Esquith, an elementary school teacher who teaches at Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles, understands a lot of the plight of teachers these days. As all new teachers understand, the first few years are tumultuous. My own have been at four different schools in five years. So when some of Esquith's first words in the book states, " I hope this book inspires young teachers to keep teaching even against impossible odds," I am glad to see them.
Over the course of the book, Esquith discusses the three main stages of a teaching career - from the wide-eyed and bushy-tailed newbie to the consummate professional to the seasoned master teacher and provides advice at every step of the game. Here are some anecdotes that I particularly enjoyed:
Toward the beginning of the book he emphasizes the importance of students making mistakes and learning from them, while the teacher encourages this action deeply. I am very excited to see that as one of the most important parts of the process of education is corrections and revisions. How often do writers create a work of Shakespeare on their first draft? That seems very unlikely. Instead, learning is methodical and takes time. One of the big ideas of College Prep Math - a curriculum based on decades of research - is that "mastery takes time, effort, and support." If you cannot convince a student that it is okay to make a mistake, they might never learn.
Something I found particularly interesting is Esquith's views on the SLANT method (a way of interaction between student and teacher that some support and some criticize). I usually am on the side of the latter and was pleased to see that Esquith joins me in disbelief that students have to be so regimented in order to learn properly.
But one of the most important things he says comes at the end of the book: "A teachers knows. No computer or system or standardized test can look into a child's eyes and recognize true understanding. A teacher does that." As I have written previously about some of the sham mathematics that goes into these tests and their use in teacher evaluation. We need to focus on getting good teachers in the door and supporting them so that they don't leave.
In summary, buy the book. It's a great read and has some wonderful anecdotes that share advice on what to do in your classroom. Definitely good for the young and the experience teacher.