Known as an inspiring teacher, Rafe Esquith spoke Friday to aspiring and seasoned teachers on ways to further engage their students during Heidelberg University's School of Education's second annual Education Summit.
Esquith is a fifth-grade teacher at Hobart Elementary, a school located in downtown Los Angeles. His classroom is known simply as Room 56.
At Hobart Elementary, there is no grass and the school is surrounded by a 16-foot fence that is locked at every corner, Esquith said.
PHOTO BY NICOLE WALBY
Fifth-grade teacher Rafe Esquith talks Friday during Heidelberg University’s second annual Education Summit on ways to help teachers further engage their students.
"It is not a pleasant place. Students are not allowed to drink the water in my classroom, as the city had deemed it not-drinkable," Esquith said.
Esquith said, at the school, only 32 percent of students finish high school.
"As a teacher, you will have bad days. You will have horrible days," Esquith said." You can do everything right and do the best you can and still have bad days."
During Esquith's talk, "What Good Teachers Do to Enhance Student Learning," he discussed how he teaches students by using Lawrence Kohlberg's Six
Levels of Moral Development.
The six levels describe students completing their work because: one, they don't want to get in trouble; two, want a reward; three, to please the teacher or parents; four, because it is the rule; five, to be considerate of other people; and six, because they have a personal code of behavior to follow and live by.
Esquith said he works to teach the students until they reach level six.
"I teach my students these principles by having a conversation with them and allowing them to slowly figure out who they are," Esquith said.
Esquith has spent 30 years in the education system. He is the author of four books, "Real Talk for Real Teachers," "Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire," "There Are No Shortcuts" and "Lighting Their Fires."
Heidelberg students study Esquith's books in several courses, including principles of learning and teaching, vital connections and curriculum and instruction for young children.
Esquith said he is asked how he can have so much energy after 30 years. He said, "I don't let the system crush me. You need to learn to put yourself in your classroom."
Esquith has received honors from Oprah, Queen Elizabeth II and the Dalai Lama. He has won awards including the President's National Medal of the Arts and the National Teacher of the Year.