Tuesday, June 2, 2009

5th graders CAN learn Shakespeare!

The Hobart Shakespeareans with Sir Ian McKellen! I'm SOOOOO jealous!

Please do not adjust the channel- this is not a test! Yes, I said Shakespeare and fifth graders in the same sentence! It's not only possible, but Rafe Esquith, author of Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire and There Are No Shortcuts is doing it day after day, month after month, year after year, with astounding results; especially considering English isn't the first or only language of most of his students. Rafe Esquith teaches at Hobart Elementary, an inner-city Los Angeles school where his primarily Asian and Hispanic students are for the most part children of recent immigrants, and 92% of the student body comes from families living below the poverty level.

In the prologue to Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire, Rafe acknowledges the struggles with proposing elevated curriculum in a struggling school district; struggles that often discourage those who want to give the kids a fair chance to excel. "Expectations for children are often ridiculously low. Racism, poverty, and ignorance often reign supreme on campus. Add to this mix ungrateful students, and even mean-spirited people in the teaching profession itself, and the hardiest of souls can be crushed. Each defeat usually means that a child's true potential will not be developed,". Though he has experienced the same hardships, he's found a way to continue to put the best interest of his students first, and has turned his classroom into a safe haven for young souls where ANYTHING is possible. Rafe writes of Room 56 (his classroom), "It's a world where character matters, hard work is respected, humility is valued, and support for one another is unconditional,".

If you've not yet seen it, the PBS documentary that explores Mr. Esquith's work, The Hobart Shakespeareans, takes a look at the truly extraordinary approach that Rafe takes towards improving the minds and lives of his students.