of their vacations. They take field trips to Europe and Yosemite. They play rock and roll. Mediocrity has no place in their classroom. And the results follow them for life, as they go on to colleges such as Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford.
Possessed by a fierce idealism, Esquith works even harder than his students. As an outspoken maverick of public education (his heroes include Huck Finn and Atticus Finch), he admits to significant mistakes and heated fights with administrators and colleagues. We all—teachers, parents, citizens—have much to learn from his candor and uncompromising vision.
About the Author
Rafe Esquith is beginning his eighteenth year at Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles. He is the product of the Los Angeles public schools and a graduate of UCLA. His many honors and awards include the 1992 Disney National Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, a Sigma Beta Delta Fellowship from Johns Hopkins University, Parents Magazine’s As You Grow Award, Oprah Winfrey’s Use Your Life Award, and an MBE from Queen Elizabeth. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Barbara Tong.
From the Hardcover edition.
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