Jessica: Hi, Ashley. I know it is super early but I think it is going to be worth it because you are going to meet someone who has been named teacher of the year. He has also been knighted by the queen of England. And what is really cool about him is that he teaches kids who didn’t grow up speaking English how to perform rock and roll versions of Shakespeare’s plays. So, are you ready to meet him?
Jessica: Okay. Let’s go.
The teacher who inspired Ashley, Rafe Esquith, gets to school before dawn and so do many of his fifth graders. This may help them beat the odds because only a third of Hobart’s students graduate from high school.
All of Rafe’s students are poor, which is a big stumblng block when it comes to academic success.
Hi, Rafe. I am Jessica. Nice to meet you. This is Ashley, and Ashley is the one who is thinking about following in your footsteps.
Rafe Esquith: Hi, everybody! Do you want the good news or the bad news?
Students: Bad news!
Rafe: Okay, there are some things you have to do today. You have to play baseball.
Rafe: We’re going to work on our bridges today!
Rafe: For those of you who haven’t had a chance to meet her, that is Ashley back there. The one in red. She is thinking about teaching.
Jessica: Ashley hadn’t been there long before she got teaching tips….from the students!
Student: Have a sense of humor. Don’t always be so strict to the kids because by the end of the school year, they might not like you that well.
Student: Fun is a good thing. School should be fun, and you can have fun and work real hard.
Jessica: Case in point: the way Rafe’s students learn Shakespeare.
Student: The pale companion is not for our pomp!
Jessica: Not many fifth graders study Midsummer Night’s Dream, and even fewer do it with electric guitars, sunglasses and dance moves.
Rafe: I have three great loves in the world: baseball, rock and roll and Shakespeare. And they are all part of this classroom.
Jessica: And Rafe also covers everything from science to history to English.
Rafe: What was George Orwell’s real name?
Do you know that show, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? Right now, I am not feeling like I am!
Jessica: One thing Rafe stresses: if you don’t know the answer, ask questions.
Yeon Jin recently moved here from Korea, so she might have problems with a test she takes today.
You might get some things wrong. What is going to happen?
Yeon Jin: I’ll ask you some questions.
Do you think I will answer? What if you have to ask fifty times, do you think I will answer it?
Rafe: Ashley, something for you to think about: job description of a teacher. Professional explainer. That is what we do. Another part of the job: grading tests and papers.
Jessica: So, obviously, teaching is not all glamorous and fun. It involves stuff like this. So, what do you think about that?
Ashely: Everything has its down, cons. It might get boring.
Jessica: Another challenge: the long hours. Rafe works about eleven hours a day.
Rafe: I want the kids to work hard, so I have to be the hardest worker they’ve ever seen.
Jessica: But the hard work pays off. Not only do Rafe’s students perform Shakespeare plays across the U.S. and in England, many have gone on to get college degrees from some of the best universities in the country.
So, what comes next for Ashley to get a teaching gig?
For public schools, most states require elementary teachers to have a college degree and to complete a teacher preparation program. Elementary school teachers earn an average of $53,000 a year.
Students who are interested in teaching elementary school should study a wide range of subjects because they are likely going to have to teach all of them.
So, do you think that career test that you took, do you think it was accurate?
Ashley: I do. This really inspired me today.
Jessica: Did Rafe’s students think Ashley could make the grade?
What about Ashley? Who thinks she can be a teacher someday?
Student: I think so!
Jessica: Ashley was lucky, even with the help of a career counselor it can be tough for people to find the job they love.