In his book Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire (Reviews, Oct. 9) Rafe Esquith offers advice for teachers.

Does your new book build on your first, There Are No Shortcuts?

After the first book, I got thousands of questions on how to get from point A to point B, the "nuts and bolts." With this book, I want teachers to say, "Yes, I can do it." It's like a cookbook: I'm offering recipes teachers can add to their menus. Doing this book, I read a lot of what young teachers are reading. I found it disturbing that these books are all about control— making sure all your lines are straight and all the children are listening. I want to set the bar higher and talk about really educating our children.

What do you advise the teacher who's not allowed to be creative—she's being evaluated on her students' test scores, and she's required to teach to a script in math and reading?

First, you play by the rules—otherwise you'll be fired and you won't be any kind of teacher. I jump through hoops all the time. For instance, today I have to give an absurd reading test that's not going to help the students —we won't even get the results back! But I'm going to do it, because I'm paid to. Still, this book shows you there are things you can do. The Marcy Cook math tiles, for instance, are fantastic and cost just $30 a year—you can easily use these to supplement any state math curriculum.

So do what's required, and then add the good stuff?

Absolutely. The second section of the book—the Method—is useful for people who want to be good teachers, but can't give up their entire lives. I'm saying, from 8 to 3, let's give it your best shot—let's not just phone it in.

How do you get the energy to work 12 hours a day, 12 months a year?

When you work really hard with the kids, they start to become the people you enjoy being around. There's a tactile energy level in my classroom that's phenomenal! But sure, I'm tired all the time. And I have bad days when things don't work. I write about that too, because I'm tired of reading books that say, "Oh, if you just do these three things, the child will learn." It's not true. When people come to my class, the one thing they notice is the kids' independence, the way they show initiative. They do the right thing even when the teacher's not around. To me, that's the measure of good teaching.