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

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  4,743 Ratings  ·  724 Reviews
Read Rafe Esquith's posts on the Penguin Blog.
"The New York Times" bestseller that is revolutionizing the way Americans educate their kids-"Rafe Esquith is a genius and a saint" ("The New York Times")
Perhaps the most famous fifth-grade teacher in America, Rafe Esquith has won numerous awards and even honorary citizenship in the British Empire for his outstandingly succ
ebook, 256 pages
Published January 1st 2007 by Penguin Books
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Community Reviews

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Jul 14, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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 23, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Lisa M.
Sep 13, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 21, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"I trust my students. It's everyone else I don't trust." Over and over and over.
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.
Jamal Ahamad
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Adam Balshan
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 ignored programs such as art, music, science and math.

I do not understand the criticisms of other reviewers when they point out things which the author
Equal parts inspirational teaching story and strategies for engaging students. Rafe is an incredibly dedicated teacher who works at a year-round, high-poverty school in LA. He works 12 hours a day and also on Saturday. Like many teachers, he donates both his time and his money to fill in the gaps where students need more than their parents or school can provide. Yikes! He sets a pretty high bar.

I love that he bases classroom discipline on Lawrence Kohlberg's six levels of moral development. Eve
Jan 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Alex T.
Dec 16, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sarah Sammis
Dec 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 09, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have a love-hate relationship with this book.

On the one hand, I appreciate Esquith's dedication to his students, and I think his attitude as a teacher is commendable. He's very positive about his students and classroom, and this is great. The fact that his methods are most applicable to the primary school level where he teaches is inconvenient, but I think teachers at the secondary level can learn from his dedication and enthusiasm.

On the other hand, I hate how he frequently dumps on the educa
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Walking the talk 3 48 Sep 18, 2014 03:05PM  
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  • See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers
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  • Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom
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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.” 38 likes
“That's the beauty of art--we strive for perfection but never achieve it. The journey is everything.” 14 likes
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