Behind the Headline: The Outrageous Treatment Of One Of The Nation’s Most Outstanding Teachers

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The Outrageous Treatment Of One Of The Nation’s Most Outstanding Teachers
6/19/15 | Washington Post

Behind the Headline
A Breakout Role for Teachers
3/10/15 | Education Next

Rafe Esquith, a fifth grade teacher in Los Angeles, has become famous for helping his students, who come from low-income Hispanic and Korean families, put on a Shakespeare play every year. This March, Esquith was reported to the school district by a teacher who heard him tell his students a joke about nudity in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. After that, as Jay Mathews reports in the Washington Post, Esquith was removed from his classroom and has not been allowed to teach while the school district investigates him.

Mathews writes

This is the way they treat one of the most famous and conscientious teachers in the country, who has worked 12-hour days for several decades, usually keeping his classroom open during summer, holidays and on some weekends. Hundreds of former students come to visit. He advises many of them on how to get into the best high schools and how to prepare for college. He asks everyone to call him “Rafe.” The main page of the school’s official Web site says it is “The Proud Home of Rafe Esquith and the Hobart Shakespeareans.”

There are no suggestions that he has harmed any children. But as many of the great teachers I have written about over the years have told me, if you work hard and show administrators how much better our schools could be if they took their responsibilities seriously, you are going to become a target for abuse.

I have witnessed many outrages by school districts, but this might be the worst yet.

Esquith is an example of the kind of cage-busting teacher that Rick Hess writes about in his book The Cage-Busting Teacher. In an excerpt from the book published in Education Next, Hess writes

The teacher cage is all the routines, rules, and habits that exhaust teachers’ time and energy. Breaking free means being eager to champion excellence, identify important problems, offer concrete solutions, and bring those solutions to life.

– Education Next

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