Posts Tagged ‘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!


And You Want to Remove This Teacher?

August 1, 2015



Removing Rafe Esquith was always going to be fraught with danger. His legacy is too immense, his dedication to quality teaching is peerless and his foundation is too important.

His supporters were always going to make the LA School Board look like fools.



Click on the link to read Rafe Esquith Should Come and Work in Australia

Click on the link to read Are the Teachers Union Backing Rafe Esquith?

Click on the link to read Rafe Esquith Fights Back!

Click on the link to read #StandByRafe



Are the Teachers Union Backing Rafe Esquith?

June 24, 2015




Rafe Esquith is the worlds most decorated teacher. You would think that in a situation where the the most acclaimed teacher, and longstanding union member, is suspended from the classroom for nothing more than a joke, that the union would go public in support of him.

But where are they?

No representative from the union has gone on record as far as I’ve seen. No union protests. Nothing.

I hear crickets, but no union outrage.


Surely this is just the sort of high profile case the union longs for. It would provide an opportunity to make telling points about the difficulties and stresses teachers face on a daily basis.

But where are they?

My message to the union is to get on the front foot and give Mr. Esquith the vocal support he needs and deserves.


Click on the link to read Rafe Esquith Fights Back!

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)


Lessons We Can Learn From the Rafe Esquith Suspension

June 21, 2015


The most highly decorated and dedicated teacher in America has been sitting in his lounge room for the past 2 months. He has been stripped of his right to do what he does best, because a colleague dobbed him in to the authorities for a politically incorrect joke.

Since hearing of his suspension I have been in a state of shock. Who would want to take the best teacher out of the classroom? Shouldn’t they be working on getting more Rafe’s instead of finding absurd ways of removing them from classrooms?

After days of soul searching I have come up with some lessons I have learned from this saga:


1. It Could be You – If Rafe can be barred from the classroom, anyone can. Next it could be you.

2. Leave Your Sense of Humour at the Door – Don’t even think of cracking a joke. It could cost you your job. The classroom is not a place for humour. It should be a joyless, lifeless, cold and bitter place. If you want to see kids laugh, become a party clown!

3. A Good Record Counts for Nothing – Teacher of the Year! Who cares? When a jealous co-worker dobs you in to the authorities, a lifelong reputation of excellence and integrity counts for nothing. Leave your references at the door. Educational bureaucrats with an ego the size of Greece’s debt aren’t in the mood to excuse a trivial comment, even if your name is Mother Theresa.

4. Teaching is a Dog Eat Dog Profession – Yes, I am generalizing, but don’t tell me you’ve never experienced it. Why do teachers feel the need to compete with one another? Aren’t the children supposed to be the emphasis. That teacher who snitched on Rafe has a lot of explaining to do. If as I presume, he/she did it out of jealousy, it is yet another example of teachers hurting their own. Our job is difficult enough as it is, why do we need to constantly compete against and judge one another? We should be supporting, not reporting each other!

5. Who wants to be a Male Primary Teacher? – C’mon, you know I’m right. It’s the elephant in the room. Had a female teacher made the same joke as Rafe did (a joke I don’t endorse), would she have been suspended? Absolutely not. You want more male teachers in the younger years? Start by treating us equally.

6. It’s not Just about Rafe’s Reputation, It’s a Reflection on Our Profession – Here was a teacher that absolutely adores what he does. He is a true inspiration. And what do the authorities do to acknowledge his outstanding work? Ban him from the classroom. What message does this send to perspective teachers. Perhaps it’s easier working at Walmart. I’m sure the pay isn’t all that different.

7. Teach at a Private School if You Can – By working at a public school, Rafe’s reputation was greatly enhanced. He was seen as a champion for the downtrodden, the under privileged. But the problem with public schools is that they are often run in a chaotic and cold-hearted fashion. Private schools personally select and invest in you. They choose you because they believe in you, and unless there is ample proof that they were completely wrong about you, they will give you the benefit of every doubt. Public schools on the other hand treat you like a number. Had Rafe made that comment in a private school, his Principal would have backed him all the way. Perhaps, at worst, he would have had to issue an apology, but nothing more than that. It’s great to teach those who need you the most, but not at the expense of your reputation.


