Post 09 – Books That Have Influenced My Teaching

This week’s prompt:

What books/resources have had the biggest influence on your teaching practice?

I talked a little bit about this in a Q&A video I did this summer.  The part on books starts at 3:13

If you don’t want to watch the video, I talked about The First Days of School by Harry Wong (classroom culture and management), Principles To Action by the NCTM (math pedagogy book), and The One World Schoolhouse by Sal Khan (education reform).

A month or so after I made this video I realized I hadn’t talked about my biggest influence as a teacher, which is Rafe Esquith.  Esquith is most known for his book Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire, but I was even more inspired by his later book Real Talk for Real Teachers where he shared more of his struggles in teaching and about the realities of what to do when you know you can’t reach every kid.  Most of my mindset about teaching has been inspired by Esquith.  My entire classroom economy idea emerged out reading about him doing one in his class.  His students call him by his first name (something my whole school does), and to get his students attention, all he does is say ‘may have I have your attention please?’  I used to do call and response type things but have moved towards that simple request.

He shares with his students Kohlberg’s levels of moral development which talk about why we choose to do the right thing, moving from fear of being punished up to adhering to a code of morality that we’ve set for ourselves.  He doesn’t want students to do the right thing to make him happy, he wants them to do it because it lines up with a sense or morality that they’ve embraced for themselves.  While I haven’t had that explicit conversation with my students in middle school (I did as a 5th grade teacher), I do try to foster that type of environment in my class built on trust.

Esquith shares his passions with his students, which in his case is Shakespeare.  He started this after school Shakespeare program where students read and perform Shakespeare.  Mind you most of these 5th graders speak English as a second language and do not come from homes where Shakespeare is read.  His program was so successful it caught the eye of Ian McKellen who has participated in some of the student’s performances.  I try to bring in my love to filmmaking to the students and recently gave them the opportunity to do a video math reflection in lieu of a blog.  A couple of them took me up on that.

Esquith is the type of teacher I want to be.  He’s the type of teacher they make the teacher movies about.  He taught 5th grade in the same room for 30 years.  Talk about mastery of your craft.  Makes me want to really get good at teaching middle school math instead of just jumping around from grade to grade or school to school.

I’m always on the hunt for good books on education!  What do you recommend?

**Links to books above are affiliate links, which means if you decide to get the book, I get a small commission for it.  Yay passive income.  It doesn’t affect the price you pay**

By Thom H Gibson

I help middle school STEM teachers create meaningful & memorable experiences for their students. Teacher, podcaster, YouTuber. Two-time teacher of the year

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