Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Rafe Esquith and KIPP schools

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to hear Rafe Esquith speak. Ever since reading Jay Mathews' book Work Hard Be Nice back in the spring I've been curious about Rafe Esquith. According to Mathews, the founders of KIPP cite Esquith as one of two significant influences and mentors (the other being a teacher in their building in their first years teaching). Esquith is well known for his various awards, books, and his students' Shakespeare performances.

I enjoyed Esquith's talks and found a lot to think about over the next little while. He did, without mentioning KIPP by name, say that those schools are not based on his classroom. He believes that their model is based on fear and bullying. He made these remarks in a smaller, breakout session, not in the main keynote.

I found his remarks on the subject of KIPP to be interesting. I found him to be charismatic, talented, and an engaging speaker. However, I also felt that he completely defines himself through his students. He has had many opportunities to leave the classroom and yet he remains there. That is admirable and I respect him for it. That said, I believe that one reason he is still in the classroom is because he cannot live outside of it.

I've got more thoughts and posts brewing based on his speech. He has many years of experience teaching some of our neediest students and there is much to learn from him.

1 comment:

Mike said...

I just found you blog through Two Writing Teachers! So glad I did too. I had never heard of Esquith. So glad for the wiki link. He reminds me of the lady featured in the movie Freedom Writers and Jaime Escalante from Stand and Deliver years before. I agree with your estimation that he can't live without his classroom, and that was pretty much the same for the two I've mentioned. The only thing that raises my hackles is that society seems to suddenly measure the contribution of every teacher every time they discover someone like these folks on the fringe.

I've put you in my blog roll. I hope you join me sometime on Teacher Food