When my wife first met me, her family nicknamed me "the book boy." I used to carry a book around with me everywhere I went. Over time, I have gotten more into fiction. I love fantasy (I even co-wrote a fantasy novel Wendell the World's Worst Wizard). However, I also love reading about education. As much as I love blogs, I also love the thought and organization that goes into long-form texts. The books I have read have each, in their own way, reshaped how I teach. With that in mind, here's a listical listy list telling you which books I would recommend for new teachers. (Note: this idea was inspired by AJ Juliani's excellent post here.)
Classroom Leadership / Classroom Culture
1. Day One and Beyond: Practical Matters for New Mid-Level Teachers by Rick Wormeli. I remember reading through the Harry Wong book and shaking my head. It didn't square with my reality as a middle school teacher. However, Wormeli's thoughts were much more nuanced, intentional and practical for my needs. They were tailored to the needs of a middle school classroom, but also to a teacher who wanted to see learning in a more authentic way.
2. New Teacher Revolution: Changing Education for a New Generation of Learners by Josh Stumpenhorst. I've known Josh for a five or six years now. Slowly, we've grown into good friends. In fact, we just hung out a few days ago. I love his passion and his boldness mixed with his sincerity and approachability. As a new teacher, I would have benefited both from the sense that someone "gets" me and also from the fact that someone was pushing me to think differently.
3. Passionate Learners by Pernille Ripp. I love how Pernille shares her story of the gradual shift toward a student-centered, passion-driven classroom. I've bought copies of this book for new teachers because I think it's that important for a read. I can't find the book right now on Amazon but I think it's going to be re-released here pretty soon.
4. Tools for Teaching - Discipline-Instruction-Motivation by Fred Jones. I know, I know. We're supposed to have student-centered, democratic classrooms. However, this book had a few gems that make a huge difference. The first is the power of body language and space proximity. The second came from the practical ideas of listening to your body to see how stress is changing you in the moment.
The Teacher Life5. Thrive: Five Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching Career by Meenoo Rami. I read this book in the middle of burnout. It was a hard year because of issues with my former administrator. This book was like a life raft for me. She reminded me of what I believe and why I am a teacher. She offered some great practical ideas while also affirming what I knew to be true.
6. Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching by Angela Watson. Angela has a way of affirming teachers that cuts to the core of who we are as people. This book is no exception. Many new teachers will have moments of intense frustration and confusion. This is the book to keep on your desk in those moments.
7. The Together Teacher: Plan Ahead, Get Organized, and Save Time! by Maia Heyck-Merlin. I'm not crazy about this title but I love the book. There were a few key things that helped me immensely: scheduling a once-a-week time to review my schedule and go over my week, synchronizing all my calendars, and making my systems more efficient. I wish I had read it before I began my first year as a teacher.
8. The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers: Small Steps to Transform Your Teaching by Shelly Sanchez Terrell. Shelly does a great job challenging teachers to take up the Thirty Goal Challenge and redefine their practice. It's the type of book I really could have used in my first few years of teaching, because it is both inspiring and practical.
9. Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry Paperback by Larissa Pahomov. I met Larissa at the Future Ready Summit this last November. She gets it. Her answers were so refreshingly honest and her insights were profound. I love the Constructivist, inquiry-based approach advocated in this book.
10. Project Based Learning (PBL) Starter Kit: To-the-Point Advice, Tools and Tips for Your First Project in Middle or High School. I first checked out this book when I shifted toward project-based learning. This book helped me think through how I could set up a PBL system while still being stuck inside of my all-too-traditional school.
11. How to Create and Use Rubrics for Formative Assessment and Grading by Susan M. Brookhart. I know there is a push out there to do away with all grading entirely. However, I found myself drawn to standards-based grading instead. I like the notion of giving kids chances to redo their work (toward mastery) and ultimately figure out if they are reaching the standards. This book was invaluable in figuring out better ways to construct rubrics and formative assessments for students.
12. The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller. I loved reading as a kid but I found myself hating most reading instruction. So, when I was asked as a first year teacher to do reading intervention and reading integration, it felt a little soul-crushing. Donalyn Miller encouraged me to push high-interests texts, not just in fiction, but in non-fiction. I later bought this book and found myself jotting notes and underlining ideas.
13. Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It Paperback by Kelly Gallagher So much of what teachers are doing to increase comprehension (sticky notes, highlighting, etc.) becomes an over-the-top barrage of activities that actually get in the way of students of increasing their reading fluency. This is one of those books that challenged my thinking in a powerful way while also giving a voice to some of the concerns I had experienced (but wasn't able to articulate).
14. Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts -- And Life by Christopher Lehman and Kathleen Roberts: I hated close reading . . . until I read this book. Suddenly I saw it as being far different than how I had seen it presented. There were some great practical strategies alongside a great overall framework for close reading.
15. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen. This is the first year that my son has learned the true facts about history and I have a hunch it comes from the fact that his fourth grade teacher has read this book, along with A People's History of the United States. I highly recommend this for K-5 teachers who often accidentally teach the same lies they were taught in school.
16. Inquiry and Innovation in the Classroom: Using 20% Time, Genius Hour, and PBL to Drive Student Success by A.J. Juliani If you're interested in trying Genius Hour, inquiry-driven learning or Twenty Percent Time, this is the book to check out. A.J. offers practical ideas along with a realistic framework for inquiry-driven education. It's the kind of book I wish I had read as a new teacher.
17. Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds. This book isn't about instruction or teaching or any of that. However, it became my go-to book when rethinking how to do great slideshows and presentations. In a way, it helped me think about the visual aspect of learning - whether it is an interface online, a project framework, a student rubric, or a slideshow.
18. Cognitive Coaching: A Foundation for Renaissance Schools by Arthur L. Costa. Although this book was meant as a guide to help teachers coach other teachers, I have found the strategies to be perfect for student-teacher conferencing. Ultimately, these reflective questions help guide students toward metacognition.
19. Grading Smarter, Not Harder: Assessment Strategies That Motivate Kids and Help Them Learn by Myron Dueck. One of the hardest things for me to realize as a new teacher was that I didn't need to grade everything. In fact, I was spending hours on a job that amounted to data entry. This book is great at helping teachers rethink their approach to grading and assessment.
20. Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn When I was a new teacher, I used many of the same practices I had experienced as a kid: rewards, incentive programs, pizza parties, stickers, mandatory homework, etc. This book challenged my thinking and changed the way I viewed motivation.
21. The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance by Steven Kotler. Brad Wilson first suggested this book as I was thinking through the concept of flow in the classroom. While there are other books that are more theoretical, I loved the conversational, approachable tone of this book. So much of student success depends upon flow and this book is a great starting point when trying to make sense out of it.
22. The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz I love the research mentioned in this book and the analysis of the author. It was one of those books that helped me see that simply adding choices wouldn't magically increase motivation. It also helped me to make sense out of ideas like framing.
23. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. Sometimes a topic gets trendy and I get really cynical about it. However, this is one of those times when I found myself thinking, "Now I see why everyone is talking about this." The distinction between fixed and growth mindsets has been a powerful framework both for my own artistic work and for the way I approach student projects.
24. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink. In a world of sticker charts and pizza parties, Pink mentions the drive for autonomy, challenge and purpose. But he also gets into when extrinsic motivation actually works. So, the result is something that is far more nuanced than something like Punished by Rewards.
25. Self-Driven Learning: Teaching Strategies for Student Motivation by Larry Ferlazzo. I've always seen Larry as a great curator. However, when I read this book, I saw the value of someone who has read so widely and so deeply on such a range of topics. What he offers here is wisdom and practical ideas -- which is a great combination.
26. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon. I remember thinking that so much of what I read about the creative process didn't square with my reality. As a teacher who is pushing creativity in the classroom, I often find myself going back to the ideas in this book for inspiration.
27. Classroom Routines for Real Learning: Student-Centered Activities that Empower and Engage by Jennifer Harper. If the other books on motivation are theoretical and thought-provoking, this book is great for the sheer approachability and practicality of it. I love the realistic look at how routines can encourage rather than diminish creative, student-centered learning.
