Educating Esme: A Diary of a Teacher’s First Year, by Esme Raji Codell

Cover ImageFinished 5-9-09, rating 3/5, education, pub. 1999

The older teachers shook their heads and told me my room looked overstimulating, which means they are totally jealous because I have the most insanely beautiful classroom ever, of all time.  Oh, God!  I have beautiful portraits of explorers over the chalkboard, the cloakroom has a cutout panorama of an international open-air market, and there’s a learning center with flags of all nations.  I’m sorry, this room is so fun it’s sickening.  I feel sorry for any kid who is not in this room.

September 18

Esme is beginning her first year as a teacher and keeps a diary of her successes and struggles.  This is that honest and often funny journal. 

I loved the passion, committment , and take no bull attitude as she maneuvered her way through unruly students, abusive parents, and out of touch administration.  Her fifth grade class was lucky to have this unconventional teacher who went out of her way to make the classroom a safe environment for these at-risk inner city Chicago kids.  She went above and beyond, even keeping a student’s 2 year old sister with her all day while teaching.

There were many things to like a few aspects that fell short.  These were vignettes that lacked a big picture to frame the story.  This is not her fault since it was a diary, but it was lacking for the reader.  Also, as much as I liked her, her supreme self-confidence did get tiresome, although I think this confidence was great for her students.

This is a short read and is a great look inside a first year teacher’s classroom.   I do think this would be a nice graduation gift for anyone planning to study education in college.

6 thoughts on “Educating Esme: A Diary of a Teacher’s First Year, by Esme Raji Codell

  1. Bumbles says:

    Oh God – that is too funny. You should have contrasted it with another Teaser from the end of her first year – but then again it sounds like maybe she didn’t lose the innocence and gumption of those first days. I did student teaching with a 5th grade class in Chelsea, MA which was as urban, poor, bilingual, and heartbreaking as it gets. I’m sure I would love this book.

    It sounds like you’d really connect with the author.

  2. Margot says:

    I like the sounds of this one. I taught a few years, my sister and brother are teachers and now my daughter has finished her masters in education. I usually enjoy first year looks at any job. I’m going to see if one of my teachers would like this one.

    As a student teacher I had 5 freshman English classes. Needless to say, I lost the desire to have my own classroom. I did love this woman’s spunk 🙂

  3. Megan says:

    Sounds like a good read! I have several friends just starting out in education — I’ll keep that in mind if they seem like they need some inspiration! 🙂

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