When Summer finally arrives, it feels like we can finally breathe again. With no one constantly shouting our names (be it principals, other teachers, or our students), it’s like we get a chance to hear our own internal voice again.
For me, once I’ve relaxed long enough not to cringe every time the word “school” is mentioned, I start thinking about the upcoming year and how to make my classroom even better for my students.
Because I find reading relaxing, and it’s also how I solve most of my problems, I’ve found a number of useful teaching books over the past few years. A few of these are well known and always bound to find themselves on someone’s reading list, but others aren’t as well known and as appreciated as they should be.
Even if you’re a veteran teacher, I’m sure you’ll find some of these useful (or at least entertaining). With each recommendation, I’ve shared parts that have especially resounded with me.
For full disclosure: The links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. But, I have read all of these books and I wouldn’t recommend them unless I believed they could be helpful to you.
For the new teacher:
1. The Reluctant Disciplinarian: This is a book about a teacher’s journey from a chaotic classroom to an orderly one. It has a lot of humor and a lot of practical ideas for what to do in your classroom.
What stuck with me from this book: part of winning students over is “acting the part” of what they think a teacher should be and what a classroom should look like. If you don’t meet those expectations (and they aren’t what you think), students will act out in disappointment.
2. The First Days of School: This is one that you’ll find on every new teacher reading list, but I don’t care because it’s still a great resource. Once you’ve read The Reluctant Disciplinarian, you’ll understand why the stuff in this book is so important. It all boils down to developing procedures, positive student relationships, and a safe learning environment.
What stuck with me from this book: their definition of an effective teacher and what it means to have high expectations of students. They do a good job of clarifying some of the terms that teachers and schools throw around without defining.
For the teacher who needs to decompress after a rough year:
3. Adequate Yearly Progress: This is a satiric novel about the daily nonsense that teachers go through. You will recognize some of your daily struggles in it and feel comforted in the fact that you’re definitely not alone!
4. Go See the Principal: I got this book because I’m a fan of Gerry Brooks’ Youtube videos. This book isn’t the same laugh-a-minute format, but you will still laugh a lot. And it will give you hope that there are, in fact, administrators out there who know what teachers really need to make it through the year.
For the teacher who needs Summer to arrive right. now.
5. The Well Balanced Teacher: If you’re feeling stressed out at this time of year, this book has useful ideas to help you get back into balance. It’s easy to forget how to take care of ourselves when we get busy.
What stuck with me in this book: The author makes a powerful point that if we, as teachers, don’t take care of ourselves, then our teaching ultimately suffers and we can’t take care of our students.
For the teacher who is experiencing friction with colleagues (or administration, or parents):
6. How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing With People: I found this useful in my student teaching semester and my first full year of teaching. The book isn’t geared towards teachers specifically, but the advice is useful for conflict management and negotiation (next year’s room assignments anyone?).
What stuck with me in this book: the author relates your level of self esteem to how you get along with others–low self esteem generates more friction and conflict, while high self esteem generates better relationships. That idea alone can help your approach to both yourself and the people around you.
For the teacher who wants to understand their kids better:
Number 6 above is also a good read if you fall into this category.
7. Quiet: For understanding the “quiet student” in the room. This is a book about understanding introverts and how to meet their needs. As an introvert myself, I even found out a few things that I had felt but never understood about how I worked.
What stuck with me in this book: The definition of introversion and extroversion in terms of energy exchange–an introvert gives energy when around people while an extrovert gains energy. The definition of leadership in the context of introversion (it’s not always about charisma) was also well worth reading.
8. For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood: If you’re a teacher in an urban district, I especially recommend reading this book. It gives a real look at ways to connect and build relationships with students who are in urban schools and who may come from a different cultural background than the one in which you grew up.
What stuck with me in this book: The chapter on cogenerative dialogue had an interesting take on engaging students with the classroom in different ways. He related the culture of hip hop and rap cyphers as ways to create an educational space where kids have a voice in how the classroom runs.
For the teacher who wants to add a bit of spice to the classroom:
9. Teach Like a Pirate: This book offers ways to engage students through a more entertaining approach. He goes through ways to transform your classroom and/or yourself (who doesn’t like a bit of theater every now and then?) that will pique your students’ interest in the subject at hand.
What stuck with me in this book: I have used “The Safari Hook” in my own lessons by taking my students on a walk through a scale model of the Solar System. It was a great success! Many of the ideas in this book are definitely worth trying at least once.
Hopefully you’ve gotten some good books to read that will inspire you (or at least get you back in the right mindset) before the school year starts again! So now it’s time to share: what books have you found inspiring? Share in the comments below!