By Beth Morrow
From the outside looking in, teaching appears simplistic: you spend your days guiding, shaping, and educating young minds toward becoming productive and knowledgeable global citizens. Internally, a crush of changes—ranging from curriculum and administration to student engagement and effectiveness measures—that come monthly or sometimes daily can slowly erode the confidence and morale of even the best teachers.
For nearly 20 years, I’ve taught my middle and high school ESL students that reading has the power to transform your thinking and your life—for every single person. (Yes, even teachers!)
So when ASCD’s Pinterest contest caught my attention, I created my board within a matter of minutes. I added books to inspire, invigorate, and inform my teaching to make the most of what limited time I have in the classroom and to renew the optimism I had when I started. Winning was a thrill; the actionable research in ASCD books makes them some of the most well-worn titles on my teaching shelf.
I grouped the ten titles into two sets of five. These first five I termed “In the Classroom,” books that I could read today and implement tomorrow. What I wanted was adjustments and strategies, but I came away with something more important: the value of building and reinforcing strong, meaningful student relationships to help transfer my idealism to a shared sense of possibility. Here are my discoveries:
Closing the Attitude Gap by Baruti K. Kafele
Teachers are the conduits of content knowledge, and the strength of our student relationships makes the difference in translating our passion for teaching into their passion for learning. To help students see the transformative potential of education from your point of view, you must evaluate your passion, mission, and purpose for teaching preceding the content. Kafele provides thoughtful, reflective questions with each chapter to help guide the process.
How to Teach So Students Remember by Marilee Sprenger
The application of brain research to classroom practice opens a new dimension of teaching possibilities, but if students lack personal investment and engagement, retention rates plummet. Emotional interest, genuine relationships, focused actions, active goal-setting, and real-world connection make the difference between information that is forgotten soon after a test and building a foundation of knowledge. The seven steps of the learning-memory cycle serve as the backbone of the book and include useful how-to advice on consciously teaching for memory.
The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A Checklist for Staying Focused Every Day by Bryan Goodwin and Elizabeth Ross Hubbell
If you’re looking for a usable checklist you can implement in the classroom, this book isn’t for you. (There’s one in the appendix, but it’s a structural overview, not an actual checklist). But if you’re looking for targeted, specific actions to keep your teaching focused on student learning, check it out. Instead of reaching toward the next method and taking a guess at what might work, the authors suggest you spend some time getting to know yourself and your teaching and your content on a deep level to see what methods mesh best to improve student success.
Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs by Cathy Vatterott
The evolution of culture, family life, standards, and technology has drastically altered the landscape of education, so why hasn’t homework? Instead of traditional homework and grading policies, this book gives guidelines and considerations for changing not only the assignments themselves but teacher attitude, purposes, and feedback related to the homework process to increase student learning, completion rates, and academic growth.
Managing Diverse Classrooms by Carrie Rothstein-Fisch and Elise Trumbull
Success in a diverse classroom comes from a balance of student self-awareness and community acceptance of others. Some students come with this skill set and some don’t, which is a result of our acculturation. Based on the authors’ research, the text helps make teachers aware of these differences and gives tools and advice on how to make the diverse classroom an enriching, collaborative environment.
Beth Morrow teaches middle school ESL and reading for Columbus City Schools in Columbus, OH.
Editor’s Note: Currently, ASCD is giving away a three-day registration to the 69th Annual ASCD Conference and Exhibit Show. Visit www.ascd.org/pin2014resolutions to enter.