Thursday, September 3, 2009


Hi, everybody! Thank you so much for stopping by this new blog for elementary educators who want to gear up, cheer up and change the world. I'm the author of Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher's First Year. This blog is my way of celebrating the diary's reissue this fall, and saying a small "thank you" to all the wonderful, hard-working people who read it. Student teachers, new teachers, veterans and community has broadened as a result of the book, and I hope that through this blog, yours can, too. The purpose of this blog is for new teacher support and all-teacher camaraderie, not for personal Q&A (my favorite color is orange), flaming or flattering my books (Goodreads at your service), or any lengthy academic diatribes (unless we feel like it). I know teachers are short on time, so I hope this work-in-progress will be a quick stop for ideas, support, inspiration, links, how-to's, smiles, recommendations, teacher friendship and a place where you can feel free to comment and say, "hey! I did a great job today!"

I do want to use this first entry to answer two of the most common questions I receive. "So what have you been up to since the diary came out? Did you quit teaching?" Even though the book ends after my second year of working with the Chicago Public Schools, I worked for several years in the schools after that. When Educating Esmé came out, I resigned my position in order to work on other projects and realize other dreams, including national advocacy for literature-based learning and read-aloud. I spent a joyful year homeschooling my son, taught full-time at a private, progressive school, wrote several novels for preteen readers and a guide to children's literature, and started the PlanetEsme Bookroom, an independent venture in Chicago in which I opened a storefront salon and resource collection of about twelve thousand children's books and offered free programming for my community. During this time, I also started The PlanetEsme Plan, a blog that recommends the best brand spanking new children's books, and some oldies but goodies as well...I hope you'll check it out, back-to-school books are posted now! Currently, I am in graduate school for library science, and then I will continue my work in education, teacher support and the world of children's books. Vive la lifelong learning!

The second, more important question I am asked is, "do you have any advice for first year teachers?" The answer is "sure!" I have compiled twenty-five of my very best, most pragmatic hints in the new edition of Educating Esmé (as well as a handy-dandy new teacher shopping checklist), and we will be discussing many of my suggestions here on this blog in the coming weeks, so I hope you'll revisit the book with the new material and contribute to the conversation. Speaking of weeks, every week for the next several of them, I will be giving away a free copy of the big honking resource How To Get Your Child to Love Reading to someone who comments on this blog (chosen at random). For starters, I put the question to you: what is the best piece of advice you have for a new teacher, or that you have received? Pros, please share your expertise! Newbies, even if you haven't been in the trenches, bequeath the best advice you've gotten so far, or what you wish you could have told someone else! Homeschoolers, please contribute your unique insight!

And before signing off, may I please share three links of special interest?
  •, a major, mega, teacher-centered cyber-metropolis that offers chatboards, job postings, lesson plans, on-line mentorship and more. Every first year teacher needs this bookmarked!
  • Ellen Moir's Phases of First-Year Teaching. Fasten your seat belt...but know you are not alone.
  • My abridged diary on audio, free for your listening pleasure. Produced by Jay Allison with Christina Egloff for their "Life Stories" series and Chicago Public Radio.
And one last thing: a special thank you to Katherine Paterson, legendary author of classic books such as BRIDGE TO TEREBITHIA and THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS and the soon-to-be-released DAY OF THE PELICAN for writing the new foreword to the book. I have not stopped pinching myself!

Happy September, everyone! Glad to mark you "present."

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.
Thanks to friends in Galesburg for the photo and the Miss Pointy artwork.
Thanks to Stacy Buehler for the storytime photo. poster by Jim Pollock.
Thanks to Melissa Jacot for her assistance.
More Esmé stuff at


Karen Evans said...

This is my first year teaching special eduation in Highland Park, IL. I love "Educating Esme" and am excited for your new teacher blog. Thanks :)

Susan Bearman said...

I'm a substitute teacher, does that count. My advice came straight from my daughter, because I was a nervous wreck on my first day. She said: "Don't forget to introduce yourself — you would be amazed at how many substitutes never tell us their names. And don't pretend to know things you don't know."

That advice has worked brilliantly for me. Good luck to Esme on this new blog and to all you teachers for a fabulous school year.

Ms. Yingling said...

Glad to see you reaching out to new teachers, but have to say that I have never liked reading aloud, either as a student or a librarian-- it's just too slow! I also have trouble processing things I hear and do much better looking at the words. I can't be all alone in this.

elyse said...


Your new website is a feast for the teacher. You are an inspiration. Now, that I no longer have my art room, tell me how to make my new dungeon (you know what it looks like), cozier.


Z-Kids said...

yea! congrats on the new blog! and re-issue!

Sheila said...

Congratulations on this new blog, Esme. I wish it had been around WAY back when I was a new teacher in inner-city Philadelphia.

Stacy said...

Thanks for your blog. I'm a first year SpEd teacher and am going insane with stress. I hope to continue looking through the site for more info and inspiration.

miss.calcul8 said...

My best piece of advice is complex.

First, before you fully pursue education, try being a substitute teacher. I learned so much by doing that first: how to be flexible, how to think on my feet, how to learn student names quickly, how to have class with no plans, how to read people, and time management. Not to mention all the good ideas and things not to do that you can steal by being privy to so many teacher's classrooms!

Before you start your first teaching job, my advice is to prepare as many lessons over the summer or ahead of time as you can. Even if they aren't perfect or awesome or you don't even know how you want to teach, it's a great starting point.

Once you actually start teaching, my huge awesome always works advice is BUILD RELATIONSHIP WITH STUDENTS. Do anything you can to break down barriers and know the students on a personal level. Make a joke, observation, funny comment, compliment or anything that will develop a relationship that belongs between you and that student alone.

Ok ok, I'm done, but I could go on forever!

nmrosycheeks said...

I am thoroughly enjoying exploring "Planet Esme" world. Thank you for all the links and tips! As a first year teacher, the one thing I know for sure is that it's OK to admit when I don't know something. It is my practice to write down the topic, and research it overnight, then present the new info to my 3rd graders the following day. They've asked about ticks, whales, hiccups... all sorts of things, and I really feel like I'm displaying my own love of learning (not to mention research skills!) when I come back to them with new info.
Maybe I can use part of my next paycheck to pick up your guide for getting kids to love reading--this month's check is already spent! Best regards to all.