4 Books You Should Read Before the New School Year
If you’re browsing the aisles of your local bookstore during your summer vacation from school, you’re likely gravitating away from the education aisle in favor of lighter fare. The opportunity to decompress over the summer is important, and engaging with books which have nothing to do with kids and teaching is a great way to do that.
But summer’s leisurely pace also makes it an ideal time to invest in yourself through self-guided professional development. Expanding upon your summer reading by adding one (or more) of these well-regarded books is a great way to do that.
For inspiration: Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 by Rafe Esquith
If you’re curious about the origin of the title, you might be amused (or frightened) to learn that Esquith did set his hair on fire, and was so engrossed in helping a student with a chemistry experiment that he didn’t realize till the kids began screaming. The incident underscores the passion he has for his work and his students.
This is written as more of a memoir about teaching; it doesn’t feature the kind of hands-on advice and strategies you can implement as is. But the material is thought-provoking, and you will still likely come away with new thoughts about engaging your students. Esquith freely shares his opinions; he disdains our emphasis on testing and strives to incorporate creativity into the curriculum. And his accounts of the challenges of teaching in an under-resourced school in Los Angeles may spark inspiration, no matches required.
For practical tips: The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher by Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong
A strong beginning is vital to a successful school year. Last updated in 2009, The First Days of School is a timeless collection of ideas and strategies for teaching successfully. It addresses simple tasks, like arranging seats, an element of teacher preparation which usually isn’t taught. While none of the content will be new in theory, the authors frame all of it in an easy-to-follow format which quickly gets to the point. Nearly 4 million copies of this book have been sold, a testament to its effectiveness.
For creating a culture of success: The Growth Mindset Coach: A Teacher's Month-by-Month Handbook for Empowering Students to Achieve by Annie Brock and Heather Huntley
The Growth Mindset Coach focuses on helping students develop a growth mindset. In brief, a student with a growth mindset understands that his or her ability isn’t fixed, and that hard work and practice can lead to positive change. Brock and Huntley’s work stems from Dr. Carol Dweck’s groundbreaking research into how we think about talent and creativity, which she presented in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Though not written specifically for educators, Dweck’s well-regarded book gained popularity among teachers who wanted to apply her ideas in their classrooms, and gave rise to a collection of books on ways to use mindsets to improve teaching and learning. Brock and Huntly have applied Dweck’s work to a school setting and developed a resource to make the concept more relevant for students. They’ve included a wide range of hands-on materials, from lesson plans to parent communication tools.
For enhancing your people skills: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
First published in 1937 and still a bestseller, How to Win Friends and Influence People remains relevant. While not a teaching book, its lessons nonetheless have the potential to make a significant difference in your career. Teaching is a profession about people, and while we think about students first and foremost (as we should) they aren’t the only important people we come in contact with. Developing positive relationships with their parents and caregivers is a vital but occasionally challenging aspect which doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Building collaborative relationships with colleagues and administrators is crucial, but can also be fraught with tension. This book lays out a series of principles which will guide you through the process of improving the way you relate to others, which may provide benefits for everyone you interact with as a teacher.
The best teachers never stop learning, and the above are just a sampling of the abundant high-quality books out there. Engaging with a great professional book can be a low-key way to begin preparing yourself for another successful school year.
Tracy Derrell is a Hudson Valley-based freelance writer who specializes in blogging and educational publishing. She taught English in New York City for sixteen years.