7 Books That Have Influenced My Thinking

Reading time: 4
Ross Morrison McGill


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
Read more about @TeacherToolkit

What books have influenced your thoughts?

Here are some of the books that have influenced my thoughts as an educator throughout the last year. Take a look at each and consider grabbing yourself a copy if one sparks your interest …

1. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

This is one of the most important books I have read in my life. As an educator, it is a fundamental read to your repertoire and is essential reading for everyone. Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race is a book that sparked a national conversation. The title irritated make slightly, but on reflection, it needed to do so. My confirmation and unconscious bias have been firmly challenged and my ‘everyday racism’ radar is now firmly turned on.

Exploring everything from eradicated black history to the inextricable link between class and race and is an essential handbook for anyone who wants to understand race relations in Britain today. The real challenge for us all is how to tackle constitutional and institutional racism in British society. This book at least gets an important conversation going and is my number one choice on this list.

2. The Power of Moments

I was lucky enough to receive a draft copy of The Power of Moments before this book was published in October 2017.  In the book, the Heath brothers ask ‘What if a teacher could design a lesson that they knew students would remember twenty years later?’ or this question which is what I often quote in my teacher training sessions: “Why do we remember more about what happens outside the classroom than what happens inside it?”

It’s a book yet to hit the teaching masses using social media, but its one that I’m sure will gain significant traction in a matter of time.

3. Key Person of Influence

Every industry revolves around Key People of Influence. Their names come up in conversation. They attract opportunities. They earn more money and everyone wants a piece of their time. Many people think it takes decades of hard work, academic qualifications and a generous measure of good luck to become a Key Person of Influence. This book shows you that there is a five-step strategy for fast-tracking your way to the inner circle of the industry you love.

I chose to read this book because it was becoming fascinating for me in my research to understand ‘micro-celebrity’ status and how this aligns (or not) with my own social media journey. It forms part of my doctoral research …

4. The Dip

Every new project (or career or relationship) starts out exciting and fun, particularly in schools. Then it gets harder until it hits a low point. At this point, one may be in a Dip, which will get better if you keep pushing, or a Cul-de-Sac, which will never get better no matter how hard you try. The hard part is knowing the difference and acting on it.

According to marketing guru and best-selling author Seth Godin, what sets successful people apart from everyone else is their ability to give up. Winners quit fast, quit often and quit without guilt – until they commit to beating the right Dip for the right reasons. You’ll never be number one at anything without picking your shots very carefully.

The Dip is a short, entertaining book that helps you do just that. It will forever alter the way you think about success. I think this is a useful book for school leaders to help them use the book as a tool for ‘giving up on bad teaching ideas‘.

5. Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science Can Save Our Schools

I’m still working my way through Teaching Minds, but before I reach the end, I already believe this could be an important book for many to consider. As will all controversial claims, Schank starts with the biggest: “Our educational system is failing students!”

In his provocative book, cognitive scientist and best-selling author Roger Schank argues that class size, lack of parental involvement, and other commonly cited factors have nothing to do with why students are not learning. The culprit is a system of subject-based instruction and the solution is cognitive-based learning. This groundbreaking book defines what it would mean to teach thinking – and although some of the ideas will challenge many teachers, it’s a book worth reading. It may provide another take on ideas cited by Daniel T. Willingham and ‘Why Knowledge Matters‘.

6. To Sell is Human: Persuading, Convincing, and Influencing Others

For years I’ve taken some flak for selling books and teaching resources on this website. When you lose your job, I fail to understand why others deny your right to make a living and feed your family.

Over the years, I’ve seen myself and hundreds of other teachers use social media to ‘sell their ideas’ in the broadest sense: Read my blog, share this, like this and follow me. In its most basic form, these behaviours are selling and to me, Daniel H. Pink’s book, To Sell Is Human has articulated what I’ve always believed about humans (particularly teachers using social media)

Parents sell their kids on going to bed. Spouses sell their partners on mowing the lawn. We sell our bosses on giving us more money and more time off. And in astonishing numbers, we go online to sell ourselves on Facebook, Twitter and online dating profiles. Relying on science, analysis and his trademark clarity of thought, Daniel Pink shows that sales isn’t what it used to be. Then he provides a set of tools, tips, and exercises for succeeding on each new terrain: six new ways to pitch your idea, three ways to understand another’s perspective, five frames that can make your message clearer, and much more.

This is a useful book for the social-media savvy teacher.

7. The Hidden Lives of Learners

If none of the above entice you, then as a teacher you cannot argue against 40 years of teaching and learning research; still yet to reach the masses.

The Hidden Lives of Learners takes the reader deep into the hitherto undiscovered world of the learner. It explores the three worlds which together shape a student’s learning – the public world of the teacher, the highly influential world of peers, and the student’s own private world and experiences. What becomes clear is that just because a teacher is teaching, does not mean students are learning!

You can read my summary of Nuthall’s work in this blog post.

What books have influenced you and your work over the past 12 months?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.