5 Books Every Teacher Should Read

Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly. — Sir Francis Bacon

As a teacher, you’ve already read more books than you care to remember and I dare say there are several from your undergraduate studies you’re doing your level best to forget.

I’m willing to bet that many of those books you’ve devoured during your teaching career have been focused on education topics. Some of them have been great and have helped you break through to new heights in the classroom. Some have been a waste of time (just being honest, folks).

And some have become dear friends that you return to year after year, providing you with new perspectives each time you dive into the pages.

I won’t provide you with a list of books here that I’m sure you’re either already read or heard spoken of by so many other teachers that you feel like you’ve read them yourself. Instead, I’ll offer you a few books that have become important to me personally that have helped bring fresh perspectives to teaching and leadership in schools.

Of course, this list is not comprehensive and I’ll likely share more in the future but it’s good to have a starting point.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

Written initially for the aspiring writer, The War of Art is essential reading for anyone who creates anything. Teachers are some of the most creative people I know, even though they may not be creative in the ways most familiar to society.

The War of Art is about the inner war we face between our creativity and resistance. It’s a battle that rages inside every creative person, each with their own personal battlefield (in this case being school).

The War of Art is a great read because it’s short and accessible. It really highlights the crucial struggle between resistance and creativity, which any teacher will find helpful at some point in their teaching career.

This book is perfect for any teacher who creates content of any type. And yes, that includes your daily lessons.

The War of Art can help you start, stick with it, or get past that mental block that’s been stopping you from writing for years. Pressfield has some great advice on how to overcome writer’s (or teacher’s) block as well as procrastination, something I’m sure you’ve dealt with many times over your career as a teacher.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

The collected personal memoirs of the last of the “Five Good Emperors”, Marcus Aurelius, Meditations was initially written for Marcus himself. This book is one of the earliest examples of self-improvement work.

Especially when you consider the author was working on himself as he wrote!

Meditations is chock full of wisdom that will make you a better teacher. A lot of the time, we have to navigate difficult situations and confront our own mistakes or shortcomings. This book can help us do just that with a healthy dose of perspective.

Photo by Tom Hermans on Unsplash

A Calendar of Wisdom by Tolstoy

This book is a collection of quotes from all over the world, organized by month. Tolstoy was an incredible writer with many novels to his name but he also had this little gem in him!

For example, in the month of March: “It’s not what you’ve got that matters most; it’s who you are.”

As a teacher, you often face daily obstacles that can be overwhelming. Having a copy of this book on your desk, your phone, or your Kindle can give you a brief moment of inspiration when you need it most.

Make it a part of your daily reading habit, whether first thing in the morning or right before bed. The wisdom in this book can help you remain focused and brighten any dark day.

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

Facing numerous challenges since March of 2020 when the world shut down and schools closed, I believe every teacher needs to read this book.

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday is a quick and powerful read that can be finished in an afternoon. This book will teach you how to use ancient Stoic philosophy to change your thoughts, overcome any obstacle, or achieve success against all odds.

The obstacles placed in front of teachers in the past year have caused many of us to rethink everything we’ve done in education. Some things we hated, some things we liked.

But we did them all to get through to our students in whatever way possible.

When faced with an obstacle, you need to find the right way through it without compromising your principles or goals.

The Obstacle Is The Way should be read by all teachers who want a practical guide on how to bounce back from adversity and make an impact in their careers.

Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road is a post-apocalyptic novel set in America after an unnamed cataclysm.

The book tells the story of The Man who is traveling with his son across the wasteland of what was once America. It’s not easy and it’s often dangerous.

But it’s worth the struggle because they have each other.

This is a book about the power of love and hope in an otherwise hopeless world.

Sometimes, as teachers, all we have to keep us going is love and hope. So, we “carry the fire” for our students, especially when they can’t carry it for themselves.

Your Recommendations

What books would you recommend for teachers that don’t necessarily fall in the “education” category? Leave your thoughts below!

Featured Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash

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Reclaiming your Time as a Teacher: How Technology can Help

Teachers often find themselves spending more time on the job than they do with their families. This is a shame because teaching can be an extremely rewarding profession. When it comes to making the most out of your day, there are so many tools that you could use to make your life easier — both at work and at home. In this article, I’ll cover some of my favorite ways that technology can help reclaim teachers’ time during the school year!

1. Paperless Grading

A great way to make grading easier is by using a paperless system for assigning grades, storing student work, and providing feedback. There are many different platforms available that can help you do this — from Google Classroom and Evernote to grade books like Edmodo’s Grade Book or Blackboard Learn Essentials.

