Educating Esme

(I originally started putting quotation marks and page numbers but that's just silly. All these quotes came word for word from Esme Raji Cordell's book. I really doubt you will get the book and search out the quotes I liked so that's pretty pointless.)

If you give people an idea these days, they just think you are sharing it with them so they can critique it, play devil's advocate, and so on. It doesn't occur to them that they might help or get enthused or at least have the courtesy to get out of your way.

The goal is not necessarily to succeed but to keep trying, to be the kind of person who has ideas and see them through.

I thought of Ismene's warnings: "You are a very gifted teacher. Don't teach. Be an actress instead."  (This one puzzles and intrigues me.)

She urged me to forgive myself at the end of each day, that no single thing I could say would break a child...or make a child. Still, she taught me not to be too flippant, that, as a doctor cures what ails the body, I must strive to diagnose the roadblocks to learning.

Ismene taught me basics: Ignoring bad behavior as long as you can stand it. Maintaining quiet lines. How a soft voice can be more effective than a loud voice. Starting out with positive comments to parents before lowering the boom. Waiting patiently for children to answer questions.

I'm confident because I'm prepared.

I have to be consistent with my threat, or they will never believe me again. I'll have no discipline. I won't be able to teach anything.

It's nice to have helping hands.

But certain people just think it's their job to freak out. As long as they're freaking out, they feel busy, like they must be doing work. Getting upset is force, but no motion. Unless we are moving the children forward, we aren't doing work. (Sometimes I feel that my motion is up and down or all around without actually moving forward.)

Oh, well, you can't have everything...just everything that counts.

It's not that I'm so great or that they love me so much. It's just that I'm consistent, and they know if they do not follow my guidelines, I will be a dragon lady.

They know I would never let them fail. That's why they do what I ask, no matter how much they complain.

I laughed to myself, vowing to roll with the punches, to enjoy all catastrophes upon their arrival either in reality or in my imagination.

I want to take credit for getting them there, and they can have the credit for being there.

It's that I try and they're trying, that's the bottom line.

If you let people walk over you while you're young, you should get used to wearing feet marks across your face for the rest of your life.

Compromise isn't always something you do for somebody else.

So much of teaching is sharing. Learning results in sharing, sharing results in change, change is learning. The only other job with so much sharing is parenting. That's probably why the two are so often confused. You can't test what sort of teacher someone will be, because testing what someone knows isn't the same as what someone is able to share.

A little song is sweet to hear, even if an orchestra is more accomplished.

Isme once told me: "The difference between a beginning teacher and an experienced one is the beginning teacher asks, 'How am I doing?' and the experienced teacher asks, 'How are the children doing?' "



  1. Loved the quotes, just ordered the book! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I hope I didn't ruin it for you. I left out a lot of the funny, inappropriate but true parts. lol


  3. Elissa, I am really enjoying your blog! This is my second year teaching and recently started a blog myself! Yours is really inspirational!

  4. Ms. Mac,
    Thank you so much! I love what I do, even if I don't do it well. lol

  5. You are both interesting and inspiring. I love to procrastinate my real work by reading your blog.
    I just bought that book and it is sitting on my counter waiting for me to have no lessons to plan, or papers to grade, or parents to call, or units to re-vamp, or students to reflect on, or problems to solve....or......

    well, thanks for summarizing it for me as I may never get to it.

  6. mollymaureen,
    Thank you so much! I'm glad to hear I'm not the only procrastinator! I read the whole book in about 2 hours. It is so funny and just GREAT and you will love it. Just read it, the work will wait. ;)

  7. ok....so I read that entire book in my two back to back planning periods when I should have been making copies. ;-)

  8. Glad you enjoyed the book. Written in a manner in which she shared her experiences with the reader...wasn't trying to teach the reader something.