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!


June 20, 2015


It’s time to send the message to those responsible for suspending the greatest teacher working today to offer their own resignations and install the great Rafe Esquith. To suspend him for any more time is to further damage the reputation of a leading teacher and a mentor to myself and many others.

I have read all of Rafe’s books and have used some of his strategies and ideas to wonderful effect in my own classroom. I am deeply upset that his students have been deprived of his vision, energy and creativity since March and that his Shakespeare show has had to be cancelled this year.

And all for what? A passage from the great Huckleberry Finn!


Without providing more details about the allegations against a nationally recognized teacher, the leader of Los Angeles Unified said the district will not rush an investigation into why the instructor was removed from the classroom simply because of his popularity.

Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said the probe into allegations of misconduct against longtime Hobart Boulevard Elementary School teacher Rafe Esquith is “very complex” and must be handled carefully.

He added, “The Los Angeles Unified School District will not be rushed to make a decision and will complete our investigation with the highest level of integrity. The safety and security of every district student will remain our number one priority.”

Esquith’s attorney, Mark Geragos, said earlier this week that the district had 10 days to issue a public apology and return the award-winning teacher to the classroom or he would sue the system.

Parents and former students also are demanding more information about the investigation into Esquith, who has written several books on teaching and received multiple awards for his work. His attorneys said he was pulled from the classroom after a complaint about a Mark Twain passage that he read in class.

On Friday, Ben Meiselas, an attorney who works with Geragos, said, “We now welcome Supt. Cortines as a defendant to our lawsuit if he does not issue an apology during the time frame we provided.”

That 10-day period ends June 26, he said.

“Supt. Cortines’ statement sadly and shockingly confirms what we have said since day one,” Meiselas said. “This is a fishing expedition of the worst kind by bureaucrats who don’t know a thing about the classroom. Apparently, after the ‘initial’ investigation was found to be meritless, LAUSD has taken it upon itself to manufacture new ways to attempt to defame Mr. Esquith.”

Esquith was removed from his classroom in March and is now home waiting for the results of the district’s investigation, which is expected to be completed before school starts in August.

Geragos said the district has not clearly outlined the allegations against the popular teacher, but he learned that the investigation stemmed from a complaint by another teacher after Esquith read to a class a passage from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain.

The passage, which is much longer, includes this section: “The duke and the king worked hard all day, setting up a stage and curtain and row of candles for footlights. … At last, when he’d built up everyone’s expectations high enough, he rolled up the curtain. The next minute the king came prancing out on all fours, naked. He was painted in rings and stripes all over in all sorts of colors and looked as splendid as a rainbow.”

On Friday, Esquith’s attorneys offered more context about a joke that Esquith made following the reading of the literary passage.

Meiselas said Esquith, who puts on an annual Shakespearean play, joked with students that if he could not raise enough funding, the class would have to perform naked like the king in the book. Meiselas said he learned about the joke Friday after asking Esquith for more details about his use of the passage.

Esquith’s nonprofit, the Hobart Shakespeareans, cancelled 12 performances of “The Winter’s Tale,” which were set to begin April 23.

District officials this month also required Esquith to cancel a trip with students to attend the Shakespearean Theatrical Festival in Oregon.

In a letter to Esquith, officials said the trip had not been authorized or sponsored by the district “as evidenced by the lack of authorization via the proper channels for field trip authorization.”

Esquith, who wrote three books, including “Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire: the Methods and Madness inside Room 56,” has received national recognition for his teaching abilities. He also has criticized what he considers to be too much testing and scripted teaching methods. 


If Mother Teresa was a public school teacher in America, she would have been suspended too!


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

Click on the link to read Is There Anything More Important Than ‘Knowing’ Your Students?


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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