On a different note; Just this past week, the man who is widely regarded as the finest teacher in the United States released his fifth book -his last four were best-sellers. His name is Rafe Esquith. Mr. Esquith is a 30 year veteran elementary school teacher from, Los Angeles. He has, according to this piece, been commended by the Dalai Lama, President Obama and Queen Elizabeth II (the latter having named him a member of the British Empire). News of this publication was shared by Valerie Strauss, who writes "The Answer Sheet" blog for the Washington Post (one of the most informed edu writers in the country). It was also shared by Jay Mathews, who writes the "Class Struggle" blog for the same publication (aand is another one of the most informed edu writers in the country). Mr. Mathews, who by the way, discovered Jaime Escalante (the LA teacher depicted in the movie 'Stand and Deliver". Mathews was the one who made Escalante famous), has written about Mr. Esquith before. In fact, he's mentioned him fifteen times in the past according to this Google Search. And Strauss shared an interesting set of fun facts in her piece about Esquith:
When he goes to China he is so popular he needs security guards to protect him from the crush of the crowds.
*He is the only K-12 teacher to be awarded the president’s National Medal of the Arts.
*Queen Elizabeth made him a member of the British Empire.
*The Dalai Lama gave him the Compassion in Action Award.
*He has turned down requests to have a Hollywood movie made about his work.
*A documentary, “The Atticus Finch of Hobart Elementary,” was made about thefamous Shakespeare program he has run for years at Hobart, where all of his students appear in at least one full-length production a year. The English actor Ian McKellen actually noticed some of Esquith’s young students mouthing the words to a Shakespearean play in which he was performing in Los Angeles.
*He has been given the Kennedy Center’s Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award, Oprah Winfrey’s Use Your Life Award, and Disney’s National Outstanding Teacher of the Year award. He’s gotten more awards and honors, but you should have the idea by now.
By almost any measurable standard, a discussion about education in America -including teacher quality and improving teaching- should and must include America's best teacher; Rafe Esquith. There are two logical reasons for this. 1) Because we should all be familiar with the person who is widely seen as 'doing it' on a higher plane than the rest of us. The way every basketball player should know Lebron and every baseball player Derek Jeter, every teacher or would-be teacher and every principal who is interested in high quality teaching- should know Rafe Esquith. People who care about education might have posters of him on the walls of their college dorms. His books should be on the shelves of anyone who claims to care about education. He should be celebrated; everywhere. 2) Because the guy is sharing his stuff! Mr. Esquith isn't just a master teacher. He's also a published author. He doesn't write about high stakes tests and the education reform movement. he writes about teaching. His audience are teachers (and ostensibly anyone interested in high quality teaching) and he's not interested in much else. If you can trust anyone about what truly makes the type of teaching that can change the world, then you should be able to trust your time with one of his books.
A search on GothamSchools.org for the term "Rafe Esquith" returned just two mentions. One here from 2009 and one here from last week. Both of them were link backs from Mathew's blog (a compliment among bloggers, to be sure, but a superficial one as well). Neither of them represent any real energy or effort from the people at GothamSchools.org. Those are facts. You should accept them as such.
Now you shouldn't view this as an attack on Gotham Schools. I've interacted with the folks at that website for a few years now. All of them are good, intelligent people with excellent people skills and pedigree degrees. They're ready to engage or to listen (or defend, as was the case with one reporter when I called the site 'neo-lib' leaning) and they represent something fairly important; non-profit journalism. But anyone who seeks to question where their interests lie -with the edu reform pulse (which is profit minded and has wrought a terrible nightmare on educators across the country) or with education -I mean real education that really can change the lives of millions of children- need only examine where they have expended their energies: The Bloke who cashed in by writing an anti teacher book about education and then vanished back under the rock from which he crawled grabbed GothamSchools' brightest spotlight. Rafe Esquith grabbed one small link back.
Why aren't more people familiar with the best teacher in America? Because the media who write about education write about something different.
**Update: The Gotham Twitter account kindly responded to this post. I have a different read of those links (you can decide for yourself), but it's only fair to say they question that assertion.
@nycurbaned Tthink we've only mentioned Steve Brill 4 times — our commenters have done the rest! We cover NYC schools so we covered his bookThey also responded to my inquiry as to whether or not they would bother to read the book:
— GothamSchools (@gothamschools) July 18, 2013
We cover NYC so not perfect fit, but will read! MT @nycurbaned: Curious if @gothamschools will B reading Rafe Esquith's new book & sharing
— GothamSchools (@gothamschools) July 18, 2013
While I hope they do read the book (and if they say they will they probably really will) it's worth mentioning that they do call attention to what happens in other places around the country quite often. I feel that if they can mention LA here , then they can mention the epitome of pedagogy. Just my little opinion (just my little blog). Cool that they engaged, though.**