Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher's First Year
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Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher's First Year

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  4,067 ratings  ·  490 reviews
A must-read for parents, new teachers, and classroom veterans, Educating Esmé is the exuberant diary of Esmé Raji Codell’s first year teaching in a Chicago public school. Fresh-mouthed and free-spirited, the irrepressible Madame Esmé—as she prefers to be called—does the cha-cha during multiplication tables, roller-skates down the hallways, and puts on rousing performances...more
Paperback, 216 pages
Published June 1st 2001 by Algonquin Books (first published April 1st 1999)
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The First Days of School by Harry K. WongThe Book Whisperer by Donalyn MillerSavage Inequalities by Jonathan KozolEducating Esmé by Esmé Raji CodellPedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
books for teachers, educators
4th out of 383 books — 332 voters
My First Travel Angelic Airline Adventures by Anna OthitisTeach Like a Champion by Doug LemovEducating Esmé by Esmé Raji CodellThe First Days of School by Harry K. WongLifting the Curtain by D.A.  Russell
Books every teacher should read
3rd out of 122 books — 118 voters


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Amanda
This book really annoyed me.
It is, as it says, the "Diary of a Teacher's First Year", and it sounds like in her first year, Madame Esme (as she insists on being called, a source of endless and essentially pointless conflict with her principal), is a really fabulous teacher. She dreams up and flawlessly executes all kinds of spectacularly innovative and effective lessons. Her students love and respect her. She gets grants. She wins awards. She improves test scores.
And that's where this book just...more
Laura
The author gets my respect for working in a tough situation. My parents were teachers for many years in inner-city Miami and, having grown up with their stories, I know just how difficult the job can be.

However, this book was aggravating on a number of levels:
1. "I'm a fantastic teacher and I work so hard!" Ad nauseum.
2. "I'm so terribly underappreciated!" Whiny.
3. "My bosses and co-workers are all lazy and stupid and just don't get it!" Mean-spirited.
4. Unrealistic situations: Esme seems to li...more
HeavyReader
Nov 14, 2008 HeavyReader rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone considering teaching as a profession
Shelves: life-stories
Wow!

I read this book in one evening. It's a quick and moving read.

I've been running into this book for a while, seeing it listed on people's GoodReads shelves and getting requests for it from other libraries through interlibrary loan. Yesterday while I was pulling books, I saw a copy just sitting on the shelf, and I decided to take it home.

The author of this book is very slick. She starts the book in such a way that it seems like it's just going to be a "can you believe these kids and the school...more
booklady
She's refreshing honest and likeable; even the title of her book lets you know she knows what teaching is all about—learning. It was what I always told people who used to ask me about homeschooling. I'd turn around and ask them, "How much do you like to learn?" As a teacher, as much as a parent, we have to be prepared to be constantly learning, constantly failing, constantly correcting (ourselves) and being willing to learn from our students/children.

The book is a diary and reads as such; the da...more
Megan
Mar 14, 2008 Megan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: teachers and people interested in education
This is a MUST read for teachers or anyone interested in the field of education! I loved reading this book because the author was SO honest about her feelings and her experiences. I kept thinking "WOW! Someone feels the same way I do and they are not afraid to express it."

I loved her idea on page 30 about a "trouble box." Where students can leave notes about things that are bothering them. And her titles for roles in literature groups on page 118. Discussion director makes up questions. Literary...more
Arminzerella
Esmé Codell’s first teaching job was as a 5th grade teacher in one of Chicago’s poorest schools. Her students were bright and sassy and full of spunk, and she alternatively loved them and hated them. More so, however, she struggled with the administration’s lack of imagination and the many obstacles they threw up in her way (she and the principal just couldn’t see eye to eye most of the time, and were constantly engaged in a power struggle over things as ridiculous as ‘Madame’ Esmé’s title of ad...more
Tatiana
Educating Esmé is an unassuming book, pocket-sized and shy of 200 pages, but bursting with inspiration, humor, and heartbreaking realities of author Esmé Raji Codell’s first year of elementary teaching at an inner-city Chicago public school.

Codell is bursting herself; creative ideas to engage students in reading and writing, and learning in general, flow from her effortlessly. Her good intentions and successes are marred by roaring gang violence, abusive parents, kids stealing from her classroo...more
Amanda Hancock
I find this diary of a first year 24 year old teacher a bit irritating.Not only is Ms. Esme ( there I called you Ms.!!!)unlikable and unrelatable , her diary actually is quit a boring read and it shouldn't be considering the backdrop. Esme teaches 31 inner city 5th graders in Chicago who are improverished and have many social, emotional pyschological and learning issues and disabilities, ranging from homelessness to abuse to neglect and lets not forget Esme IS a first year teacher. Considering w...more
Ann
Esme pours all her energy and all of herself and much of her own money into her first year of teaching in an inner city Chicago school. She is bright and creative and made a huge impact on the students in her classroom. She's fairly self-congratulatory throughout the book, though, and what the book doesn't tell you is that this was not just her first year teaching, it was also her last.

