Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56
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Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  3,196 ratings  ·  602 reviews
Read Rafe Esquith's posts on the Penguin Blog.

From one of America’s most celebrated educators, an inspiring guide to transforming every child’s education

In a Los Angeles neighborhood plagued by guns, gangs, and drugs, there is an exceptional classroom known as Room 56. The fifth graders inside are first-generation immigrants who live in poverty and speak English as a sec...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 18th 2007 by Viking Adult (first published January 1st 2007)
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Sarah
I really wanted to like this book. At the roots, he means well, and does some amazing things with his kids. Things that should be applauded. However, his tone, shameless self-promotion, and absence of the humility he insists he imparts on his kids were hard for me to get past.
April
Though this is about an elementary school teacher, there are a few strategies that are applicable to high school teachers as well.

And now it's time for a rant.

I'm sure the author is a great teacher and his kids learn a lot from him.

But--and this is very important--this is yet another book which describes a teacher as a saint, with sanctified kids, who sacrifices his entire life for his students.

I'm not saying it's a bad thing, and certainly Rafe Esquith seems to have done something right in his...more
Sarah
You know those students who, when studying, highlight nearly every sentence in the textbook? Well, that's how I was with Rafe Esquith's outstanding teaching book. I set out to flag the pages containing suggestions I found particularly helpful and quickly ended up abandoning that idea when I realized I would do far better flagging the pages that weren't pertinent. Especially of interest to me was his method of discipline, the area I find most difficult. The discipline methods I have researched ru...more
Lindsay
Feb 09, 2008 Lindsay rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: teachers, parents
This was pretty much a There Are No Shortcuts Part II...which I certainly welcomed, and Esquith goes into more detail about his unique and exhausting teaching methods. My only hesitation after reading the two books and watching The Hobart Shakespeareans is that he, at times, makes petty comments about his colleagues who fail where he succeeds. He seems to want to give his students this "I'm the only person who will care about you" mentality. Maybe it's just me (I'm often prone to conspiracy theo...more
Ryan Adams
Teacher books are either, how to books that include lesson plans, methods, etc. or "inspirational" books about how a teacher succeeded in tough situations. This is a combination of both I feel. On the positive, it is not as dry as most methods books, and not as sappy as most inspirational books. The problem though is because it is a hybrid, I feel it doesn't cover nearly enough of either section. I love many of his concepts though, and to take this as a book that gives you a better idea of how t...more
Newengland
I see Rafe has a new book out. Reading this one years ago was enough for me, thank you. Wildly unrealistic and self-promotional.

Actually, non-teachers might LOVE this book. The guy cares, he really does. But if you're in the trenches reading his neatly-titled book, you're left thinking something like this (my review when I first read it):

Rafe Esquith's Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire is aimed at teachers and parents, but the parent part is mostly lip service -- this is mainly a book for teachers...more
mstan
Rafe Esquith is obviously a wonderful teacher. He teaches his 10/11-year-olds ALL subjects (kind of like how primary school teachers do it in Singapore), including Physical Education, Art, Science, and even Shakespeare (a subject unto himself). While preparing them for standardised tests, he avoids 'teaching to the test' too much by integrating lesson objectives in an inter-disciplinary manner, and gets students to be exam-smart by anticipating which options would be set as distractors on multip...more
Kt.
This is an incredibly inspiring book for parents and teachers who want to bring out the best in their charges. I have to admit that my awe is tinged with just a bit of cynicism however. In "twenty-odd" years (times 30+ kids) of teaching, Rafe has "never" had a discipline problem? The implication is that someone who does have discipline problems is doing something wrong -- or more precisely isn't doing something right. That may be true in most cases but unless Rafe is Midas is a gravel pit, there...more
Elise Jensen
At first I was incredibly ambivalent about this book. I was inspired by the brilliant ideas this man has about teaching and moved by his demonstration that it's possible dramatically change lives for the better. However, I was turned off by what seemed an excessively self-congratulatory tone to the writing. All the ideas seemed wrapped up in a "look-how-awesome-I-am" voice that I found hard to stomach.

However, a cursory web search on Mr. Esquith turned up videos of him in lectures and interview...more
Kate
Geez, I don't quite know what to say about this book. It was inspiring, interesting, and entertaining, but it made me feel kind of bad about myself. I wish that I could be as awesome as this teacher, but I think I might be too selfish. I just don't see myself getting to school at 6:30 a.m. and staying until well after dinner time. I like to think that when I start teaching I'll be dedicated to my students but it's hard to believe that I'll be as dedicated as this guy.

