Friday, April 15, 2011

Books for Those Who Teach

Focus for this List: I've been a teacher for 12 years now. Most of that has been in a rather non-traditional setting. For 7 years, however, I taught in various private schools. In my last year of teaching, I found a book that, had I found it earlier, might have kept me in the classroom. Here's a list for everyone still in the trenches (and for those looking to join the lonely horde). 

1.  The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher by Harry Wong, & Rosemary Wong
Despite the somewhat cheesy title, this really is a very factual guide (and collection of lists) of what you need to do to get ready for your first year of teaching. Remember, as M. always says, your first year at a new school is still a first year of teaching, so hold on to this one and be ready to pull it out and use as needed.

2.  The Teacher's Survival Guide: Real Classroom Dilemmas and Practical Solutions, by Marc Major
This is the book that I wish I'd found earlier. This is a fabulous mix of good philosophy, and brutally practical advice. The sections on classroom management should be required reading for everyone.  If you buy only one book, this is the one. 

3.  The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life, 10th Anniversary Edition by Parker Palmer
This is a book to read over the summer. It focuses on the idea that you can only teach effectively from a position that is true to who you are at the core. In other words, if focuses on that unpopular notion that not everything can be prescribed and that teachers are individuals who may find different solutions to the same problems. A very thoughtful book that can help you articulate why things work or don't work well for you.

4.  Tongue Fu! At School: 30 Ways to Get Along with Teachers, Principals, Students, and Parents by Sam Horn
Ok, I'll admit it, I picked this one up initially because the title made me giggle. Still, having read it, this is a guide to the snappy come-back and thoughtful response that calm situations down and keep things managable.  It's a delightful read.

5.  Coloring Outside the Lines by Dr. Roger Schank
This is aimed more at parents than at teachers, and yet, I found it quite an enjoyable read. The author talks about some specific ways to raise kids who are more verbal, creative, analytical, and inquisitive, and who have more gumption, and ambition. Yes, that list is straight from the table of contents. This would be especially helpful for those with younger kiddos.

6. The Students Are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract by Theodore Sizer and Nancy Sizer
This is another summer read for teachers (when else would you have time?).  It's an interesting discussion of how our small, everyday actions impact the kids and the culture of the school.  Aimed primarily at those dealing with the middle and upper grades, I think this would be a good book for parents to read as well.

7.  Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 by Rafe Esquith
This is the 5th grade teacher we all wish we'd had. He's had a while to work out some elaborate (and really cool) systems, but I'm not sure how well they would work if you don't have the same group of kids all day.  Still, as an inspirational read, it's wonderful.

8. Teaching with Love & Logic: Taking Control of the Classroom  by Jim Fay & David Funk
Another summer read, when you can sit down and read it all the way through, this has become one of the standard ways to deal with classroom discipline.

9. Fair Isn't Always Equal: Assessing & Grading in the Differentiated Classroom by Rick Wormeli
This is a really thoughtful analysis of how we grade the work, and how to structure our classroom so that it can be truly fair to all of the little ones. The analogy that always strikes me?  How is it fair that I get to wear glasses and someone else doesn't? Well if someone "needs glasses" in order to "see the board" then, isn't it fair that we make sure the student gets what is needed in the way of support?

10.  Chronicles of Fairacre by Miss Read
For when all the books of theory, advice, and rhetoric about rubrics have just been too much, escape to the 1955, beautifully imagined world of Fairacre. A peaceful sanctuary, and an enjoyable read.


  1. Great list! I LOVE Love and Logic and actually heard the authors in person. And a book for you (it's hilarious and sooooo true!!):
    It's Not All Flowers and Sausages: My Adventures in Second Grade
    Mrs. Mimi (Paperback - Sep 1, 2009)
    She also has a website by the same name (the first part). I think you'd find her to be a hoot!
    ~Amanda B

  2. Thanks for stopping by my "Party in Paris" on friday! Great list of reads. I hope you will stop over again and link up "your best post of the week."


  3. I will take a closer look at some - even though I see that teaching over here (in Germany) is probably slightly different from what you do in the US (different school system, different expectations, different social restrictions). Still I find it pretty interesting. Teaching ESL I always found books on language teaching and language acquisition far more helpful than any book on teaching in general. I have some general guides, but they never told me anything I hadn't known before. Let's see what your number 6 and 8 can "teach" me ;-) Thanks for this list!!!

  4. Thanks for stopping by my blog! I love the concept of your blog, probably because I'm a fellow teacher and bibliophile. And as far as this list goes, there are so many good books about teaching that it's hard to narrow it down to ten books that are worthwhile, so I'm definitely impressed. :-) Currently I am trying to write a novel about teaching (in all my -- ha ha *ahem* -- free time), hoping that one day I, too, may make it to a list in BlogLand. :-)

    Have a lovely day!