What books are on your summer reading list?
Teachers rarely have time to reflect on their practice, but the summer holidays provides teachers with the perfect opportunity to switch off; to read and research and reflect in-situ (retrospectively post-activity – context respondent) rather than reflect in action (analytical response – context dependent).
Why so many reading books?
Over the past 10 years, as an education blogger, I’ve been sent more books than I could ever read! This is flattering, but in all honesty it comes with its challenges. Firstly, thanking the author and publisher for a copy is the easy step.
Secondly, sharing the book publicly on Teacher Toolkit social media channels.
Thirdly, being asked to endorse the book before publication presents a small workload challenge, but I try my best to meet all requests as I know how important it is to have your book supported by the community. Until you’ve put your work in front of your peers, no one truly understands the hard work that is required in writing one and what little financial reward they offer.
In return for the workload and risk, the kudos and doors that open from publishing a book are multiple and this is where the true rewards lie. A small example is meeting another teacher and them ‘thanking’ you for writing it. One may receive many messages on social media, but nothing compares to a colleague personally taking the time out to say thank you; “Your book saved my from leaving teaching!” are some of the wonderful comments I have received. Only then does writing for months on your own appear to make a real difference.
Top Reads For The Summer
From the hundreds of books I have received throughout 2018, here are the 11 books I am reading this summer – and my recommendations to Teacher Toolkit readers.
1. The Teacher Gap
This book has captured my imagination! For years Rebecca Allen and Sam Sims have shaped my thinking and research on this blog and their influence on the national debate is clear. For those who are unfamiliar with Allen and Sims, their book draws on the latest research from economics, psychology and education to explain where the ‘teacher gap’ came from and how we can close it again. Including interviews with current and former teachers (some stark stories too), as well as end-of-chapter practical guidance for schools, The Teacher Gap sets out how we can better recruit, train and retain the next generation of teachers.
This is a must-read for everyone and anyone who wants to see the best people educate all of our children for a better society! I was disappointed to miss the book launch last month – but I can’t wait to devour its contents over the summer holidays. This is the first book in my suitcase! Learn more.
2. The Best For My Child
Parent choice, diversity of school provision and the idea of a quasi-market in schools have dominated education policy for the last thirty years since the passage of the 1988 Great Education Reform Act. Author and journalist Fiona Millar looks at why these policies have proved so seductive to a generation of politicians and seeks to uncover whether we really are doing ‘the best for all our children’. If we are not, what could and should future reform look like?
This book is wise and full of historical insight – a must-read for new teachers to the profession who want to understand ‘how and why we are doing’ the things we are doing today. Learn more.
3. Live Well, Teach Well
I’ve been lucky enough to see Abigail Mann practice what she preaches at various teacher events across London. She provides advice, activities and techniques that any primary or secondary teacher can use to support their own mindfulness, wellbeing, and physical and mental health, and that of their colleagues too. In the current climate, these ideas are critical for school leaders who are intent on making wellbeing a focus at a whole-school level. Learn more.
4. Teaching In The Fourth Industrial Revolution
In March 2018 I was lucky enough to meet Global Teacher Prize winner Andria Zafirakou. In this visionary book, written by six internationally recognized GTP finalists. Jelmer Evers gave me a personal copy and he is soon to feature on our podcasts.
The authors create a positive and hope-filled template for the future of education. They address the hard moral, ethical and pedagogical questions facing education today so that progress can serve society, rather than destroying it from within our classrooms. This blueprint for education finally brings forward what has always been missing in education reform. Learn more.
5. The Curriculum: Gallimaufry to Coherence
I’ve known Mary Myatt for 7 years and have had the pleasure of working with her as a school leader in two secondary schools. She knows her stuff and offers insight in a deftly manner. In this timely new book, Myatt is at her brilliant best as she passionately argues that the solutions to overcoming achievement barriers lie in understanding the curriculum and in what children are meant to know.
For the education system to reach coherence on the curriculum, it’s going to require teachers in schools to engage in the conversation. Learn more.
6. Closing The Vocabulary Gap
Alex Quigley, English teacher and school leader explores the increased demands of an academic curriculum and how closing the vocabulary gap between our ‘word poor’ and ‘word rich’ students could prove the vital difference between school failure and success.
This must-read book presents the case for teacher-led efforts to develop students’ vocabulary and provides practical solutions for teachers across the curriculum, incorporating easy-to-use tools, resources and classroom activities. Learn more.
7. Other People’s Children
Previously the head master of Harrow School, Barnaby Lenon wrote a best-selling book about high-achieving state schools in England (Much Promise). Later that year he went on a tour of Further Education colleges and started to research the fortunes of those who do less well at school. In Other People’s Children he writes about the state of vocational education in England and the implications of his findings for a post-Brexit economy.
This is a thought-provoking read and I hope to complete the book before the end of the year. Learn more.
8. The Power of Moments
This book was very though provoking to me as a school leader. Why do we remember more about things that happen outside of the classroom rather than what happens inside it? What if a teacher could design a lesson that he knew his students would remember twenty years later? These are some of the many questions posed by authors Chip and Dan Heath.
Many of the defining moments in our lives are the result of accident or luck – but why leave our most meaningful, memorable moments to chance when we can create them?
In The Power of Moments, stories of people who have created standout moments and provided and how they can, not only apply in the classroom, but in our everyday lives. It’s a great holiday read! Learn more.
9. The Ultimate Guide To Differentiation
One of the most difficult things teachers master over time and often perpetuated as a myth. This helpful Ultimate Guide to Differentiation demonstrates how teachers already differentiate much of the time in subtle and creative ways; something I have tried to support when teachers are under observation for performance.
Sue Cowley shows that we need to understand, acknowledge and celebrate the variety of approaches that teachers already use to differentiate, as well as helping them to develop additional strategies. Learn more.
10. Unleashing Great Teaching
David Weston and Bridget Clay set out their advice for how every school can bring in the best ideas from the whole system, and make sure that these have a lasting effect in the classroom. Having worked with David on and off over the past 7 years, I know his passion and knowledge for teacher professional development are second-to-none.
This new book is for anyone interested in teacher development and how to go about doing so. I cannot wait to get into the details having sadly missed the book launch last month! Learn more.
11. Flip The System
In this book, teachers from around the world and other educational experts such as Andy Hargreaves, Ann Lieberman, Stephen Ball, Gert Biesta, Tom Bennett and many more, make the case to move away from this uneducational economic approach, to instead embrace a more humane, more democratic approach to education. This approach is called ‘flipping the system’, a move that places teachers exactly where they need to be – at the steering wheel of educational systems worldwide.
I’ve written several times about the research in this book – and it’s a read I advocate for anyone interested in ‘how teachers can take control of the education agenda’. Learn more.
Reading every book is challenge, and here lies my greatest problem. How I address this is by being selective about what I can ‘actually‘ read; what books I share and those which suit my vision for education and my social audience. On the other occasions, I politely decline the review or accept the book, share and then offer them to Teacher Toolkit readers who would benefit from the read.