Educating Esme: Diary of a Teacher's First Year Discussion Questions

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in teaching. She previously taught high school in several states around the country.

After reading 'Educating Esme' with your post-secondary students or teacher professional development, use the following discussion questions to help students apply the concepts from the book to their own lives.

Educating Esme: Diary of a Teacher's First Year

Whether you are reading Educating Esme: Diary of a Teacher's First Year with your colleagues, a group of preservice teachers or as a parent, there is a lesson for you in the book. In her personal narrative, Esme Codell describes her experiences as a first-year teacher in an elementary school in Chicago. After reading the book, use these questions to foster discussion and think critically about the book.

If you are considering reading this book with your students or staff members, please note that there is use of vulgar language throughout the book.

Thinking Critically about the Plot

  • How does Esme change from the beginning of the school year to the end? What advice do you think Esme on the last day of school would give to the Esme of the first day of school?
  • What do you think Esme's goal was in writing the book?
  • What did you know about the Chicago Public School System going into this book? What did you learn?
  • Why did Esme want to become a teacher? What was her attitude on the first day of school?
  • What is the tone of the book? How does the author share her unique personality in the way she writes the book?
  • What is Esme's stance on discipline in the classroom? How does it differ from the mainstream philosophy? How successful is it?
  • Describe the relationship between Esme and her principal, Mr. Turner. What was the lowest point in their relationship? The highest? Why do you think Esme struggles against him so much?
  • Describe the incident that happened between one of Esme's students and the substitute teacher. What happened? How did Esme react? What did you think about the discipline route that she chose?

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