Another thing I love about these tools is how easy it makes it to provide timely feedback on students’ work without sacrificing valuable time during class — especially if they’re working in groups. You could also use them as an assessment tool with your students at the end of each unit so you know exactly what they’ve mastered in all content areas!

2. Use technology to create a lesson plan

Whether you’re planning for next week or for an entire year, there are plenty of great tools available to help you with your planning. I love using Google Calendar or Outlook on my computer — but there are also mobile versions for those who prefer to stay connected in that way.

Google Classroom (Amazon link) is a free service offered by the company, and it allows teachers to assign work as well as provide individual feedback along the way.

With Google Classroom, you can schedule posts in advance and have them appear to students on the day you wish.

What if you need more options? Tools like Planbook make it easy for educators to combine calendars from multiple sources into one place so they’re less likely to misplace things throughout the day.

You can even use a Google Sheet to plan out your content on a weekly or monthly basis.

With all of the available tools, there’s no need for paper planners, cluttered notebooks, or bulky binders to pack around. With digital tools, your plans are available to you anytime, anywhere.

Do More with Google Classroom

Do More with Google Classroom is the guidebook teachers have always needed about this digital tool that millions around the world are using.

do more with google classroom

3. Utilize Google Classroom for assignments and quizzes

Google Classroom has become one of the most popular learning management platforms in education. It’s easy to use and integrates well with other Google Education tools.

You can use tools like Google Classroom to provide individual feedback along the way.

For example, you could ask students about an assignment’s relevance in one comment, give them feedback on their work during another comment, and grade their assignments when they’re finished at yet another time.

It makes sense for educators with hectic schedules because it provides more options without carrying home stack of paper and can provide nearly immediate feedback while students are working, exactly when they need it most.

4. Take full advantage of one to one computing classrooms

As we enter the post-COVID19 world, many of our schools now have computers available for every student.

Now more than ever, teachers have the tools they need in their classrooms to become more efficient, engage with students more often, and lower their amount of work time.

Teachers are already finding ways to make the most of these classrooms.

Many teachers tell stories about how they can grade papers in a fraction of the time it would have taken them otherwise, or work with students one-on-one without having to pull out materials from their desk and hope that no other student walks over.

They also describe using computers for interactive lessons as well as more hands-on activities like coding and robotics, both in individualized groups during class time and whole-group projects.

In order to take full advantage of this new technology in our schools, we need professionals who understand what these tools do best so we can help every teacher find solutions that match their needs. This is where professional development comes into play (more on that soon).

5. Make use of Internet resources

With the advent of social media, more teachers are finding high-quality resources created by other educators than ever before.

As teachers find great tools and resources, they share them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms.

Many teachers curate these resources on their own sites or on Pinterest.

We also must remember the importance of community and foster relationships with other educators through Twitter chats, Facebook groups, and other modern web-based platforms.

I have found my own network to be a valuable resource for solving problems and getting feedback from other teachers across the country while still being able to interact with staff members at school.

While these tips will help you get started with more technology in your classroom, there’s so much more out there to learn.

With a few simple technology tools, you can get back so much of your valuable time and spend more time with your students and, perhaps more importantly, your families.

Remember, technology is not your enemy. It is a tool to be leveraged to make your life easier and to provide new opportunities for students.

Dip your feet in the technology waters. It’s well worth it.

Get my 5-day email edtech course

I’ll teach you how to start using technology more efficiently in your classroom.

The Beginner’s Guide to Google Jamboard for Remote Teaching

Google Jamboard is the interactive whiteboard app for Google’s Workspace suite of tools. Of course, there’s also a physical Jamboard you can purchase but many schools are using the web version of Jamboard with their students. Accessible through the Chrome Web Browser, it’s a great tool for remote learning. Here’s our guide to using Google Jamboard for Remote Teaching.

The Jamboard Interface

Here’s how Jamboard looks on a Chromebook or other laptop. The toolbar on the left contains all the options for adding content to the Jamboard.

Getting to Know Google Jamboard

First, John Sowash gives us an overview of what Jamboard is and how to get started using it in your classroom.

In this video you’ll learn how to create a Jamboard activity (three ways), look at the tools inside of the Jamboard web and mobile app, and learn how to share your Jamboard activity with your students using Google Meet and Google Classroom(Amazon).

Using Google Jamboard with Zoom

Mackenzie from TeacherFYI has some great tips for using Jamboard with Zoom. Google Jamboard can easily be shared with students, giving them an opportunity to interact with each other during live Zoom calls.

