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Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire

I’ve been re-reading Rafe Esquith’s bestseller, “Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire – The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56,” and boy, let me tell you, that man is a genius. Not only does he sound like the coolest teacher in the world (and I wish I had him in fifth grade), but his methods and “madness,” as he calls it, are incredible. He focuses on Kohlberg’s levels of moral development in the classroom. As teachers, our main goal is to achieve level six. This level is the Atticus Finch level, or “I Have a Personal Code of Behavior and I Follow It.” It is the most difficult to attain and teach, yet the most rewarding. Each child is different, so their personal code cannot be modeled. Students shouldn’t do a task because it’s what you want, or anyone else, but because they are doing it for themselves. This is how we can make a difference.

Throughout his book, Esquith discusses hundreds of ideas that can be implemented in the classroom. My favorite is the Young Authors Project. Students write their own books throughout the year. He suggests that work should be done on these books in the classroom, to make sure that the students are the authors, and not overeager siblings, parents, etc. Every week, he meets with a few students and goes over the plot, character development, and edits the student’s writing. He also lets students work in groups, where they can share and edit their stories together. Once the stories are written and edited, they are typed up, illustrated, and bound. Esquith thought it best that the students see their work completed, so binding should also be completed by the students. In my own classroom, I definitely will be taking advantage of the Young Authors Project! It helps enhance creativity and gets the students excited about writing.

For math, Rafe Esquith thought it best that worksheets and books are used to a minimum. There are much better ways to engage students in math, and help them learn. One suggestion was using the game, Buzz. This game is a math exercise that uses numbers, multiples, and even fractions to count to 100. Manipulatives from Marcy Cook’s website are a favorite. The tiles can be used to engage the classroom in mental math problems. She also has tile problems that have missing numbers, and students have to complete the problems by finding the correct number. Math games help students develop a love of numbers, and gain a deeper understanding for them.

Esquith stressed that science should be taught using a hands-on approach, where students can explore, question, and keep track of data.

While reading this book, I am constantly amazed at how well his students learn and retain the knowledge he gives them. His students come out of his classroom with a love and passion for learning, which I hope to achieve in my own classroom. I want my students to feel the same way. I want all of my students to succeed and will celebrate the “small victories” in my classroom. I will take the advice I gain from this book and base my classroom off of trust – students need to not fear their teacher, and trust them instead. I will have discipline that is logical, as keeping the entire class from P.E. doesn’t teach Tommy to quiet down in math class. I will continuously strive to improve myself and grow as a teacher, so I can develop a classroom environment similar to what I have been reading and studying about.

Now, if only I could speak to him myself and learn as much as I can from such a marvelous teacher! A girl can dream, right?

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