In our current educational system, teaching is for the young & energetic, the naively optimistic. We can ei...more
Lennie
I currently work as a substitute teacher so I'm always looking for books that might inspire me should I ever want to become a teacher. Unfortunately, this book didn't do that for me. The author did nothing but brag about what a great teacher she is and then proceeded to put down other staff members. I found her work ethic to be unprofessional.
One of the methods she uses to promote language arts is to have her students give her a word before they enter the classroom and then she takes that word...more
Starr
She certainly has some creative and interesting lesson plan ideas, but really, that's all that is good about this book. Esme is smug and condescending -- her memoir is a laundry list of why she's so fantastic and why everyone else who works at her school is completely inept (and/or stupid/weak). If you're looking for some new classroom projects, the book may be worth checking out; otherwise, I'd recommend memoirs with a little more substance (Gregory Michie, Frank McCourt).
Kewpie
This is a true day-by-day account of a teacher’s first year at school. Codell is an extremely creative and caring teacher. In one chapter, she had a student that was behaving badly and she put him in charge of the classroom and she took his place as the misbehaving student. She builds a time machine using a refrigerator box and a shelf of old books. Recommended for teens thinking of going into teaching as a career.
jessica
For the first half of this book, it was not clear to me that Esme was teaching in a high needs public school. She initially describes such planning perfection, such creativity, such receptiveness from the students that I was caught off guard when she started delving into the realities of working in an under-resourced urban public school.

After pushing forward, I started to see more nuance, and I appreciated her insights about the impotence of the system, the limitations of what she could do for...more
Robyn
After reading this book I discovered two things. One my first year of teaching will be fine and the kids probably won't stab me in the back with a pencil, and the second is I have got to become way more assertive! Madame Esme is a very strong woman who stood up for what she knew was right even if it meant standing up to administration. Could I do that? I'm not sure. A wonderful little book with a lot of punch. Here were some of my favorite moments.



... I just put the kids in their lines and gave...more
Leane
Nov 08, 2010 Leane rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: CPS teachers
Shelves: teacher-books
Hmm... Well, I will start by saying that I have had this book recommended to me countless times by teachers, magazines, etc. My professor finally lent it to me and I was excited to see what all the fuss was about. This was probably the reason why I didn't like it. I think that Codell is a great writer. I think she makes a great teacher and she is very creative and seems to be a great fit for CPS. Yet the way she spoke to her principal? I understand that he was an ass. I just could never bring my...more
Heather
Madame Esme's first year teaching diary was an interesting read. I found myself relating to Esme on many levels, remembering experiences that I have had in the classroom. I like the brutal honesty that Esme used to describe the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of teaching fifth grade in an inner-city Chicago school. Esme had such confidence (bordering on being cocky or pompous although rightfully so in the instances she describes), than I remember having that first year - but she met every cha...more
The Reading Countess
An unflinching peek into an inner-city teacher's first year in teaching, Madame Esme' spares nothing in showing the reader her inner sanctum. By turns creative, silly, tough and loving towards her 31 fifth grade students, Esme's year-long journal was both gutwrenching and inspiring. Confronting physical and emotional abuse, she manages to also babysit (for the day) a 2 year old sibling, move furniture for her nosy assistant principal, and endure years of micromanagement and belittling comments f...more
Amy
Read this one after reading "Sahara Special." It's interesting to read these books together, because you see how "Sahara Special" is very much based on Codell's experience as a fifth grade teacher (Miss Pointy is pretty much an exact replica of Madame Esme). I was very inspired by all of Codell's great ideas, how much heart she put into her job, and how much she cared for her students. She came across as a bit of a martyr at times, although I think that was probably justified given the challenge...more
Ashley Kerns
Apr 22, 2014 Ashley Kerns rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Future Teachers
Recommended to Ashley by: TCH&LRN 301
I thought this book was going to be boring. The first few pages I was hooked and finished it in one day. This is a diary by a teacher of her first year teaching in a low income school. It gets as bad as it could get. There were so many problems this poor lady faced. Problems like here students mistreating her, to her principal not even respecting her as a teacher, and other teachers not even being respectful. This book may scare future teachers away from teaching, but honestly this book made me...more
Shirly
This is one of those books that you appreciate so much - a story of showing up, struggling through a lot of shit with both humor and strife, and making a real difference in the world around you. Esme is my hero. People like her make me think that maybe I too could make a difference. Our education system is in a permanent rut, filled with tired, overworked, and bored teacher who for many years have been overworked and underpaid. Teachers like Esme, who struggle against the system to actually enco...more
Windy22
The complexities of teaching inner city Chicago goes beyond teaching. I admire Esme for her unique approach and a way to excite the children about learning. I also liked this book is she truly seems honest about her feeling and emotions - especially when it goes beyond teaching, such as the problems the children bring from real life. Her conflict with the principal seemed to be a distraction both in her work and in the book itself.