Google Jamboard for Remote Teaching – 20 Tips & Ideas

Matt Miller over at Ditch That Textbook has created a great resource that includes 20+ tips and ideas for using Google Jamboard in your classroom.

These tips include ideas like:

  • Sticky note brainstorming
  • Digital posters
  • Storytelling
  • Graphic organizers
  • And more!

Matt has also included access to a number of free Jamboard templates for many of these ideas.

Using Google Jamboard with Google Meet

Google recently incorporated Jamboard into Google Meet, allowing you to launch a new Jamboard directly from a Google Meet session and share it with all participants.

The EdTech Show has this great video showing you how this integration works and how you can use it with your students.

5 Google Meet Activities

John Sowash has another great video with some ideas to get your started on Jamboard activities for your students.

If you enjoyed this article and the tips in it, please consider subscribing to my newsletter. Each week, I send out helpful technology integration tips and other interesting finds to my subscribers. It’s totally free, never spammy, and has some cool info. It hits your inbox on Friday morning. If you’re interested, complete the form below.

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How to Create Drag and Drop Activities in Google Slides

Google Slides isn’t just a handy tool for presentations, it’s also a powerful tool for creating student activities. And, with a little work, you can make your Slides interactive.

Here’s some guidance on how to create drag and drop activities in Google Slides that any teacher can start using right away.

This post refers visitors to Amazon for book recommendations. If purchases are made, the author receives a small referral fee.

How to Add Citations in Google Docs

Open the Citation tool""

  1. In Docs, open a document.
  2. Click Toolsand thenCitations.
  3. Select a formatting style.

Add a citation source""

  1. In the Citations sidebar, click + Add citation source.
  2. Select the source type and how you accessed the source.
  3. Enter the citation details. To add multiple contributors, click + Contributor.
  4. If a contributor is an organization rather than an individual, click Corporation/organization.
  5. Click Add citation source.

Add an in-text citation""

  1. In your document, place your cursor where you want the citation to appear.
  2. In the Citations sidebar, point to the source and click Cite.
  3. If # appears in your citation, replace it with the page number for your citation or delete it.

Edit a citation source""

  1. In the Citations sidebar, point to the source that you want to edit and click More ""and thenEdit.
  2. Edit any details and click Save source.

Delete a citation source""

In the Citations sidebar, point to the source that you want to delete and click More 

""
and then

Delete.

Add a bibliography""

  1. In your document, place your cursor where you want the bibliography to appear.
  2. In the Citations sidebar, at the bottom, click Insert bibliography

How to Conduct a Poll in Google Meet

Recently, Google rolled out a number of new features for Google Meet that have made the tool far more valuable for educators.

One new feature is the ability to conduct polls with Meet participants, giving teachers more options for interactivity with students during remote learning sessions.

In the first video, you’ll see a brief overview of how to conduct a poll in Google Meet.

Of note, the polling feature is only available to Enterprise Education customers. If you’re unsure if you have access to those features, make sure you check with your school’s technology department.

You can create the polls in Google Meet on the fly and you have options to show the live results or not. This features means you could use these polls for some quick formative assessment of your students or get interaction with them for other questions.

How to Use Google Meet Host Controls

Google has rolled out new features for Google Meet during the month of September 2020. This article provides guidance on how to use the new Host Controls features of Google Meet.

Teachers now have the ability to screen participants before they join a Meet. By disabling Quick Access, all users must request to join a Meet, including those joining by phone.

Teachers can use Meet Links in their Google Classrooms to quickly connect with students. Google Classroom Meet links are nicknamed by default, enabling the security features. When the teacher is the last person to leave a nicknamed Meet, students will not be able to rejoin the Meet, drastically increasing the security of Meet sessions.

Also, using a nicknamed Meet prevents users from outside the G Suite Domain from joining the Meet. Google have also rolled out a larger grid view for participants, allowing users to see up to 49 people at once on screen.

Real-World Learning – Content is Nothing Without Context And Application

Do a Google search for Real World Learning. Then take a look at the number of search results.

real world learning

Depending on where you are in the world and what day you perform this particular search, you will likely get a different answer but you should still come to the same conclusion I have:

Real World Learning is a popular topic with many people contributing ideas as to exactly what it should be and how it should be accomplished.

But what is real-world learning? What does it look like in a classroom? Is it a goal that can only be reached to the most progressive teachers and schools? Can you actually cover content standards while engaging students in authentic, real-world tasks that involve more than just giving them a “scenario” that mimics a real-world situation?

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Giving Context and Application to Content Standards

Real-world learning is a topic that has been discussed by educators for many years. Research on the topic of integrating social, interactive processes into learning stretch back to 1938 (Maxwell, Stobaugh, and Tassell, 2015) and carry into today with schools offering internships and even job shadowing as part of their curriculum.

