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

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  5,498 ratings  ·  776 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 se
Hardcover, 244 pages
Published February 1st 2007 by Viking Books (first published January 1st 2007)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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Jul 14, 2007 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 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
Mar 16, 2008 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
Jul 26, 2013 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
Jan 13, 2008 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
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
Ryan Adams
Jan 27, 2008 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
Feb 14, 2008 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
Aug 12, 2011 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
Sep 24, 2011 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
Oct 19, 2009 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
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
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Let me be absolutely clear: Rafe Esquith clearly is a marvelous teacher. He seems to be a transformative, inspiring motivator of young minds who crafts lessons like an artists and expects his students to bring their best selves to every part of their day. The title isn't about passion, it's about dedication, shrugging off minor inconveniences (like a singed scalp) for the sake of students. There are many fine lessons to take from the book, and I'm glad to have read it.

However, I'm not reviewing
Adam Balshan
Mar 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
5 stars [Education]
This is the best book on teaching a comprehensive curriculum that I have ever encountered. Every chapter is innovative, uncommon wisdom. There is something for teachers of almost every subject here.

Esquith appears to be one of the best teachers of our age; he vies for excellence in everything he does, to include increasingly diluted or ignored programs such as art, music, science and math.

I do not understand the criticisms of other reviewers when they point out things which
Jul 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: education
"I trust my students. It's everyone else I don't trust." Over and over and over. ...more
Julie Ruble
Jul 23, 2008 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
Aug 20, 2014 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
Rick Davis
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
Rafe Esquith sounds like a great teacher. In ways he reminds me of all the great teachers I had when I was in school. (In fact one of the teachers who strongly influenced me in high school wrote an editorial some years back that I'm sure Esquith would like.) However, his book is more a book about Rafe Esquith than it is about education.

There are some helpful ideas and principles in this book, but on the whole the book is long on methods and short on principles. It's lacking a single, clear philo
Jan 07, 2009 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
Elise Jensen
Jul 03, 2009 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 21, 2008 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
Jul 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Meh. Another book written by a teacher who has won accolades from overwork. His classroom sounds AMAZING and I’m so glad that there’s a handful of kids in the LA area who get to benefit from his energy and experience.

But should we really be celebrating and awarding a teacher who spends 12+ hours in the classroom? Maybe. I understand that many urban kids don’t have a house, their own bed, three square meals, sober parents, loving adults in their lives. And Rafe provides a safe space, guidance fr
Lisa Muller
Sep 13, 2007 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
Mar 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All Teachers and Educators!
Recommended to Reader 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 T.
Dec 16, 2014 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
Jamal Ahamad
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm beyond grateful that someone like Rafe Esquith exists. He is proof that teachers can make a difference in the lives of their students and enjoy themselves while doing so. By including the Six Levels of Moral Development alongside brief stories of his teaching experience, Esquith had me hooked by revealing that my approach to education needed some work. Yes, I enjoy learning. Yes, I enjoy working with kids. However, those two things won't be enough when, as Esquith's wife put it, "things go w ...more
Jan 01, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 03, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was extremely inspirational. It contains many good ideas for teachers to bring their teaching to the next level. However, I later found out that his classroom was his school's Gifted/Talented program : he had no struggling students, behavioral issues, etc. Nowhere was this mentioned in the book, which I found very misleading! ...more
Aug 15, 2013 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. ...more
Jul 03, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teaching
There are definitely pros and cons to this book and while I'm at it, to Rafe as well. A lot of the negatives I hear about this book and about Rafe usually involve the reviewer exclaiming, "We don't all have the kind of time he has," or "Not all of us can commit that much." To those reviewers I say, "Get the hell out of the profession then." Yes, we are very busy, and because we have an extraordinary amount of time off, people don't seem to think we do anything. On the other hand, we DO have a lo ...more
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