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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

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,391 Ratings  ·  689 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
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 18th 2007 by Viking (first published January 1st 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sep 09, 2007 Sarah rated it it was ok
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.
Sep 07, 2008 April rated it it was ok
Shelves: school, 2008
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
Jul 25, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teaching-related
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
Apr 02, 2015 Lindsay rated it liked it  ·  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
Jul 27, 2013 Ken rated it it was ok
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
Ryan Adams
Jan 27, 2008 Ryan Adams rated it liked it
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
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
Feb 27, 2008 Kt. rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-recently
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
Nov 03, 2011 Melanie rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, 2011
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
Elise Jensen
Jul 14, 2009 Elise Jensen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Nov 26, 2008 Kate rated it liked it
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
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
Sep 24, 2011 Sara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 21, 2008 Julie rated it did not like it
Shelves: teaching
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
Apr 17, 2016 Lori rated it it was amazing
I know many of the reviews say the author paints himself as a saint, and at times it kind of feels that way, but I think this is a really important and useful book for any teacher to read. Rafe should be proud of all he has accomplished. He shares mistakes he has made and amazing ideas and lessons that have been proven successful. I don't know when he ever sleeps or spends time with his wife, but he has a lot of accomplishments and students overcome a lot of odds.
Lisa M.
Sep 13, 2007 Lisa M. rated it really liked it
Shelves: professional
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 it was amazing
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
Aug 30, 2013 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one dedicated teacher. He's a role model for anyone. He has my admiration. And this is an inspirational book.
Jul 14, 2015 Kristin rated it it was amazing
Rafe Esquith is an extraordinary 5th grade teacher. His students voluntarily come to school early and stay late, behave perfectly on class trips to Washington DC and other places, and perform an unabridged Shakespeare play every year. In Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire, he explains how and why he teaches the way he does. Rafe uses games, interactive teaching, movies, music, problem solving, science, art and community service projects, a classroom economic system and many other creative techniques ...more
Dec 28, 2014 J. rated it liked it
Mr. Esquith is an award-winning, passionate veteran public school teacher in LA Unified who has great ideas to share with colleagues and parents. I'm impressed by this superhero who teaches guitar during lunch, stages Shakespeare yearly with the support of Sir Ian McKellen and other Shakespearean stars, along with the many core subjects expected. I'd love to have him on my staff. So why not more stars in this review? For one, he is understandably anti-admin; present company loved to teach and br ...more
Alex T.
Dec 27, 2014 Alex T. rated it it was ok
Shelves: professional
Okay, so I finished reading "Teach Like Your Hair Is on Fire" and I was left feeling very dissatisfied with much of it. I know I have colleagues who love this book and who love Rafe Esquith's other books. I read an excerpt from Real Talk for Real Teachers and I really want to read it. I think my biggest issues with TLYHIoF, though, are first and foremost the complete and utter disdain Rafe has for administrators and his frequent suggestions to sneakily go behind their backs in order to do any "r ...more
Aug 23, 2014 Eleanor rated it it was amazing
I read this book because I recently began working with the kids in this program and I could not believe how polite, prepared, respectful and kind these children were. I was told repeatedly before I began that I would love the kids and that they would work very hard for me. Okay, I thought, I think I know what most urban public school kids are like, so it seems like a bit of an exaggeration. I don't think I would believe the kids described in this book were real unless I had seen them myself. Aft ...more
Nov 24, 2011 Laura rated it liked it
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
Jan 03, 2010 Aimée rated it it was ok
Man. I wish we all had the monetary means to be as awesome a teacher as this guy is. Didn't anyone else find that this book was totally unreasonable, especially for Catholic school teachers? I barely make enough money to pay my mortgage and bills, so if I took on 4 extra jobs, it would not be to take my whole class across the country. It would be to pay off my car note or my credit card, or to go back to school to finish my master's, or to start a family.

I feel like this book was written to make
Jan 16, 2009 Jillian rated it really liked it
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
Mar 26, 2008 Valerie rated it it was amazing
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
Sarah Sammis
Jan 28, 2008 Sarah Sammis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: released, review-copy
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
Mar 16, 2009 MCOH rated it really liked it
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
Will LaMorie
Mar 26, 2016 Will LaMorie rated it liked it
This book, considered by some to be a seminal work on the field of teaching is, at best, mediocre. Rafe is the sort of teacher who puts in a 12 hour day, every day, in the classroom, then goes home and works until he sleeps. While I acknowledge that teaching is a field where you need to put in extra hours from time to time, this construction of the teacher as something beyond selfless, rather as an obsessive fiend with no concept of work life balance is neither good for the craft nor for anyone. ...more
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
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Walking the talk 3 46 Sep 18, 2014 03:05PM  
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  • Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College
  • See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers
  • In the Middle: New Understandings about Writing, Reading, and Learning
  • 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny: Life Lessons from Teaching
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  • Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher's First Year
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  • The Daily Five
  • The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator's Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child
  • Letters to a Young Teacher
  • Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement
  • The First Six Weeks of School
  • Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It

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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.” 33 likes
“That's the beauty of art--we strive for perfection but never achieve it. The journey is everything.” 12 likes
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