Esmé Raji Codell has come to teach - and she's not going to let incompetent administrators, abusive parents, gang members, weary teachers, dim-witted principals, angry children, or her own insecurities get in the way. Esmé is fresh mouthed yet compassionate; she can be both pigheaded and generous, cynical and charming. In this diary, a record of her frustrations, her achievements, and her struggles to maintain her individuality in the face of bureaucracy, she reveals what it takes to be a genuine teacher.
Esmé wears costumes in the classroom, dances with the kids during rallies in the auditorium, puts on rousing performances with at-risk kids in the library. Her fifth-graders don't use the reading textbook: "What for? Grown-ups don't read textbooks, unless they're forced." Math is called Puzzling; "I figured kids at this age come to me with preconceived notions of what they are good at. This way a kid who thinks she's no good in math might turn out to be good at Puzzling." Disciplinary action includes having the "bad boy" of the class be the teacher for a day while Esmé misbehaves just as he would. She is twenty-four-year-old woman with the enthusiasm of an elementary school student and the determination of a dedicated teacher.
Must reading for every teacher, Educating Esmé is not just for educators. This is a story about frustrations in any workplace, about refusing to conform, about taking a stand against mediocrity. By the sheer force of her personality, Esmé gives us an exhilarating field trip through a Chicago public school.