05 June 2011

Book Review: Teach like your hair's on fire

Esquith, R. 2007. Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56. Penguin Books: New York, New York.

This is a great book for new teachers or parents. It gives you approval to do things outside the norm. The more experienced teacher or parent could think the author's tone is arrogant, but I believe it is his enthusiasm, not arrogance, that gives him such a tone.

The book introduces the idea that classrooms don't need to be strictly guided by standardized tests or school bells. He suggests to new teachers that they should allow their creativity to run free before they get it dragged out of the by the system. He suggests that experienced teachers try to re-capture that creativity.

Rafe Esquith teaches a middle school classroom, so I couldn't find everything he suggests useful, since I teach secondary and post-secondary. But some of his ideas got me thinking about how I could apply them to my own classes. I would recommend this book as required reading for elementary and middle school teachers. For anyone else, I would recommend this book because I think it celebrates thinking outside the box and keeping the ultimate goal (the kids) in mind.

The author discusses and gives examples of teaching strategies that he finds useful. For example, his Shakesperean plays are a remarkable lesson in learning styles. Unfortunately the author never continues with other examples of his various teaching strategies. He completely cheers on other teachers, but gives no suggestions of how they could do it.