Best of 2013: Real Talk for Real Teachers, by Rafe Esquith
Real Talk for Real Teachers: Advice for Teachers from Rookies to Veterans: “No Retreat, No Surrender!”, by Rafe Esquith. Viking, 319 pp. July 2013
As part of my day job, I work very closely with those in education. Not only that, but much of my family is in education, and it seemed only fitting that I would review a book on education. But the thing about Rafe Esquith’s Real Talk for Real Teachers is that it’s not only for those in education. The further I read into this book, the more I underlined for my own sake and not just for the review.
I loved this book. I’m a journalist; I’ve never even taken an education course. But I found so much of Esquith’s advice applies to anyone, regardless of their profession. These lessons include:
Choose your battles carefully. When someone tries to prevent you from doing something innovative, the fight can usually be won without firing a shot. (Chapter 5)
It is said that a Shakespeare tragedy is tragic not merely because it is a sad story but because it’s a story that could have been joyful and instead had its potential bliss cut short. We weep for Hamlet not simply because of his death but for the king he might have been. Teachers [my note: or other professionals] who allow the frustration of the profession to turn their potential into bitter fingers are indeed tragic figures. They lose their potential excellence. (Chapter 12)
Perhaps Real Talk for Real Teachers is so powerful because the passion Esquith has for teaching and for his students is so tangible. He believes so deeply in each one of his students. While he does not walk them through the door of success, he opens it for them and gives them the tools they need to take the first step.
Real Talk for Real Teachers is undoubtedly a must-read for everyone in education, of every level. The first part of the book is geared toward first-year teachers, but the second and third parts are for teachers who have been in the classroom for several years already. He understands the burnout that can come from staying in the same room for years on end, and he gives advice for keeping things interesting for the students and also for the teacher.
But I would argue that this book is a good read for anyone, both starting out in the working world and continuing into yet another year of paychecks and mortgages and workdays. His writing, and his advice, certainly provided me with extra motivation in my career.