If there’s one myth about educators that I hate the most, it’s probably the common belief that teachers at any level have summers “off.” That really sets my teeth on edge, for a number of reasons, including the fact that for many teachers, salaries are so low that they work extra jobs during the school year as well as over the summer. In the documentary “American Teacher,” Brooklyn first grade teacher Jamie Fidler reports, “Every teacher I know has second jobs or third jobs, and that doesn’t include working over the summer.”
Teachers also use summer to prepare their curriculum for the coming year or complete continuing education credits that are required by their school districts and help them earn raises. For college professors, summer is an essential time for working on the research and writing that is required to keep their jobs.
For all educators, though, summer is also a great time to read about current trends and theories in our profession and get re-inspired after a long year of hard work. Many of us are very comfortable assigning summer reading to our students-maybe it’s about time we assigned ourselves some reading, too!
The following books are the ten recent publications about education that I find most intriguing:
- Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, Christopher Lehman. We’ve all heard about the new Common Core focus in education, and we’ve probably already argued about it. But what is the best way to incorporate the new guidelines into our curriculum? The experts at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project have consolidated their knowledge into one volume, which can help you create appropriate instructional and assessment tools.
- Born to Rise: A Story of Children and Teachers Reaching Their Highest Potential by Deborah Kenny is part autobiography, part instructional manual in which the author, founder and CEO of the successful Harlem Village Academies charter schools, tells her story and explains that the key to her schools’ success is rooted in a philosophy of workplace cooperation and “authentic accountability” for teachers, instead of an emphasis on teacher evaluation.
- Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner. Wagner, an Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard University, recently spoke at the April 28, 2012 TEDx NYED conference, presents his arguments about the need for an innovation-driven economy and how teachers can help foster “play, passion, and purpose” to create the kind of innovative thinkers our society needs. The book itself is innovative because it is allows readers to scan with their smartphones those little black squares, called Quick Response Codes, to access more than 60 short videos directly link from the text.
- The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Structuring Legal Reform by Catherine Y. Kim, Daniel J. Losen, Damon T. Hewitt. Though published in 2010, this book covers a shocking process occurring in our schools, described by the American Civil Liberties Union as “a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.” Written by researchers at the University of California Civil Rights Project, it’s a wake-up call about the relationship between school policies and their effect on learning disabled, poor, and other at-risk students.
- Education and Its Discontents: Teaching, the Humanities, and the Importance of a Liberal Education in the Age of Mass Information by Mark Moss examines the impact of technology on teaching practices and its effect on student learning. Moss argues that “by abandoning traditional modes of instruction and gravitating toward new and unproven methods, much has been lost. Words such as depth, rigor, intensity and phrases such as intellectual commitment and academic logic are disappearing as ways to describe what is going on.” Moss provides thoughtful discussion of current topics for those educators who want to know more about the changes going on in today’s classroom.
- A Guide to Better Teaching: Skills, Advice, and Evaluation for College and University Professors by Leila Jahangiri and Tom Mucciolo. Including interactive assessment tools to “measure levels of effectiveness according to learner preferences,” this book contains examples and useful practical advice for college-level educators who wish to improve their skills in the classroom. From personal appearance to content development, the authors cover a surprising array of topics.
- We’re Losing Our Minds: Rethinking American Higher Education by Richard P. Keeling and Richard H. Hersh. The double meaning of the title refers to the loss of quality in American higher education, the results of which are students that lack critical thinking, problem-solving, and writing skills. According to the authors, “we are losing our minds – and endangering our social, economic, and scientific leadership… The only solution – making learning the highest priority in college – demands fundamental change throughout higher education.” The authors offer suggestions for ending this brain drain.
- What Is College For? The Public Purpose of Higher Education, edited by Ellen Condliffe Lagemann and Harry Lewis, is a collection of essays by experienced educators that addresses the current focus on college as career training and reminds readers that colleges should also be a locus of civic education that contribute to public discussion and the creation of valuable public knowledge.
- Educational Courage: Resisting the Ambush on Public Education by Mara Sapon-Shevin, Nancy Schniedewind will not be published until September, but I suspect that public school teachers as well as parents will want to read the stories of real people and how they resisted different federal policies and corporate-driven initiatives such as charter schools, merit pay, and high-stakes testing.
- Lowering Higher Education: The Rise of Corporate Universities and the Fall of Liberal Education by James Cote and Anton L. Allahar addresses the alarming turn toward lower college admission standards in an era of “college for everyone,” high-cost remedial programs, and grade inflation, which the authors argue “rewards laziness while demoralizing hard-working students.” While his argument that lowered expectations to expand access actually hurts students may have some merit, his suggestion that financial aid should be awarded on academic performance is sure to raise eyebrows among those of us who do not want to punish the underprivileged or learning disabled for situations beyond their control.
While you may not agree with what all of these authors propose, they are sure to provoke discussion and consideration of the way you teach- and the way you want to teach.