February 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Summer Reading To “(Re)Invigorate” Your Teaching | Professional Shelf

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It’s June! A bittersweet time of celebration and reflection for students and teachers saying good-bye to another school year and each other. As educators take off for a brief respite, many are already looking ahead to the next term, thinking about what worked (or didn’t) and how to make next year better. Committed teachers, whether new to the profession or seasoned veterans, are always honing their craft.

thriveOne title educators will want to add to their summer toolkit is Meenoo Rami’s Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching (Heinemann, 2014). As a new teacher, Rami discovered work hours that extended long after the last school bell rang and nagging doubts about her ability to succeed. Having worked her way through these and other challenges, the author has hard-earned, practical advice to share with colleagues.

Rami’s number one recommendation is to find a mentor, whether in school or beyond, and she provides suggestions for making that happen. Connections and networks are another, huge source of potential support and information, and the author describes how she built and maintains the relationships, from school-based teams to national associations to online communities, she established.

While acknowledging the frustration of dealing with “rules, regulations, and requirements,” the author offers ideas on how to keep intellectual curiosity at the forefront, encouraging readers to create their own curriculum, or to find ways to infuse prepackaged curricula with “authentic inquiry.” She urges teachers to trust their instincts and listen to their own voices; it’s OK to question authority. Finally, Rami provides examples of student-driven learning and talks about the benefits of empowering students as collaborators in the classroom. Sidebars featuring advice and observations from teachers across the country (a testament to the power of networks) appear throughout the book.

americanteacherToo big to fit in a small bookbag, but a wonderful source of insight and affirmation, Katrina Fried’s American Teacher: Heroes in the Classroom (Welcome Books, 2014) is a coffee table-style paean to outstanding educators. Fried asked 50 K-grade12 public and public charter school teachers, many award-winning, from across the United States to share their thoughts about the profession and their careers. Each two-four page, first-person narrative is accompanied by full-color photos of diverse teachers and students, their faces beaming with joy and enthusiasm.

From the high school science teacher to the early childhood specialist, what’s evident is each educator’s love for his or her work and students. Not one of these professionals is emotionally unattached and they all have strong opinions about what does and doesn’t work in the classroom. This isn’t a book that’s meant to be read cover-to-cover; staff development and teacher-training programs could easily draw upon selections to study, discuss, and emulate.

There’s power in firsthand advice from people in the field who have been recognized for their excellence and expertise.

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