Teachers as Learners


Evolutionary educationWho are you as an educator?

Though some of us come from educator parents, we are not born as teachers. Something in our childhood experience with school settles deep, driving us to see the world as a lifetime learner—curious yet informed, patient yet demanding, prepared yet flexible.

Each day, we lead classes from this teacher-self, the culmination of our philosophies, experiences, and actions. Our teacher-self, then, is a microcosm of the education process and our interaction within it.

What’s more, students come as microcosms of their own environments, with unique dispositions and skills, seeking our hard-won insight to help build their personal selves.

Is the advice and knowledge we share with them today helping them bridge to the person they want to be in the future?

In this second set of five titles I won as part of the ASCD Dream Library Pinterest contest, the overarching theme is of professional knowledge and teaching the teacher. The evolutionary nature of education means reframing and rethinking our methods, instruction, and practices. Just as our classrooms are dynamic, so too should be our own learning.

Teaching Basic and Advanced Vocabulary by Robert J. Marzano

My generation’s vocabulary instruction consisted of a fresh list of words on Monday and a test on Friday. But students today come with gaps in vocabulary acquisition that can’t be filled with kill and drill methods of learning; and more importantly, retention and integration are the expected outcomes. Marzano’s thorough text centers on just this: discovering vocabulary limitations and creating an acquisition process through strategies.

Content-Area Conversations: How to Plan Discussion-Based Lessons for Diverse Language Learners by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Carol Rothenberg

One of the most valuable lessons I learned when I first began teaching English as a second language (ESL) reading to middle and high school students nearly 20 years ago was that explicit instruction improved achievement. For teachers looking to implement meaningful content discussions in a diverse classroom, the strategies in this book are invaluable to developing sophisticated classroom conversation skills in all students, not just English language learners , through explicit, guided instruction.

Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams

Teachers hear every day that we need more technology in lessons; to change our methods of delivery and to use technology as a springboard for engagement. But demanding teachers dive into this new way of learning without proper professional scaffolding is a recipe for guaranteed resistance. Bergmann’s easily digestible book is a resource for taking teachers from the traditional classroom instructional model toward integrating a flipped model of instruction. Through defense of the flipped mastery model to steps of implementation and an F.A.Q. section to cover those nagging what-ifs, this book is a foundational resource for any teacher considering flipping.

Turning High-Poverty Schools into High-Performing Schools by William H. Parrett and Kathleen M. Budge

Our students’ home environments should serve as a starting point for meaningful discussion, not used as an excuse for subpar success. Part research, part textbook, and completely usable, this book offers both a valuable study and how-to guide on how high-poverty, high-performing schools affect their student population. Through leadership development, building safe and supportive classroom environments, and bolstering learning efforts at all levels—student, teacher, and school system—any school open to doing the work can improve with the resources provided by the authors.

Differentiated Literacy Coaching: Scaffolding for Student and Teacher Success by Mary Catherine Moran

Slashing non-classroom personnel from dwindling district budgets has become a common theme in schools across the country. As a result, it serves teachers well to develop a metacognitive approach to their teaching methods when professional resources are limited. Moran’s book is a must-read for professionals looking to expand upon their own knowledge and skills when developing, implementing, evaluating, and maintaining a literacy program either as a coach or classroom teacher.

Curiosity and passion for knowledge are the foundations for choosing education as a profession. Maintaining and supplementing our teacher-selves with current, usable research is a necessity for translating that desire into what matters most: ways to help our students grow.

Beth Morrow teaches middle school ESL and reading for Columbus City Schools in Columbus, Ohio.