Years ago I saw the documentary about his class, The Hobart Shakespeareans.
Highly recommended. Your library should have a copy.
Since then he’s written a couple of books Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire and There Are No Shortcuts and Lighting Their Fires.
Seeing the film and reading his insights inspired me, way back when my children were very young. His philosophy helped shape the way I parented, even though I fell short and muffed many things.
To my children who are raising my grandchildren, have a go at Rafe Esquith’s ideas on teaching and parenting. Catch his vision.
Lighting their fires
Parents who want more for their kids have to take matters into their own capable hands. Reading for pleasure helps students excel in many pursuits, from art projects to scientific experiments. Reading for extended periods of time and then discussing the content with peers is a priceless exercise in focus. p. 53
In studying Shakespeare, I have heard several experts define tragedy as not something that is merely bad, but something that is bad that should have been good. p. 66
The ultimate goal in raising a child is to get him to turn off his own television set. We can take the cigarette or bottle away from the addict, but that is not the cure. And besides, we cannot simply remove the danger of television. It's there and it's a reality. The real challenge is to teach a child the reason why television can rob him of his potential and get him to make his own decision. [...] A child who chooses to limit his time in front of a screen enormously increases his chances of finding an avenue to greatness. p. 67
Extraordinary young people are not necessarily brighter than their peers; they have merely developed sharper vision and see the picture more clearly. p. 78
But for special children, excellence is a way of life, not just something to stive for in school. p. 107
For children to be inspired to work hard and achieve greatness, they need to understand that their own world is a small one. Other kids are doing the same thing and achieving more. This is not meant to discourage a child, but to show him reality. It is rare that anyone has greatness thrust upon him. p. 112
After all, the first rule of parenting and teaching is to be the people we want the kids to be. p. 146
Reading is not a subject. Reading is a foundation of life, an activity that people who are engaged with the world do all the time. It is often exceedingly difficult to convince young people of this fact, given the world in which they are growing up. But it is possible, and when you consider what is at stake, the effort is worth it. If a child is going to grow into a truly special adult—someone who thinks, considers other points of view, has an open mind, and possesses the ability to discuss great ideas with other people—a love of reading is an essential foundation. p. 33
These children are not geniuses. They are ordinary, as is their teacher. They have become extraordinary by working hard and by being exposed to activities that go beyond the norm. p. 95
And from There Are No Shortcuts:
“To quote the exceptional teacher Marva Collins, "I will is more important than IQ." It is wonderful to have a terrific mind, but it's been my experience that having outstanding intelligence is a very small part of the total package that leads to success and happiness. Discipline, hard work, perserverance, and generosity of spirit are, in the final analysis, far more important.”
― Rafe Esquith, There Are No Shortcuts