But, can real-world learning incorporate standards that students will be tested over on the all-too-emphasized standardized tests taken at the end of every school year for the vast majority of public school students? The answer is simply: yes.

Standards for math, science, ELA, and social studies are not prescriptive in the methods used to teach the standards, only in the content that should be covered. This flexibility provides ample opportunity for educators to design and implement programs that can meet the required content standards while providing students with real-world activities that reach beyond the walls of the classroom. By doing so, students are able to see how the content they learn in class has practical applications in the real world and is not just information that must be stored in their brain cells for a year-end dump on a standardized test.

According to Maxwell, Stobaugh, and Tassell (2015), “When a student learns from, interacts with, and has an impact on the real world, higher retention of learning will occur” (p. 21). Clearly, when a student can move from solving problems or answering questions on a worksheet to solving problems that could have an impact on their community, region, country, or the world, the likelihood that they will work harder, engage in deeper thinking, and ultimately learn more from the problem then we, as educators, must move to more of this type of learning in our classrooms and schools.

Let’s look briefly at each content area and see how real-world learning can take place around content standards.

ELA Standards and Real-World Learning

In the ELA Literacy standard for 7th graders W.7.1.A, students are tasked with introducing claims, acknowledging other claims, and organizing thoughts and any evidence in a logical manner (English, n.d.). From reading just the standard, there is no detailed method for teaching this standard to students, nor an evaluation of any type that can measure student mastery of this topic. Teachers must be able to create or find lessons or projects that can address this standard, leaving much room for introducing real-world learning.

I looked for a sample lesson that might give an example of real-world learning for this standard and found this lesson that tasks students with tracing an argument on whether or not schools should get rid of sports (Doolin, n.d.). While this lesson does incorporate some real-world learning, I believe it would attain a Level 3 on the Create Excellence Framework (Maxwell et al., 2015, p.19). Students are engaged in a real-world activity that could have possible consequences but are not asked to create their own argument and the task is guided by the teacher rather than allowing students to take the lead through inquiry. However, a project like this could be easily modified to a more real-world task that could be presented to a school-based committee or school board.

Math Standards and Real-World Learning

Applying real-world learning to standards in mathematics is a task I am involved in every day. I teach math to 6th & 7th graders and am always looking for ways to bring real-world learning into the classroom. However, after reading several articles, I now understand that many of my efforts are far from meeting true real-world learning standards.

In the video Individualized Real-World Learning (Teaching, n.d.) we see a senior that is working in a veterinarian clinic as part of an internship program. While a great many life skills are incorporated into this experience, the student does reference using math to complete tasks such as calculating correct dosages of medicine for animals. In this example, the math standards are not the focus of the learning but are an integrated part of the entire learning experience along with many other subjects. As noted in Maxwell et al. (p.29), Real World Learning “is integrated across subject areas” and takes place not necessarily in a classroom, but in the real world.

I am beginning to see how the math standards allow for much flexibility in teaching the necessary content while providing rich and meaningful tasks to students that incorporate ideas and standards from other subject areas to make the learning more meaningful.

Social Studies Standards and Real-World Learning

Social Studies standards have direct tie-ins to real-world learning. The guiding principles for the standards give direction for the standards and how they should work with other standards and benefit students. Principles include “Inquiry is at the heart of social studies” and “Social studies prepares the nation’s young people for college, careers, and civic life” (College, n.d.)

Science Standards and Real-World Learning

As every other content standard area, the Next Generation Science Standards allow for ample real-world learning opportunities for students. Amy Abbott created a project for her class involving analyzing environmental controls in factories that produce clothing and how the dyes are disposed of (Abbott, 2016). Students were asked to investigate the impact of chemicals being dumped into water sources and draft a portfolio for submission to the United Nations. Included in the lesson are not only standards for science but also standards for ELA (Abbott, 2016). Certainly, this lesson is a fine example of real-world learning with applied content standards.

Conclusion

From the evidence above, we can clearly see that standards for many areas of academic content in public schools can be taught using real-world learning. The opportunity exists for teachers, both current and future, to create programs that are more concerned with creating experiences and authentic learning for students than simply making sure that content standards are covered at a basic level. As educators, we should focus on teaching students in environments that mimic or are based on the environments they will have when they are finished with their formal education. In the video Taylor Mali: In My Middle School (Mali, n.d.), Taylor Mali provides an overview of what he thinks a middle school based on real-world learning might look like. Perhaps more educators need to work towards creating such an ideal environment for our students.