The book did make me think...more
Katharine Herndon
I read this book because I was required to by my school. So it's possible I may have started it with a slightly negative attitude. Additionally, I'm not 100% sure what I was intended (by my administration) to take away from this book. Am I supposed to be getting great ideas to use in the classroom? Because there really are some fun games and effective procedures to be found here. Or is it instead, as I more strongly suspect, meant to convey the message of, "See all the wonderful things you could...more
Sara
While I can admire his desire to reach his students and spend the time required to do so, I thought his tone was self congratulatory, smug, and condescending. I agree that teaching is definitely not an 8-4 Monday-Friday job; if that is all you are willing to put in as a teacher, you probably aren't getting everything done and reaching as many students as you could be. But, I also feel that teachers, as anyone else, have a right to a personal life and that having a balance between work and life i...more
Julie
Rafe Esquith is doing a great job and I appreciate his work. His teaching is effective, but this book isn't!

Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire is very, very lightweight. As in, there is very little useful content for me whatsoever. I guess I've been reading teaching books lately that are PACKED with impressive experience and wisdom, and this seems more like Esquith just trying to put out another book but not wanting to get too involved in the writing of one. Sometimes this book seems like it was tos...more
Lisa M.
Anyone who is involved in the education process or who wants to step into the world of truly excellent teaching should pick up Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire by Rafe Esquith. Mr. Esquith teaches in inner-city Los Angeles and is the leader of the famous Hobart Shakespeareans. I had heard a spot on them on NPR not too long ago, and I was pleased to receive this book for Valentine's Day from my husband. If anyone believes that one person cannot truly make a difference in this world, please read thi...more
Mr. Z
Mar 06, 2009 Mr. Z rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: All Teachers and Educators!
Recommended to Mr. Z by: I came across it browsing at the bookstore
"We parents and teachers must remember that despite the state of our culture, it is still possible to develop lifelong readers." Rafe is a unique teacher with a unique approach to reaching students. His story about how he was in the "teaching zone" when his hair caught on fire while he was helping a student with a science experiment goes to show just how passionate he is about teaching. An important message I felt he got across was that the teaching "standards" teachers are forced to use in the...more
Alex
This is one dedicated teacher. He's a role model for anyone. He has my admiration. And this is an inspirational book.
Laura
This would be a tough book for anyone to write. As a teacher that goes "above and beyond," it is difficult to not write a book that just reads as page after page of "Look how great a teacher I am." It seems the author struggled with this. Yes, the author has some great ideas, and yes, he does some extraordinary things with his classroom. I found some good ideas I'm planning to implement in my own classroom.

However, his apparent disdain for many others (teachers, administrators, students) in the...more
Melanie
2.5 stars. This book was really inspiring...for 3/4 of the book. But as Esquith continues to describe all of the areas in which his students excel and all of the things he does to help them, it started to sound much too good to be true. How can one man help his students to excel in so many areas; how does he have the time and energy and money to do it all?

He arrives early to teach problem solving lessons; teaches math, reading, science, art, music, physical education, and history pretty much ev...more
Jillian
Jan 16, 2009 Jillian rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jillian by: Jodi
Shelves: for-edu-jobs
Rafe Esqith is without question a phenomenal teacher. He also clearly _knows_ that he's a phenomenal teacher, but honestly if my students were amazing enough to get the attention of Sir Ian McKellan and Michael York I'd be tooting my horn and their horn all over the place too.
I'm not sure how much of Rafe's advice I'd be able to apply to my own teaching, first because he's an elementary school teacher (I've seen a lot of high school students that would be way too jaded for some of his projects...more
Valerie
I checked this book out from the library because of the catchy title. Mr. Rafe's experience in teaching children would be useful to classroom teachers--but also to me as a Mom and homeschool Mom. I know it's a good book when I've found myself telling four different people about its ideas. One idea in particular that struck me was an metaphor Rafe uses on the first day of class to explain 'the motivation behind our actions.'

Using the image of a staircase, he explains how most of us do the right...more
Sarah Sammis
In the year I started second grade, Rafe Esquith started teaching. Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire contains what he has learned about teaching and why being a teacher is his calling in life.

He divides the book into three parts: There's No Place Like Home, The Method, and finally, The Madness. The first part describes how to earn the trust of students and help them think beyond themselves. Chapter Two, "Searching for Level VI" is especially interesting and useful for anyone who either works with...more
MCOH
This book was written by a man who teaches 5th grade in a poor Los Angeles public school. His students are almost all kids who have learned English as a second language. They live in a high-crime, high-poverty area.