Students, School and Society28. This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education by Jose Vilson. I first started reading Jose Vilson's blog at the recommendation of Michael Doyle. What kept me reading was his voice. He spoke the truth, even when it wasn't pleasant to hear. Clearly he knew pedagogy at a deep level and he was an expert at technology. However, his blog consistently pointed to people. Whether it was systemic injustice or racism or the power that a teacher has in the lives of students, there was a constant reminder that what we do is, first and foremost, human. Deeply human. That's why I love this book. It's a reminder of what matters in schools. New teachers can really benefit from this dose of truth.
29. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum. I know there are other books on the topic of race and schooling. However, this one does a great job if you are new to the topic and suddenly trying to make sense of complex social issues.
30. The Gangster We Are All Looking For by Thi Diem Thuy Le. This book is just a beautiful read, period. It's honestly one of my favorite works of fiction in all of existence. However, this, along with Barefoot Heart, both provide a great reminder of what it is like for immigrant children going to school and dealing with life in America.
31. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. School isn't designed for introverts and, in many cases, teachers miss this reality. So much of this book resonated with my own experience as an introvert while also pushing me to think about what it would mean to make accommodations for introverts.
32. Encouragement in the Classroom by Joan Young: This is a book that is both boldly human and surprisingly practical. My favorite parts involved thinking about mindfulness. She gave some great specific examples of what this looks like. I also found the parts about student reflection to be helpful. I guess I've always thought about reflection through the lens of, "Why did I get this wrong?" However, this book is pushing me to rethink the way I approach student reflection. If you're interested in helping students develop mindfulness, intentionality, meaningful goals and motivation, I highly recommend this book.
33. Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. I don't think I understood the relationship between power, privilege and liberation until reading Freire's work. It was this critical lens that I so badly needed to see. It's not an easy read or an inherently practical read. But it's a necessary read.
34. Please Stop Laughing at Me: One Woman's Inspirational True Story by Jodee BlancoMy wife first read this as part of a book club she was doing. As I read the story, I wept for what the author experienced. Bullying is real in our schools and new teachers might want to check this out to get a picture of what that means in the long run.
35. It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens Paperback by danah boyd. This is a powerful read because it dispels so many of the myths we have about "digital natives" and the nature of technology. I love the fact that it is less of a pro-tech/anti-tech rant and more of a nuanced, deep analysis of what our connected world means.
36. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman. In a world where technology is held as the fix-all, I love the way Postman offers criticism on the nature of technology. This book might be the most marked-up book that I own because it provoked so much thought.
37. The Monsters of Education Technology by Audrey Watters: Audrey is one of the best policy and systems thinkers I know. In a world where people gush over the newest, latest and greatest, this book jars you back into reality. New teachers, often immersed in a technophile world, could use that.
38. Modeling with Technology: Mindtools for Conceptual Change by David H. Jonassen. This book reshaped my idea of the purpose of educational technology. It helped me to see how ed tech tools should focus on students creating their own conceptual understanding. It was both thought-provoking and practical.
39. The Missing Voices in EdTech: Bringing Diversity Into EdTech by Rafranz Davis. There is often a false neutrality to educational technology. It's a white noise that feels normal to people in privilege but keeps diversity out. Rafranz tackles this issue boldly. As new teachers come in with the goal of tech integration, they should check out this book and rethink the white noise around them.
40. Crafting Digital Writing: Composing Texts Across Media and Genres by Troy Hicks. This was one of those books that affirmed by desire for authentic, quality student writing in digital spaces. At times, I nodded and said, "That's what I've been doing" (or said, "that's what we created with Write About"). Other times, I realized that Troy had offered tweaks that could improve what I was already doing. Still, other times, I found a particular strategy that I hadn't used before.
- How to Think Like a Graphic Designer by Debbie Millman. Royan Lee, one of the smartest people I know, bought this book for me and it affirmed so much of the creative side of teaching.
- Discipline and Punish: The Birth of Prison by Michel Foucault. It's a heady read but it reshaped what I believe about education and power.
- Choice Theory in the Classroom by William Glasser. This gave me a ton to think about when considering motivation.
Books Recommended by Readers:
- The Dot by Peter Reynolds: William Chamberlain recommended this and he was totally right.
- The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer: Teri Hartman recommended this and I just might have to check it out.
- The Call Me Coach by John Wooden: Recommended by William Chamberlain.
Note: I'll be releasing The Fireproof Teacher here in a few weeks. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to preview the first three chapters.