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Educating Esme




“EducatingEsme” was a book about Madame Esme Raji, a first year teacher. Sheexperiences some challenges as she tried to cope with the classroomenvironment when she left college. In the beginning, she tried usingskills she had learned in class to mange her class. However, shelearned that these skills did not work as she had a hard timemanaging the class. She, therefore, came up with creative ways ofmanaging the class and this made her classes enjoyable. Thus, she hada good time teaching and her students also enjoyed her lessons.“” gives wonderful insights on how a teacher canlearn her student’s characters and personalities and use theseunique dispositions to ensure that the teacher caters to the needs ofall her students.

Esmerecognized that teaching was not an easy profession. It involveddaily interactions with students from different backgrounds andpersonalities. Despite the diversity the teacher’s responsibilitywas to teach the students to do certain things in certain ways. Theteachers faced many challenges and frustrations in her dailyresponsibilities. Esme, however, managed to enjoy her teachingbecause she realized that the different things that the students didwas part of their process of growing up and learning. She would,therefore, use these characteristics to mould the students. The factthat she sought to understand all the students as they were is whatmade her work easier than other teachers who did not appreciate thediversity of their students (Codell,2001).

Thereview by Jonathan Shipley was of the opinion that the process ofeducating students is not standard. Shipley also observed the processof educating students through his friend who was a history teacherShipley said that his friend realized that the diversity of thestudents is what made the teaching and learning process enjoyable(Shipley, 2011). Teaching involved a close interaction with studentsand understanding them at their own level. Most teachers failed intheir work because they expected students to behave in a certain way,which was usually the behavior of adults. Shipley noted that studentswere young people who were in the process of learning and they had tobehave as they did because they must start from a certain point.

Shipleyargued that there was no standard way of teaching and an effectiveteacher was one who made her classroom a special place. The teacherdid not mind about the standard way proposed by the administration.This is because the teacher acknowledged that the students usuallyhad their own challenges, which interfered with their learningprocess. The teacher’s role in such a case was to make theclassroom environment as comfortable as possible for the student sothat he could forget her problems and concentrate in class (Shipley,2011). One of the ways of ensuring her students were comfortable wasby having them call her Madame. She realized that having a lessofficial name would remove the barrier between them and facilitate arelaxed learning environment.

MadameEsme’s greatest strength was allowing herself to also learn fromher students. She realized that the teacher was not necessarily themost knowledgeable person. She realized that despite the teacherbeing the figure of authority in class, she was not always correct.This meant that she had to sometimes seek the opinion of students asto how they would have wished the learning sessions would beconducted (Shipley, 2011). This would ensure that the learningenvironment was enjoyable and the learning process would bestrenuous. This, however, this created conflicts with her principalwho did not approve of her methods.

Theliterature review by Shipley was researched through literature reviewand interactions with her friend. Shipley read Esme’s book andagreed with her style of approaching teaching and her arguments abouthow to handle a classroom. Shipley also observed how his friendenjoyed teaching history and the tactics he applied. He reckons thatmost of his tactics are what made him enjoy teaching. Additionally,Shipley’s friend had a new experience at work every day and thismade for new experiences every day (Shipley, 2011). He allowedhimself to also learn from students and use his classroom as a placewhere he would impart knowledge and guide his students.

Esmemade her students understand her by establishing ground rules on thefirst day of her class. She made a point of telling her class aboutherself and also giving the students a chance to talk about them.This set the atmosphere of the class. Everyone knew what was expectedof them and the introduction gave Madame Esme a chance to understandher students. This friendly atmosphere is what made it easy to learnand interact. It also made it easy for Esme to introduce new conceptsin class such as the book club (Codell,2001).Her creative ways of correcting situations also made it possible forstudents to follow rules. For example, she introduced a rule thatrequired students to leave her one show each time they wanted toborrow books. This effectively reduced theft of books because thestudents had to pass by her when leaving the library.

Esme’sstyle of punishing her students made sense of their wrongs. When shejoined the school, she realized that some students had the habit ofusing obscene words and she needed to find ways of stopping thishabit. She made Billy, a student who was disrespectful teach theclass for a day as a form of punishment. This was chosen instead ofsuspension and Esme was pleasantly surprised when Billy used some ofher tactics to teach as this indicated that her style of teachingmade sense to her students (Codell,2001).She also had the chance of being as student and thus, understoodstudents from a different perspective. This punishment worked and itis an indication that punishment does not have to spread terror forit to be effective.

Esme’sstyle was the most appealing style in the school to the students. Shewas stern, but caring and accommodative. She created a conduciveenvironment every morning by having her students share theirexperiences for the night before starting the lesson. This created arelaxed situation. The ability to be stern, but caring also resultedin respect, which made work easy for Madame Esme. She did not have tostruggle so much to make the students understand and respect her. Theclass was also lively, but organized and disciplined.

Themethodology used by Esme in telling story was mainly explanatory. Shetook situations, which were noteworthy, and explained them in detail.This method captured the imagination of the reader and helped inidentifying with the situation. The research method she used for herclassroom was mainly experimental. She experimented on different waysof teaching so as to come up with the most suitable style. Esmebelieved in different approaches of teaching, which she applied inher teaching career and this was what made her stand out amongst thestudents (Codell,2001).

MadameEsme’s work is very appropriate in classroom management. The bookshows different ways of approaching students so as to make aconnection with them. It is important for the teacher to have aconnection with the students. This can only be done by treatingstudents as people with their own problems and concerns andaddressing the concerns appropriately. The teacher ought todemonstrate empathy and a genuine understanding of what students gothrough (Codell,2001).Additionally, the teacher must understand the characteristics andpersonalities of students. This is integral as it understands mutualunderstanding and enables the teacher to treat each student as aunique individual (Codell,2001).Once the teacher understands her class, she can find ways of havingthe class behave in an appropriate way for purposes of a conducivelearning environment.

However,some of Esme’s methods may create an extremely liberal environment,which may override the purpose of the class. For example, a teacherought to be stricter with student. Disrespectful students must betreated with a stern approach so as to make them learn how to behavewell. For example, Bill’s punishment may have worked, but otherstudents may end up misbehaving because they know that the punishmentgiven is not punitive. A punishment ought to deter other studentsfrom misbehaving. It should not only stop one student frommisbehaving, but also act to deter others from behaving in the sameway.

Inconclusion, Madame Esme’s style of teaching was effective as itcreated friendship and respect in the classroom environment. She alsoallowed herself to learn from students while maintaining a healthyboundary with the students. A teacher ought to find interesting waysof solving small problems as this creates the desire to do what isright. A successful teacher is one who establishes a workingrelationship with the students and gives herself a chance to learnfrom the students. The teacher is able to remain strict, butapproachable.


Codell,E. R. (2001). EducatingEsme: Diary of a teacher`s first year.Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

Shipley,J. (21/01/2011). “EducatingEsme: Diary of a Teacher`s First Year.”BookReporter. NewYork: The Book Report, Inc.(http://www.bookreporter.com/reviews/educating-esme-diary-of-a-teachers-first-year).