It's clear that this is an exceptional teacher creating an exceptional experience for his students, including performing unabridged Shakespeare plays, with a rock 'n' roll soundtrack, which the kids play and sing themselves. He brings the kids on field trips to Washington D.C. and oth...more
Claudia
Ok -- I admit, I didn't read every word...but I read the parts I wanted to. Esquith's passion is infectious. His fierceness about his students is enviable. I was especially interested in his chapters about reading and writing...and art. There's a lot of self-promotion, as there often is in these books. I hope he's still in room 56, teaching like his hair's on fire.

"This I believe: If young people develop a love of reading, they will have better lives. That objective is not listed in our state cu...more
Kathy
I admire what Rafe Esquith is doing, and I certainly agree with his basic philosophy, but I wonder how much good this book will do. Mr. Esquith has devoted almost every waking moment of his life to his job. Granted, it is an important job, and he probably has done many children much good, but if he truly is doing all he says he does (and I have no reason to believe he isn't), he has no life other than teaching. He seems to be a man of exceptional energy, dedication and perseverance, and that is...more
Cheryl
A rare opportunity to look at what one dedicated teacher does to provide his students ample opportunities to learn skills and gain knowledge that will help them succeed. Many of his philosophies are ones I agree with and I share his frustrations with bureaucracies and pseudo-experts.

There is a lot to learn from what he has shared. And while his style works for him, every teacher has to find their own way. Some of his ideas (like reading and movie clubs after school) could be done by volunteers...more
di
Rafe Esquith is the teacher I want to be, and the reason I my relationship with my chosen vocation is so fraught with anxiety. Thank heavens he admitted to so many mistakes in this book! When I started teaching I expected perfection of myself--I never considered that there would be a learning curve, or that I would have many many more failures than successes. Nor did I ever realize that EVERY teacher goes through this process before they become masters...even Rafe!

So now I am returning to the cl...more
Christine
On the one hand, Rafe Esquith is clearly an utterly phenomenal teacher who intricately and cogently outlines a number of best practices that have helped him make his classroom what it is - a world unto itself.

On the other hand, it's hard to access and internalize the wisdom available in the book due to the fact that his tone is flowery at best and sanctimonious at worst. Lame sauce, as there's nothing that destroys my goodwill for a book more than a central figure that turns me off.

On the third...more
Jonathan
Celebrity teacher Rafe Esquith tells you how it is done in this latest teacher autobio. Unlike many other teacher-against-the-odds success stories (think Freedom Writers and Educating Isme), Esquith is still a teacher after decades. He has lots of good ideas – all very intimidating to someone like me who thinks perhaps living your work is not such a good idea – but also inspiring. He takes his fifth grade class on tours to perform Shakespeare. He teaches his kids fine cinema. They make crazy art...more
Sheralie
I stayed up late for several nights reading it. I have found it helpful personally, with my children and with teaching Primary. The first section explains important principles of teaching. His 6 principles of motivation reminded Pete and I of a talk by Dallin H. Oaks. The second section outlines different subject areas and lessons/materials/projects that have worked for him. I will be buying this book for this section, especially the chapters on problem solving, art, and Shakespeare. There are m...more
Natasha
Jun 18, 2008 Natasha rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: anyone who wants to inspire learning
Recommended to Natasha by: Melissa
Shelves: education
Wow! I couldn't put this book down once I got my hands on it. Is room 56 for real? I believe inspiring students to love to learn can be done and Rafe shares many great ideas on how to achieve success in education.

I appreciate that he started out with Kohlberg's Six Levels of Moral Development. Does exposure to Atticus Finch really inspire kids en masse to behave at higher moral levels? It's worth a try. (By the way, I also liked his list of recommended readings/viewings.)

Other great features: h...more
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Walking the talk 2 40 Oct 04, 2013 07:01PM  
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Never compare one student's test score to another's. Always measure a child's progress against her past performance. There will always be a better reader, mathematician, or baseball player. Our goal is to help each student become as special as she can be as an individual--not to be more special than the kid sitting next to her.” 23 likes
“There are so many charlatans in the world of education. They teach for a couple of years, come up with a few clever slogans, build their websites, and hit the lecture circuit. In this fast-food-society, simple solutions to complex problems are embraced far too often. We can do better. I hope that people who read this book realize that true excellence takes sacrifice, mistakes, and enormous amounts of effort. After all, there are no shortcuts.” 10 likes
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