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

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,846 Ratings  ·  537 Reviews
Esmé Raji Codell has come to teach, and she's not going to let incompetent administrators, abusive parents, gang members, or her own insecurities get in the way. As she puts it, she has "Thirty-one children. Thirty-one chances. Thirty-one futures, our futures. Everything they become, I also become." Codell's portrait of an inner-city elementary school is funny, poignant, a ...more
Audio CD, Abridged, 1 page
Published September 1st 1999 by Highbridge Audio (first published April 1st 1999)
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Aug 02, 2009 Amanda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
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
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
Nov 14, 2008 HeavyReader rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone considering teaching as a profession
Shelves: life-stories

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
Jan 04, 2014 booklady rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents and teachers
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
Mar 14, 2008 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Apr 14, 2012 Tatiana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, education
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
Amanda Hancock
Nov 07, 2012 Amanda Hancock rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 27, 2008 Ann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education, memoir
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
Jan 05, 2010 Lennie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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).
Nov 28, 2007 Kewpie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 07, 2010 Robyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, nonfiction
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
Nov 08, 2010 Leane rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 24, 2013 Kristin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
My initial thought after reading this book was 'if there were more teachers out there like Madame Esme, our education system wouldn't be in such dire straits'. Thinking further, I realized that there likely are many, many Esmes teaching today, but they are so stifled by 'teaching to the test' that any creativity and wild ideas they might have never get the chance to be tried out. Esme details these struggles, from working with a principal intent on stifling here, to students who steal from her w ...more
Jun 18, 2013 Leah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was exactly what I needed to read at this point in my career. Madame Esme is brillent in so many ways. She can engage students and she made the classroom environment comforting and enjoyable. Her students had horrific home lives and she made sure they were safe and loved at school. She teaches for the children and never loses sight of that. Even when her bosses put her down, she bounced right back. She is such an inspiration and I really enjoyed a look into her first year as a teacher. ...more
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
Melody Cook
I recently wrote another review that involved some questioning of what memoir is and what I expect when I read memoirs. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I picked up Educating Esmé.

Other reviewers have said it better than I can, so I will simply state my agreement. For a "Diary of a Teacher's First Year," Codell seems to be awfully self-congratulating. There are moments when she reflects on her day in what I would read as a productive manner, but these are rare and situated between anecdot
Nathan Burgoine
May 20, 2015 Nathan Burgoine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This was quite a solid book. I enjoyed it (and read it quickly, oddly enough, given that this is a "slow-reading bookring.") What Madame Esme has to deal with on the side of both school administration and parents and the problems in the lives of the poor children she has to teach is astounding.

Parents saying, "She's past due for a beating, I'll do it tonight," about their child. Administration telling her - over and over - she has to pick a different moniker than Madame (Who cares, for crying
Mercedes Enciso
Dec 14, 2014 Mercedes Enciso rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 307
Codell, E. (1999). Educating Esme: Diary of a teacher's first year. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

Educating Esme: Diary Of A Teacher’s First Year is a great book for aspiring teachers. Esme talks about her experiences as an observer, and as a first-time teacher. This book is both funny, and inspirational as we see Esme go out of her way to do more and provide more for her students so that they would not be forced to have a basic, boring education. We see Esme deal with and st
Richard Jespers
This title is a reprint of a 1999 publication with a foreword by author Katherine Paterson. Probably the most appealing aspect of this book is Codell’s honesty, not to mention the genuine excitement she brings to the page about her first year of teaching. She’s honest about her principal, a man who has a real flair for mediocrity. Threatened by her competence and verve, he’s always on her about something. When she begins to win accolades, he tries to keep her on after her first year, not because ...more
Feb 04, 2016 Martha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this brisk, funny diary, newly graduated Codell recalls her first year teaching 5th graders in room 211 of an inner-city Chicago school. She throws herself heart, soul, and wallet into the job, even working weekends so that she can afford to buy books for the classroom library. But her efforts are met with indifference and sometimes scorn by her insecure principal and veteran colleagues. For example, after Esmé decorates “the most insanely beautiful classroom ever, of all time,” her fellow te ...more
Aug 15, 2015 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I have a hard time believing this is the honest-to-goodness, straight-up, no-embellishments memoir of a genuine first year teacher. Either she never wrote in her diary about the failed experiments, lessons that flopped, interventions that didn't fly, etc.... or those were edited out; I refuse to believe they didn't actually happen, though.
That said, reading it with the lens of "entertaining fictional teaching stories" proved quite successful. I did feel more inspired and challenged as a teacher
Aug 17, 2015 Katie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I am not a teacher and have never been one. I can't relate in the same way others can. I was a little surprised at her cavalier attitude toward her principal. Even though he didn't inspire one to like or respect him, I kept waiting for him to write her up, discipline her, fire her -- something. I would never gotten away with it if I had disrespected and not done what I had been asked to do by my boss. I can't answer to the way she taught, how she taught, or what she taught. It all sounded exciti ...more
Ashley Kerns
Apr 22, 2014 Ashley Kerns rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 02, 2014 Shirly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Wow, intense ride start to finish

This book is a very quick read, but packed with emotion. Her emotion, the kids' emotions, just overwhelming.

She must have the energy of a human coffee bean.

She talks about the projects she did, the teachers who helped her, the kids who responded to her - and about the failures, her helplessness in the face of extremes. She tries to keep a lighter note, but you can tell the caring is wearing on her even as it fills her to overflowing.

I also enjoyed the sweet (or
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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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“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.” 5 likes
“Sometimes a little song is sweet to hear, even if the orchestra is more accomplished” 3 likes
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