A great friend of mine invited me Saturday night to the Richmond Forum to hear Sir Kenneth Robinson and Rafe Esquith speak. Wow.
Dr. Robinson was funnier than I’d ever heard him before through videos; he was actually half stand-up comedian. It was a dry humor that drew you in, and by the end, he could have sold you anything. But he sold me once again on what anyone would, common-sense perspectives on education today. He champions creativity as a vital component in today’s schools.
I’m paraphrasing here what he shared Saturday night:
> You can’t ever say that Americans don’t get irony. I hear that, but it is not true. Shortly after moving here, to Los Angeles, you all passed some legislation called “No Child Left Behind.” Laughter from audience. No, I’m serious, that’s the most ironic title of anything I’d heard in my work in education. I said “Whomever titled this one really understands irony.” And I can’t blame you. The more apt title is “Millions of Children Left Behind,” but let’s face it, that’s just depressing. So, here was your predicament. You had legislation that was going to leave millions of your kids behind with a real chance in this world, and you took the high road of irony to name it. “No Child Left Behind.” Yeah, takes the sting out of it when you can laugh about it.
Mr. Esquith was unfamiliar to me by name, and because of that, I hadn’t reserved any high expectations for him. But he was even more impressive than Dr. Robinson. A 5th grade teacher (still practicing), he had an amazing perspective and moral compass about his station in life. He was among the most powerful, moving speakers I’ve heard. He’s really making a difference in the lives of his students, who all attend what sounds like a pretty tough, inner-city school. Esquith has achieved what he has by developing his own curriculum, and always taking the right path, no matter the sea of red tape or possible complications. He teaches his kids Shakespeare and they perform it. His kids play musical instruments each and every day. Most kids spend up to 12 hours in his classroom, from 6 AM to 6 PM. And he licks behavior starting on the first day by setting the most high of expectations.
Esquith sees the value in including artistic endeavors in the lives of his students, especially that of drama, poetry, and music.
I look forward to checking out Esquith’s book and any opportunity in the future to hear him. He has so much to teach us in the profession of education.