For Teachers, By Teachers: Top 11 Books that Document the Teacher Experience

If you’re thinking about becoming a teacher, you may be envisioning a picture-perfect classroom where students eagerly raise their hands to answer questions and quickly quiet down when a teacher walks into the room at the start of class. The reality is that teaching can be difficult, and often frustrating, but it is also one of the most rewarding professions that allow you to truly make a difference in the lives of students.

Teachers are some of the most important role models for children and adolescents, but in order to really make an impact, teachers need to continuously refine their craft. For new and prospective teachers, there are no better role models than veteran teachers. The following are 11 must-reads for teachers that document real teachers’ experiences, both successes and failures. All of these books help immerse readers in the teaching community and are resources for new teachers (and veterans).

  • The First Days of School: How To Be An Effective Teacher

    By Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong

    If you’re looking for books by teachers about teaching, look no further! This book is a must-read for teachers and is regularly used at teacher training universities. Veteran educator Harry Wong helps teachers establish routines and proactive approaches to classroom management. With this book, your classroom will be running smoothly from day one.

  • Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America

    By Paul Tough

    Geoffrey Canada had a dream to change the lives of at-risk children in Harlem by providing them with the same opportunities that were afforded to their middle and upper class peers. This novel chronicles his establishment of Harlem’s Children Zone and offers a glimpse inside the heart and mind of a teacher working for a cause.

  • The Freedom Writers Diary

    By Erin Gruwell

    After witnessing the horror of the Rodney King riots, Erin Gruwell worked on representing compassion and respect to her inner city students. This diary is filled with entries by 150 students sharing their personal experiences and was turned into a major motion picture.

  • Teacher Man: A Memoir

    By Frank McCourt

    Before he became a famous writer, McCourt was a teacher in New York City schools. This memoir chronicles his early years of teaching, which was anything but smooth and oftentimes humorous.

  • Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher's First Year

    By Esmé Raji Codell

    “Madame Esmé” documented her first year teaching in a Chicago school and often used humor and unconventional approaches to motivate her students. Her enthusiastic nature is infectious and her experiences remind us that nobody is perfect.

  • The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life

    By Parker J. Palmer

    Great teachers are both introspective and reflective, and Palmer’s book helps teachers to look within themselves to overcome fears and obstacles that may get in the way of great teaching. Palmer’s novel helps you to get in touch with the spiritual side of teaching.

  • A Place Called School

    By John Goodlad

    For over four years, investigators interviewed teachers, students and administrators in over 1,000 classes to create this book. An experienced educator, Goodlad explores the true power of education and provides the groundwork for improvement.

  • See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers

    By Roxanna Elden

    Full of veteran teachers’ insights, this book reminds you that while a number of things can go wrong, things will get better. Teachers provide stories of some of their best and most disastrous situations in this beautiful pairing of humor and wisdom.

  • Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56

    By Rafe Esquith

    While the title alone speaks volumes, celebrated Los Angeles educator Esquith shares his best practices for success with even the most puzzling students—something all teachers can benefit from. His methods definitely work and his students are all the more confident because of them.

  • 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny: Life Lessons from Teaching

    By Phillip Done

    Done’s novel is a chronicle of the everyday joys and mishaps of being an elementary school teacher. While teaching can often be difficult, Done reminds us that it can also be delightful.

  • Crossing the Water: Eighteen Months on an Island Working with Troubled Boys-a Teacher's Memoir

    By Daniel Robb

    This heartwarming memoir shares the experiences of Daniel Robb, who spent three years teaching juvenile delinquents on an island near Cape Cod. Never romanticized, Robb reminds us to look at each and every student as a whole child with a life outside the classroom that impacts their learning.




The 8-week Harvard Bok Teaching Certificate online short course is delivered by Harvard’s Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, in association with HarvardX. Students in this course will engage deeply with the most relevant research on effective teaching methods in the higher education context, while refining their own practices, portfolio, and teaching philosophy.

Sponsored Program



Comic Books in the Classroom

The Summer Reading Flowchart: Young Adult Books

Comics as Educational Text