Current Reading

Last summer, I discovered the Philadelphia Free Library.  I checked out 15 books at a time and read all of them.  This summer...not so much.  There are a few books I can talk about today, but certainly not the near constant stream of new information I gorged on this time last year.  If anyone has any suggestions, please leave them in the comments.

Smart But Scattered I read this book last summer, and just purchased it today at Borders.  Something that I've been trying to get better at is teaching students HOW to learn, not just WHAT to learn.  I've personally struggled with poor executive functioning skills: I never learned how to study (which came to bite me in the butt in college) and I struggled financially for too long because I couldn't figure out how to pay bills (and it usually was the case that I had the financial ability to pay, just not the organization to make it happen).  It irks me that many parents are OK with their sons, in particular, not having executive functioning skills.  There is talk in academic and non-academic literature about the growing achievement gap between boys and girls.  I'll let you find that on your own :)

Based on the always accurate anecdotal evidence, I see that the problem boys have (or at least one of them) is that they lack executive functioning skills.  At some point, these skills became "assumed" vs. "taught".  At the beginning of the last school year, I used the assessment in this book as homework for students.  I had them self assess to begin the discussion of how we learn.  I plan on doing this again this year, but I also want to include a parent discussion portion.  I'll admit that I'm lucky to teach 5th grade at a 5-8 middle school that demands parent involvement.  At the beginning of the 5th grade year, parents are much more likely to be actively involved in such homework.  What I'm envisioning is students doing a quick self-assessment of a particular facet of executive functioning, and the reading about a strategy to develop that skill with their parents.  In parent conferences throughout the year, I find that parents want to help their children be more organized, goal oriented, etc. but don't know how.  I'm trying to take the stance this year that parents are doing the best they know how.  If they aren't doing something to help their child be successful, it's incumbent upon me as the educator to help them develop the skills.  I know in advance that some parents aren't going to be receptive.  Eh. That's a bummer.  I think there will be enough that will at least listen to make it worthwhile.

Teaching With Love and Logic I also read this last summer, but I am being required to re-read it for the next school year.  Reading this book, along with Discipline with Dignity, really helped me to have a much more positive year with my students.  I have to be honest when I say that I'm not always comfortable with being the adult in charge.  As I inch closer to 30, that's changing, but I will admit that not acknowledging my "adultness" with regards to classroom dynamics has hindered my professional growth.  Thanks to both of these books, I was able to re-conceptualize discipline not as authoritarianism but as security making.  I think I did a better job this year of making my classroom a safe place to learn, and I hope to continue that this year. I'm not too resentful of having to re-read this because I want to be certain that I continue to use the principles contained in the text in my day to day practice.

Teach Like a Champion  I really love this book.  As in "ask my husband if we can have a more modern type of marriage and allow me to wed this book in some weird sort of biblio-polyamory thing" kind of love.  This book offers very concrete, easily implementable tweaks a teacher can make to have a classroom that functions efficiently.  The book is very much in favor of a teacher centered method.  Yet, I think I was able to make some of the ideas my own.  If you teach students that have not had access to stable models of education, I think this book is a must.  Much like Smart But Scattered, it helps you teach students the "how" of being successful in school.

What are other teachers reading?

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