Posts Tagged ‘Inspirational Teacher Rafe Esquith’

Rafe Esquith is Punished Because He Showed the System Up

October 19, 2015


Our system of education and teaching is ineffective. Rafe Esquith knew it and showed it up through his passion and ingenuity.

He may be guilty of the allegations against him, and if he is, he deserves his fall from grace.

But Jay Mathews is right. He had it coming, not because he told a joke about nudity, but because he offended the powers that be by shining a light on their incompetence:


Flowery praise of teachers is a standard part of speeches by superintendents, school board members and principals. But they never mention a sad truth. If our most energetic and effective educators make others look bad, someone is eventually going to punish them for that.

I have collected small examples of this over the years. Now here is a big one.

On Oct. 13, behind closed doors, the Los Angeles Board of Education voted to fire Rafe Esquith, as first reported by the Los Angeles Times. Esquith is probably the nation’s best classroom teacher. He has been dismissed for murky reasons that appear to be part of a witch hunt against hundreds of other L.A. educators.

Obviously I’m biased. I don’t think Esquith could ever be guilty of any of the fuzzy accusations in an August statement from the district, including inappropriate touching of minors, inappropriate photos and videos on his computer, ethical and policy violations in the nonprofit group that funds his fifth-grade class’s annual Shakespeare plays. He has denied any wrongdoing. The district’s legal team has suspended hundreds of teachers on similar unexamined charges, the result of L.A. school leaders losing touch with reality after being traumatized by a molestation scandal a few years ago.

In their one interview with Esquith, 61, they asked the names of women he dated in college and people at his school who disliked him. Given enough time, staff and money, cynical attack dogs can make any of us look bad, even if we’re not. That goes double for teachers who spend so much time with kids, and triple for teachers who creatively interpret musty regulations that impede student learning.I have been in Esquith’s classroom many times, seen his joyful multi-media plays, interviewed him for hours and talked to his wife, many of his students and educators he has mentored. I have never detected a trace of improper behavior. The district’s one concrete fact is an allegation that he abused a nine-year-old boy at a summer camp when he was 19, but neither the school board nor the L.A. police did anything with that when the accuser informed them in 2006.

Esquith has been teaching for more than 30 years. Educators have extolled the combination of challenge and fun in his classes full of children of low-income Hispanic and Korean families. He helps former students find the right high schools and colleges. He has usually worked 12-hour days and helped kids in his class on holidays and weekends. Their test scores are high and their life achievements impressive.

That’s the kind of stuff that insecure supervisors hate. When Mary Catherine Swanson, the founder of the nation’s largest college readiness program, AVID, was first having success with her ideas, the jealous director of her district’s gifted student program said “I will see to it that your career is ruined in the San Diego city schools.” Dave Levin, co-founder of KIPP charter school network, was elected teacher of the year by the faculty of the first Houston elementary school he worked in, but when he defied an order to excuse some of his lower-achieving students from a state standardized test, his principal fired him.

The L.A. school district has taken that kind of spite to a new level. It will pay for that, but not right away.

The lawsuit that Esquith already has filed for attempting to smear him — and a class-action suit his lawyers filed Thursday on behalf of many teachers similarly mistreated — will take years to resolve. I am happy Esquith will have time to help more teachers and students elsewhere, and write more books. Howard Blume of the L.A. Times told me Esquith will still get his pension, but the class-action lawsuit suggests that is not true for all teachers swept up in the L.A. schools dragnet.

This is a classic witch hunt. In those frightful incidents in colonial New England, children died or crops failed for mysterious reasons, and no one wanted to defend the people accused of wrongdoing for fear of being labeled friends of the devil. The L.A. school board seems to me similarly unwilling to stand up for a great teacher because even an unconfirmed whisper of touching kids makes otherwise sensible people go silent.

Esquith will continue to do good work. But it will take the L.A. school leadership many years to right the wrongs they have done, out of panic, to him and many others.


Click on the link to read Lessons We Can Learn From the Rafe Esquith Suspension

Click on the link to read #StandByRafe

Click on the link to read The Teacher I Most Look Up To, Removed from the Classroom

Click on the link to read Teachers Don’t Get Any Better Than This!

Rafe Esquith Fights Back!

June 23, 2015


I am an unabashed supporter of Rafe Esquith. His books and teaching methods have been extremely important to my professional growth.

I hope he emerges from the saga that has seen him suspended, vindicated and triumphant.


From his modest classroom at Hobart Boulevard Elementary School in Koreatown, Rafe Esquith became an education superstar. His teaching techniques brought him worldwide recognition, and his books became models for how to engage young students.

But for the last two months of school, Esquith was sidelined. The Los Angeles Unified School District launched an investigation in March into allegations of misconduct by the popular teacher.

His attorneys said the investigation is related to comments about nudity that he made to students. In addition, they said L.A. Unified also is looking into Esquith’s nonprofit, the Hobart Shakespeareans, a drama group for students.

The decision to put him on leave — and keep him there for so long — has outraged supporters. But district officials have not backed down, saying that regardless of his celebrity, they won’t send him back to school until their investigation is completed.

The standoff comes as the school district struggles to recover after a series of scandals involving teachers and administrators accused of sexual misconduct with students. L.A. Unified last year paid a record $139 million to the victims of a Miramonte Elementary School teacher who was allowed to stay in the classroom even after complaints about his behavior with students.

Some see the Esquith case as part of the district’s effort to reform in the wake of the scandals. But whether it is an overcorrection remains a matter of much debate.

In his first interview since he was pulled from his fifth-grade class, Esquith told The Times on Monday that controversy stemmed from a joke he made in the classroom.

He said he quipped with students that if he could not raise enough money for the annual Shakespearean play, they would all have to perform their parts naked like the king in Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

After another teacher complained, he said he explained the context of the joke to his principal at Hobart Boulevard Elementary. The principal, he said, told him he had nothing to worry about. Nonetheless, Esquith was removed from the classroom in April.

“We overreact to everything. That’s the American way and I’m a victim of that overreaction,” Esquith said. “I want to fix this system. I want to make sure that teachers do not have to go through the same thing that I went through.”


Click on the link to read #StandByRafe

Click on the link to read The Teacher I Most Look Up To, Removed from the Classroom

Click on the link to read This is the Way a Teacher Should Retire (Video)

Click on the link to read Inspiring Act by Professor Goes Viral

Teachers Don’t Get Any Better Than This!

January 29, 2015


If I had to nominate the teacher I look up to the most, it wouldn’t take me very long to answer. Rafe Esquith is the mentor I have spent countless hours with, yet never had the pleasure to meet. I have devoured all his books and tinkered with my style to accord with his advice. I hope you enjoy this speech as much as I did. I recommend, if you haven’t already, that you search for a teacher who can take your own teaching to a whole new level like the great Mr. Esquith has done for me.



Click on the link to read The Remarkable Way A Teacher Brought a School Together (Video)

Click on the link to read Teachers Know How to be Generous

Click on the link to read I Just Love it When a Teacher Gets It

Click on the link to read The Teacher as Superhero

Click on the link to read I Wish All Principals Could Be Like This

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