Sunday, June 1, 2014

Summer Reading Titles for Personalized Professional Development

The school year has ended.  A few weeks of rest are ahead.  Summer projects loom large.  Somewhere in the midst of all that I always make time for some professional summer reading.

Some of the best professional development I’ve had has come in the form of dynamic reads that ignite my passion for becoming a better educator.

It's no secret:  I have to read with a highlighter, an ink pen, and a few sticky notes handy.  Not only do I want what I read to sink in at the moment, but also I like to return to my books later to reread the highlights and marginalia to refresh my memory and to check off the changes I’ve incorporated into my teaching practice as a result of having read.  That’s just one way I measure my professional growth over time. 

As I thumbed back through several favorites, I thought I’d share some with you.  After all, if they’ve made a difference for me, perhaps they may also speak to you.

What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most by Todd Whitaker (2004).  I first read this book in 2009, and I return to it frequently.  Whitaker says what I feel:  “No matter how good we are, we still want to be better.”  Self-reflection drives our need to improve.  Throughout the book, I noted descriptions that sounded as if he were describing me and some of my fellow teachers at some point in the past (those of us who needed to make vast improvements) or in the present (as evolving teachers), as well as painting a picture of the ideal, effective teacher  I and my colleagues want to become.  Whitaker provides example after example of behaviors that characterize both ineffective and effective teachers, examples so familiar they must be all too common. For example, he writes, “Ineffective teachers want students to be upset when they leave the office.  Effective teachers want students to be better when they leave.” You know that ineffective teacher, don’t you? Whitaker consistently describes both ends of the spectrum, allowing us to benefit from his wisdom and providing us with an alternative mindset that leads to effectiveness.  This book is a must-read and a regular must-review.

Differentiation:From Planning to Practice Grades 6-12 by Rick Wormeli (2007).  The argument that every student must do the same work and be assessed the same way no longer holds true.  One-size-fits-all is out the door.  This book will help you shift your mindset and provide you with tools to better implement differentiation in your classroom.  Wormeli asserts, “It’s in the undifferentiated classes that students can coast along, rarely challenged, rationalizing that teachers don’t care or that struggling in school implies stupidity.  In the undifferentiated classes, teachers present material, then test and document students’ deficiencies. In the differentiated classes … they make learning so compelling that students have no choice but to become engaged.” If you are ready to teach each student, to meet them where they are and to move them forward in learning, this book will provide a guide for you.

If you need to be convinced of the necessity for differentiation, read Sousa & Tomlinson’s Differentiation & the Brain (2011). Brimming with practical information and rationales, I think I’ve underlined or highlighted on nearly every page!  And the sticky notes are quite numerous. In a section on managing the differentiated classroom, the authors describe a classroom in which the focus is on meaning and understanding.  They write: “Learners have to grapple with ideas, try them out, make mistakes, and dispel misunderstandings if they are to really grasp and own what we ask them to learn.” To that, I added in the margin:  “We must move to focus on meaning & understanding school wide for CCGPS.”   Differentiating instruction and assessment can put us on the right track for creating meaning & understanding with our students.

Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess (2012).  This is a newly acquired title for me, but, WOW!  A quick read with a powerful message.  I’d love to be a student in Burgess’s classroom.  Energy, enthusiasm, passion … ideas abound for hooking and holding students throughout a lesson, to make every lesson a memorable learning experience.  As for self-reflection, try this on for size:  Burgess writes, “An enthusiastic teacher can learn technique, method, and strategy, but it is almost impossible to light a fire inside the charred heart of a burned-out teacher.” Applying the principles in this book will reinvigorate your teaching.

And here are some of the yet-to-be-read titles stacked beside my chair awaiting their turn:

Here's to Happy Summer Reading and Personalized Professional Learning!

What are you reading this summer?  Share your favorite titles.

No comments:

Post a Comment