As the school year winds down to a close, many teachers including myself are looking forward to some much needed time to relax and recharge our batteries before doing it all over again this fall. What vacation would be complete without a stack of books to delve into during the hot summer days? In this post I’d like to offer a few suggestions of some books that I’ve found to be most valuable in my growth as a teacher. I find myself returning to them regularly and they have altered for the better my approach to teaching, so I’m sharing them with you in the hopes that you will also find them useful.
Okay, this first book may seem more theoretical than practical, but bear with me for a moment. Have you ever had a really bright student? One who for years had easily exceeded academic expectations, but then seemed hesitant to really take on a new challenge? I usually have at least one every year, and I could never understand why someone so intellectually gifted shied away from even the smallest challenge…until I read this book and understood the two different mindsets people have when it comes to learning. The author clearly spells out the differences between the growth and fixed mindsets and the long-term implications of thinking that result. Before you pass this book by, consider reading it to gain a broader perspective on the mindset that is required for true, lasting learning to occur with our students. Not only in our classrooms, but also throughout their entire lives.
Let’s go in the opposite direction with this book by Doug Lemov. Very practical! Almost a reference book, especially if you get the field guide version. Excellent if you are pursuing professional growth on your own or with a small group of colleagues. There are 49 specific techniques, each with their own chapter. The author lays out their use and purpose, as well as variations. Pick and choose the ones you want most to focus on, but don’t be overwhelmed by the number of techniques offered. While there are 49 to choose from, the very best teachers are great at only five or six. That’s a manageable number for anyone.
If you’ve read any of my posts in the Writing 101 Series, then you will remember me mentioning this writing approach. It’s not fancy and it’s not “creative” (whatever that means) but it definitely gets the job done. If your students come to you with great writing skills, then this may not be the book for you. However, if you have struggling writers I think you will find this book an invaluable resource. The simplicity of the basic four square graphic organizer lets you modify it according to your specific writing project without diluting the power of its organized approach. I couldn’t imagine teaching writing without it.
A Change in the Schedule
Those are three books that I relied on heavily this past school year. Since I’m a voracious reader, I could probably post a different book review almost every Tuesday with a new book! That could become a little tedious, though. Besides, a teacher’s time is so valuable that it makes sense to only share the “best of the best” at this time. With only a few days left in my school year, I will be paring back my postings on The Reflective Educator to every Friday. My goal is to resume posting again also on Tuesdays after Labor Day. My order of new books to begin reading this summer is due to arrive this week…just in time!