There are hundreds of thousands of books and websites available to help teachers navigate the labyrinth that is educating young minds. Here are just a few of the books I have used in shaping my own teaching and are worth their weight in gold. These are almost all hard copies that I have with tattered pages, writing all over their insides, and post-its falling out of their pages like entrails:
Tools for Teaching, by Dr. Frederic Jones- Dr. Jones offers an array of time-tested tactics to manage everyday classroom mayhem-- ahem, I mean, activities. He tackles a lot of the nuts and bolts for beginning teachers: classroom management, discipline, and motivation. He details specific behaviors which a teacher may run into countless times in a career (repeated disruption, the “helpless handraiser,” dawdling…) and he offers some real life advice for managing such things all the while creating a positive environment where teachers love to be and learners love to learn. Dr. Jones has several editions which grow with the changing times. My favorite thing about his latest edition (3rd), is that he includes a section about brain science and the neuropsychology of skill building. A huge part of teaching is careful attention to how the brain works. Teachers who find themselves learning about neuroscience are seeing it pay off in huge dividends in the classroom.
The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher, by Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong- If you are currently teaching, you need to read this yesterday. Your first time through, you may pick a few things to focus on (trying to do everything will probably be too much). Take a few years to build up to the opening weeks like he described. Once you get there, you will be including your own ideas and creativity, and you will be running a wonderfully successful classroom. I stand here saying, “I couldn’t have done it without Mr. Wong!” And don’t forget to watch the DVD of him actually presenting his material. It’s wonderful.
The Shakespeare Set Free books, edited by Peggy O’Brien- I loved the idea of teaching a complex text like one by Shakespeare. But, when I finally got that opportunity to teach an elective called “Shakespeare,” I was like a deer in the headlights. How can I make this come alive for a high school student? Shakespeare Set Free has daily lesson plans, handouts, and, in many cases, a suggested script for the teacher to follow. Each plan is student-centered and gets students on their feet. What better way to learn Shakespeare? It was a perfect way for me, as a fledgling teacher, to get started.
MI Strategies in the Classroom and Beyond: Using Roundtable Learning, by Dr. Ellen Weber- Call me loyal, but Dr. Weber was my education professor in undergrad. Her work still inspires my teaching almost daily. She was a pioneer for Howard Gardner’s work by implementing the concept of the different ways of learning into education. This book offers some specific day-to-day tips, but more than that, gives teachers a lot to consider while planning lessons and shaping the classroom environment. Dr. Weber gives readers an explanation for the way brains work smarter when the teacher facilitates a roundtable learning event each day.
Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching, by Charlotte Danielson- Danielson’s framework is currently used as a sort of rubric for administrators to assess the teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom. If you are a new teacher, you may want to start memorizing some portions of this text (I’m actually not kidding). Danielson does hit on four areas where an educator should be excelling. The four domains are a great way to be reflective and self-assess where you may be falling in educator effectiveness.
And, last but not least, this is not a tattered copy which I have on my bookshelf. This one has not yet been published. It’s due to be published in March 2018, and once it is published, I would recommend that all teachers pick it up! If I know teachers (and I think I can safely say I do), I know that their hearts are big. This book has opened my big heart up even bigger. The book follows the life of a psychologist named Paul Yin who dabbles in several different careers; one of which is teaching. I love this short excerpt from the book because it shows that the teacher who was out with illness obviously created a classroom climate that every teacher dreams of. It also shows how the guest teacher (Paul Yin) continued that spirit in her absence. Enjoy this excerpt:
One of the Canadian teachers in Vanessa's school was diagnosed with cancer. The teacher had to return to Canada for treatment. Vanessa convinced me to be a substitute teacher until a replacement was found. So, I became an English teacher for English language learners.
On the first day, I opened the class by asking all students to write a letter to the stricken teacher.
“Remember my rules: You can make as many mistakes in grammar and spelling as you wish. It will not cost you points. I don’t care how many mistakes you make. This needs to be a letter from the heart that touches the heart. After all, language is a communication tool. The purpose of the letter is to convey what you want the reader to feel. The only requirement is that it touches the reader. If you write a letter perfect in grammar and spelling but I don’t feel anything, it receives an F! But if it makes my eyes red, it is an A! If it makes me cry, it’s a 100!”
As everyone started to write, I noticed a student named Amboise was writing nothing. He just sat there. I walked over.
“I noticed you did not write anything.”
In his own tongue, Amboise explained, “Mr. Yin, do you know how bad my English is? The only reason that I am in this program is because my dad donated a large sum to the school. I can’t even say a complete sentence in English, and I have never received anything better than 10 on a scale of 100. There is no way I can write a letter.”
“What do you think of the teacher?”
“She is the most wonderful person I know.”
“But she has cancer. We don’t know if she will live for much longer. We just--we just don’t know. Now, how does that make you feel? Do you feel anything? Anything at all?”
“Of course I do!”
“Good! Now, this is your only chance to let her know how you feel. Find a way to communicate to her on this piece of paper. If you can’t say a complete sentence, write a partial sentence. If you can’t write a partial sentence, write a few isolated words. If you can’t write a single word, draw a picture. Just tell yourself, I have this feeling in my heart that I have to find a way to convey to her. If I don’t do this, I won’t be able to eat, drink or sleep. I won’t be able to carry on the rest of my life. I will find a way to do this; any way!”
“I will try…”
Amboise sat there for ten more minutes, then he picked up his pen. Half an hour later, he handed me his letter. I read it and cried. The letter contained four “words” and the only word spelled correctly was the word “I,” which is rather impossible to spell wrong. It said “U sik, I pane!” You sick, I pain. Tears rolled down my face. I hugged Amboise.
“I just read the best letter I have ever read in my life. You are a wonderful student, Amboise! More importantly, you are a wonderful human being. Listen, I will only be your teacher for a few weeks. When I leave, a letter like this might only get you 10 points, max. Not 100. But do not mind that. Forget about the grade. Just do everything with your heart and express yourself with courage, without worrying about making mistakes or what other people think of you. Keep up your good work!