One of my mentors used to start each one of his inspirational speeches with the quip, “What are the two most compelling reasons to be a teacher? July and August!” Although it seems like a lot of vacation, master teachers know that most of that time is used taking apart classrooms, refining curricula, mastering new skills, and beginning the new school year by setting up rooms afresh. All the same, it’s a good idea to set aside some time to rest and recharge for the coming year, and what better to do that with than a good book?
My number-one recommendation to newer teachers has always been Teach Like a Champion, by Doug Lemov. The classic teacher guide has now been joined by a 2.0 version that includes a DVD, and there’s a workbook that you can purchase separately. Lemov’s writing is easy to read and understand, and while it makes somewhat unorthodox beach reading, can be absorbed anywhere.
As a student, I read the book Skullcaps and Switchblades, by David B. Lazerson. A bearded Orthodox Jew, “Laz” is assigned to a classroom of African-American children with learning disabilities in an inner-city school in Buffalo, New York. His style of writing is humorous, and he doesn’t take himself too seriously. The reader is along for a terrific ride as Laz uses Talmudic precepts and beatboxing to reach his students across a gaping cultural divide. This book is a must-read for any teacher who works with diverse populations.
Any teacher who’s struggled with discipline should read Teaching With Love and Logic. A spin-off of the very popular parenting book and program, it’s very easy to follow. It’s also logical, as you can tell by the title.
If you’re over 30, it will definitely be helpful to read iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood--and What That Means for the Rest of Us. By Jean M. Twenge, this book will help you understand the very different world in which your students are growing up. I found it more than a bit frightening, but very illuminating.
Last, here are some books that aren’t specifically about teaching, teachers, or students, but I’ve found to be very helpful in shaping what and how I teach.
· Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. This talks a lot about what goes into true mastery of any skill.
· Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared M. Diamond. If you teach history, this is a must!
· The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch. This is very moving, and it’s not very long.
· Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. If you haven’t read this already, read it this summer. No, watching the movie doesn’t count.
Here’s to a wonderful and growing summer to all my teacher friends and colleagues. May you all walk into your new classrooms in September refreshed, rested, and ready to do your best to get the best out of your students!