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January 26, 2012 Ten Favorite Gift Books for New Teachers By Ruth Manna
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    With the holidays approaching fast, you’re probably wondering what gifts to give your friends and family. Maybe one or your colleagues, mentors, or friends is a prospective or brand new teacher. Or maybe, like me, you’re the mom of a prospective teacher.

    Here’s a list of my favorite books for new teachers. Some of these books are old and others recently published, but all will provide guidance and inspiration for a prospective or new teacher.

    Read on for a brief summary of each book.


    Seven Practical Books for the Classroom Teacher

    These first seven books provide essential guidance and instruction for the new or prospective teacher. Any or them would be welcome additions to their burgeoning professional development collection.

    1. An Ethic of Excellence by Ron BergerAn Ethic of Excellence is the story of Ron Berger, a creative, experienced 6th grade teacher in a small, rural Massachusetts school. So often we hear talk about rigor and high expectations, but Ron’s teaching brings ambitious goals, perseverance, and craftsmanship to life. You’ll wish you’d had Ron Berger for your 6th grade teacher!

    This is the first book I gave my daughter when she began her graduate studies in education.







    2. Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov — When Teach Like a Champion was published last year, it generated good deal of media buzz and the book already has a wide following. Doug Lemov is managing director of Uncommon Schools , a group of charters in New York and New Jersey. Lemov knew he had effective, champion teachers, so he collected and recorded their teaching techniques in Teach Like a Champion. These strategies can be acquired over a lifetime of trial and error, but Lemov offers new teachers a shortcut to excellence. Teach Like a Champion includes a DVD with 25 video clips of best practices.





    3. Mindset by Carol Dweck —– My daughter put me onto Mindset, which was a text in one of her graduate courses. Dweck believes that all of us have one of two mindsets, fixed mindset or growth mindset. She argues for the importance of adopting a growth mindset in teaching, relationships, and life, and clearly shows how to foster such a mindset in students.








    4. Yardsticks by Chip Wood — This short, simple book contains thumbnail sketches of child development stages and characteristics of children and teens ages 4–14. This is an invaluable resource both for teachers and parents, one a new teacher will want to have on the corner of her desk.








    5. The Essential Conversation by Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot— This powerful book about teachers and parents changed the way I thought about my students’ parents. The Essential Conversation is important for all teachers, especially those who work with underserved minorities, English language learners, or children who live in poverty. The Essential Conversation is a must-readbefore a new teacher has her/his first parent conference.







    6. Elementary Perspectives 1: Teaching Concepts of Peace and Conflict by William J. Kreidler Elementary Perspectives is a collection of carefully crafted and easily implemented lessons and activities about peace. Though I first read this book over twenty years ago, Kreidler’s lessons are as pertinent and valuable now as in 1990. Today there’s talk about bullying, but little mention of Peace Studies, which offers instruction on peace, the value of conflict and conflict resolution, social justice issues, and appreciating diversity. 




    7. Teaching Children to Care by Ruth Sidney Charney— This is a foundational book for implementing positive discipline and the Responsive Classroom approach. Charney’s book addresses how to build a learning community, create and implement rules with logical consequences, and problem-solve during class meetings. Other great books for new teachers from Responsive Classroom’s Northeast Foundation for Children, Inc., include The Morning Meeting Book by Roxann Kriete and The First Six Weeks of School by Paula Denton and Roxann Kriete.




    And Three More Books Make Ten. . . .

    These last three books are not as practical or classroom-teacher oriented, but are nevertheless especially relevant for prospective teachers who work in urban education or  with minority populations, or with economically disadvantaged students. There’s much about setting high expectations and rigorous academic requirements for all students.



    8. The Schools Our Children Deserve by Alfie Kohn — Alfie Kohn is a fearlessly outspoken educator and education advocate whose thoughts have stuck with me and influenced my teaching. I remember Kohn saying that high-achieving teachers should not be concerned about what their mediocre colleagues think, but rather think to themselves, “Just for this one year, school will be different.”  









    9. Whatever It Takes by Paul Tough — The story of Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone is one new teachers may have heard, but this book offers a full account.









    10. Work Hard. Be Nice. by Jay Mathews — How two young, relatively inexperienced teachers founded the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), which is today a network of 109 schools in 20 states. An amazing story of perseverance!





    What’s your favorite book for new teachers? Write in and share your suggestions and ideas. 


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Susan Cheyney