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August 14, 2007

The Madness In His Method

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Students around the country are getting ready to go back to school, so it's the perfect time to talk to a teacher. Rafe Esquith is a 5th grade teacher from Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles. He is, quite possibly, the "it" teacher of the moment, with interviews ranging from USA Today to P.O.V., in support of his new book, "Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire - The Method and Madness Inside Room 56."

Other interviews with Rafe have focused on his methods - charging kids rent for their classroom seats, for example. But we were interested in his "madness." Namely, teaching his 5th graders, most of whom speak English as a second language, Shakespeare.

Rafe was traveling on a book tour with 16 of his students this past January when he came into the studio to talk with Dick Gordon. He brought two students with him, Felix and Isel. Both children are native Spanish speakers. The students talk about their new understanding and love for The Bard, and they perform a short scene from memory.


Sarah Horton hates it when people compare her to Shakespeare's Juliet - true, she is in a relationship with someone her family hasn't always approved of. Her boyfriend, Basil Hamdan, is careful in how he talks about Sarah to his family. But anyone in their situation would proceed with caution: Sarah is part Jewish, and Basil is Palestinian.

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