I'm interested to read other accounts of teachers in the classroo...more
Grace
If I could give this zero stars I would. It officially has risen to the top of the worst books I've ever read. "Madame Esme" maybe creative but she's also self-aggrandizing, narcissistic, petty, vindictive, and just in general a pretty awful human being. For all her proclamations of being wonderful it takes her until near the end of the school year to think it might be beneficial to meet students where they are instead I shaming them or even think about their home lives. Certainly Mr. Turner was...more
Monica
The following is a recommendation for AP Language and Composition summer reads...

"Educating Esme" is the first hand account of a new teacher’s experiences in a Chicago public school. Madame Esme describes her successes, adventures, and challenges in a witty and entertaining tone. She addresses education's shortcomings as well as social issues which plague the life of an average Chicago student.

I recommend “Educating Esme” for future AP Lang and Comp students because it is both entertaining and...more
Kris Irvin
I was excited to read this book as I thought it would give me more insight into the teaching profession. Alas, I came out with no insight at all. The book is really just a diary. It never delves deeper into issues, or talks in depth about anything, really. I got more insight from listening to my mom and grandma's teacher stories as I was growing up. Overall it was fine to read, but I wouldn't buy it, and I'd just try to remember that this is one lady and her one singular experience. Shrug.
Jessica Moden
Reading Level: 9th Grade
This book is the diary of the experiences Esmé had with her first year teaching elementary students. Madam Esmé is a very powerful teacher with strong, impactful interactions with her students through the way she carries herself and presents each lesson. She was very innovative and creative in her lesson plans during her first year of teaching, allowing the kids to learn in a way that felt fun. She is able to get the kids interested in reading through her various methods...more
Tim
Very fast rad, very good read, about a very assertive, creative and compassionate teacher whose diary of her first year of teaching, in a Chicago city public school, is inspiring and quite humorous (well, in parts; sparks anger at the educational bureaucracy that is part of any City school system - I live in St. Louis, whose public school system can match just about anyone's for depression and hopelessness for the students. Ms. Codell is a plucky, rebellious and idealistic/realistic educator who...more
Bridget
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to teach children for a living? I'm sure we've all taught at least one child one thing or another in our lifetime. Witnessing my nephew learning to do new things makes me so happy. He gets a big ole grin on his face and you can just see how proud he is of himself. He also whispers, "I did it!" and you can hear the pride in his voice. It is a wonderful thing, teaching a child. I couldn't imagine teaching a class of twenty kids and feeling a surge of em...more
Jocelyn
I find myself vaguely disappointed with this book. Keeping in mind that it is a memoir (and I always read memoirs with a grain of salt) Esme strikes me as a confident woman, an enthusiastic teacher and perhaps one of the most aggravating characters I've ever come across.

This book was mandatory reading for my upcoming Education class. I began it immediately and with excitement. At first, as Esme prepares her classroom, I found myself becoming more and more excited with the prospect of having my...more
Lenore Webb
College Girl hopes to teach theater one day. I know how hard that first year is on a new teacher. So I was excited to have a chance to read Educating Esme-Diary of a Teacher's First Year.

Esme Raji Codell kept a diary when she started her first class. In here she voices her fears, knowledge, excitement and accomplishments. More so Esme shows us how a class room works when you really want to make a difference. Her innovative lessons along with a stern loving heart touched children's lives in extra...more
Oleg Kagan
I read Madame Esmé's first-year teaching memoir in one sitting.

Though I wouldn't say it brings anything new to the niche of teaching memoirs from the perspective of the kids -- many such books have generally similar classroom characters. What it does bring to the forefront is Madame Esmé's unique personality which really serves as the throughline in Educating Esmé. Practically all of the issues she has with administration is tension over using her personality in her world life. I'm a big fan of...more
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Esme Raji Codell is the recipient of a prestigious James Patterson Pageturner Award for spreading the excitement of books in an effective and original way. She has been a keynote speaker for the International Reading Association and the American Library Association, a “virtual” keynote for the National Education Association’s “Stay Afloat!” online conference for first-year teachers, and a featured...more
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“I suppose an active imagination can be a form of madness. Or it can be the thing that keeps you from going mad.” 4 likes
“So much of teaching is sharing. Learning results in sharing, sharing results in change, change is learning. The only other job with so much sharing is parenting. That's probably why the two are so often confused.” 4 likes
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