It can be difficult to get inspired during the last few months of teaching. The weather is either miserable, or so nice that you can't concentrate, your students are on your last nerve, and your school administration has exhausted you with tons of initiatives. Now is the perfect time to read some inspirational books with the wisdom to help you make it through the last months.
This is a must-have for every teacher's library. Jackson provides excellent, doable strategies for developing a master teacher mind-set by applying seven principles. The layout of the book is perfect. Each chapter focuses on one of the principles, including "Start Where Your Students Are," "Know Where Your Students Are Going," "Support Students," and "Use Feedback," and features a relatable classroom anecdote to highlight teaching challenges that the principle helps address. Jackson includes research to support her principles, and she provides a practical approach for implementing them in your classroom.
The sections labeled "Yes, but . . ." anticipate and refute your concerns, making her advice well-rounded and sound. I found many of my current challenges articulated in the book, and I felt relieved to find there were immediate changes I could make to help my students get back on track.
Who couldn't use an energy bus at this time of year? Gordon provides actionable strategies for infusing energy and positivity into your job. They focus on reinvigorating the vision, trust, optimism, purpose, enthusiasm, and spirit that define great leaders. The book takes you on a journey with George, a burned-out and miserable executive, husband, and father, who takes a ride on the energy bus. He learns the "10 Rules for the Ride of Your Life," including "Fuel your ride with positive energy" and "Don't waste your energy on those who don't get on your bus." While the delivery may be somewhat corny, the strategies in this book excited me, and I'm ready to incorporate some of them into both my school and personal lives.
Gerry was a student in my sophomore English class. During the first few weeks of school, whenever I said anything that resonated with Gerry, he let out a loud "Yes, Ms. Barile! You go, Ms. Barile." It drove me insane. Finally, I sat him down so we could talk about it. I learned that Gerry attended church for approximately four hours every Sunday, and it was customary for the congregation to give words of approval and encouragement to the minister during the sermon. Gerry was simply doing the same in my classroom as a way to show appreciation, not to interrupt. I would have better understood this cultural difference and how to navigate it if I had read Lisa Delpit's book sooner.
In it, Delpit explains that what are often labeled as "academic problems" for children of color come down to miscommunications. After reading this book, I am more cognizant of how the power imbalances in our society affect the classroom. I recognize that I must also value and make use of the language and cultures children bring from home. This is a book I know I will re-read and consult many times.
In a time when teaching is stifled by high-stakes testing and standardization, it's inspirational to see a critically democratic alternative. Schultz recognizes that in most classrooms there is "little nurturing of the strengths and abilities learned outside of school, but rather a devaluing of [students'] adaptive and street intelligences." He, however, creates a curriculum based on his students' needs, and challenges them to solve a community problem. This way, school subjects become reframed as relevant parts of a solution. He found that given this opportunity, students use innovation, creativity, and determination to truly effect change. One statement Schultz made stood out to me as a constant reminder: "The role of the teacher is to provide opportunity and space to the students." This book has allowed me to renew my focus on exactly what students—and teachers—should be doing in their classrooms.
When I saw Jose Luis Vilson speak at a conference, I knew I had to read his book. In it, Vilson explores race, class, and education through eye-opening narratives and essays about his own schooling and teaching experiences. It speaks to many teachers' frustrations with an educational system that fails to meet the needs of diverse student populations and refuses to listen to the voices of its teachers. Vilson is an honest and authentic advocate for children, explaining that while all teachers have struggles and triumphs, we must not give up.
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Reading these inspirational books at challenging points in the year has helped to rejuvenate me as an educator. Read them yourself for the extra boost of the strength, focus, and energy you need to be the teacher your students deserve.