5 Great Authors Every Teacher Should be Reading
You have to keep learning. Sure, trying to keep up with the latest research and publications often feels like drinking from a firehose, but sometimes you need a refreshing take on educational topics and how best to work with children.
These five authors will provide that refreshment:
I make no secret of my admiration for Simmons’ work. For over a decade, she has been the leading voice on the challenges and triumphs of teenage girls, and I credit her with a large part of my personal parenting style.
Her seminal work, “Odd Girl Out,” is a testament to the once hidden culture of aggression in teenage girls. Though published over a decade ago, “Odd Girl Out” is still as relevant and worthwhile as it was the day it arrived. Along the way she has explored the pressures on your women to conform in “The Curse of the Good Girl,” and remains a popular teacher and presenter. After reading her work, you won’t look at your classroom the same again.
Anyone who likes a good fight loves Kohn. He has consistently published books, articles and research that pokes holes in many of the givens in education — the value of testing, the worthiness of what students are asked to do in school, the (per him) creeping corporate hand in the world of education — and offers a unique perspective on what schools should be doing for their students.
What underscores all of his work is a deep caring and respect for the student, and how we have to question current practices to improve the experience for everyone. If you can, go hear him speak.
A former dean at Stanford University, Lythcott-Haims published a manifesto in “How to Raise an Adult,” which explores the disturbing trend of college students who cannot meet the expectations and responsibilities of college.
Rather than laying blame wholly on the students, she uses research and interviews to draw out the increasingly perilous test-taking and conformist school environment, where students can complete everything their teachers tell them to do and check off all the boxes expected of high performers — all the while losing their independence and problem-solving ability. What makes her work all the more powerful is her recounting of the challenges she faced on an almost daily basis.
Discussing failure as a necessary activity is all the rage nowadays, and Lahey’s “The Gift of Failure” is one of the reasons why. In it, she argues that students must experience failure — safe, not permanent, and offering a chance to improve — before they can succeed.
Lahey maintains that always being “perfect” is ultimately debilitating because it prevents learners from attempting new challenges. This is a good text to have handy when a parent contests a child’s grade.
No discussion of important authors is complete without mentioning Sizer, who died in 2009. In his “Horace” series and numerous follow-up books, Sizer investigated the challenges of the American high school experience and the compromises teachers, students and administrators have to make every day.
Aside from his strong analysis and understanding of the dynamic forces that affect our high schools, he wrote with commonsense language, compassion and hope. His lasting legacy is the belief that hope is our most important asset when we’re facing incredible challenges.
Got a favorite author? Tell a friend
Throughout my career as an educator, the great teachers I’ve worked with have been some of the most reliable sources of book and author recommendations. When you read somebody who changes the way you think about teaching, be sure to pass that author’s name along to your colleagues.