Educating Esme Comprehensive Reflection

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Every teacher’s worst nightmare – that is the setting to which Madame (whatever you do don’t call her Mrs.) Esme Raji Codell stepped into as her first job fresh out of college. In this sink or swim world Esme, unknowingly, became a lifeguard to thirty youngsters, as she seemed the only one who could protect the children from the rough waters that are inner city Chicago. Through studying her very candid and personal diary, I am awe stricken by her extraordinary display of pedagogy as she exemplifies what it truly means to be a teacher. Esme’s proficiency in her dealings with situations surrounding equity, creating a safe, relaxed and positive classroom environment, expectations as a teacher, gender, diversity learning, multicultural competence and accommodation are, at times, straight out of a teacher’s workshop. Some might argue with her protocol, as she is both sharp-tongued and downright stubborn, but none can call to question her motive or incapacity for complacency. As every teacher goes into the workplace, first year, or twenty-fifth, and despite any subconscious fear you might possess of the hideous class you might be challenged to educate, there is always a certain comfort in knowing that, regardless the case, you have the support of your administration to uphold most any rational expectation you place on your students. As the school year drew near, I’m sure this was the case even for Madame Esme, as she seemed eager to start her first year of teaching. She set her expectations high in all aspects and from day one seemed determined to see her students achieve accordingly. She maintained her ideals throughout the year, though, it becomes more evident that her superiors might not share such idealistic values. No case more true than is seen on May 4th. After trying to reach a male student, B.B., who seems to be having behavioral problems related to his home life, Esme finds herself separating her student from a “big pounding fight on the playground” (Codell, 1999). In the aftermath which followed, Esme receives a tongue lashing from B.B. in which he directly calls her a bitch. Outraged, Codell storms into the office of her incompetent principal, Mr. Turner, and continues to share with him her disgust of the issue. Full of remarks which any rational person would have left to thought, she gladly gave to Mr. Turner in words. Summoned up, her venting stood strongly on the fact that she didn’t get paid to be called names of that sort, and she both didn’t have to, and wouldn’t tolerate such. Reasonable… justified… maybe, maybe not? All the same, nothing in my (and hopefully anyone else’s) study of education could have prepared me, or apparently her, for his unprecedentedly repulsive response. “You don’t understand. They’re black… It’s just the way black people are. The black child is different. They deal with so much. Drugs, gangs…” (Codell, 1999). How can one articulate the hopelessness of such a situation? I am deeply saddened at the thought that this is based on the account of a real conversation, which took place at a real school, concerning the expectations of real kids. Profound knowledge directly linked to the situation can be found in the Pygmalion Study (Rosenthal, 1992) where student achievement was found to be directly proportional to the expectations placed on them by teachers and administrators. Knowing that this was the standard set for students school wide, one may only speculate at the vast number of children who fell victim to such complacency and negativity. As I am only able to imagine how detrimental it must have been to Esme’s moral in that moment to hear such foulness reign down from your superior, I commend her in the highest fashion for the manner in which she handled herself before him. I only hope that I have the courage to stand so boldly should I find myself under such circumstances. The months of April and May seem to be full of touching moments in Madame Esme’s first year. I found myself rather...
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