5 Surprising Books All Educators Should Read

The following is a list of books that have fundamentally changes the way I view education. They are not titles that will come up in a typical search of “books on education,” some of them don’t even mention education at all, and yet, they’ve undeniably shaped who I am and what I believe as an educator. I hope you will find them surprising and valuable as well.

1. The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need–and What We Can Do About It by Tony Wagner

My biggest takeaway from The Global Achievement Gap is that our education system is grappling with seismic shifts in how the world works. As a result, we need to align what we teach to what our students need now, more than ever, and that is the ability to think critically, to work collaboratively, to adapt, to take the initiative, to communicate effectively, to analyze, and to imagine.

2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is the inspiration behind what I want to teach the people around me, whether they are my students or my colleagues. In it, Covey writes a step-by-step guide on how to lead a principled centered life, one that fundamentally changes the way you view personal and professional productivity and decision making. When I think about what we really should be teaching our students and embedding in our everyday interactions with them, these seven habits are at the top of the list.

3. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck + Formative Assessment and Standards Based Grading by Robert J. Marzano

Mindset shows how success is not contingent so much on innate talent, but rather on cultivating a growth mindset towards developing skills in both our personal and professional lives. Mindset also points out the many ways we sometimes stunt the growth mindset in children, such as by praising them for getting 100% on an easy test instead of challenging them to try something harder. Formative Assessment and Standards Based Grading then fills in the gap between knowing that we need to help our children develop a growth mindset and how we can actually structure our grading systems to do so. These books changed my life as an educator.

4. Impro: Improvisation and the Theater by Keith Johnstone

Impro is a teacher’s manifesto on how to allow creativity to flourish in children’s lives. Children are fundamentally creative. They are artists and scientists, writers and makers. Yet, somehow this creativity can get squashed as they move through the school system. Read this book to be inspired by a vision where schools don’t inhibit creativity but instead enhance it.

5. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg

Fundamentally, being an educator is about communicating. It is not only about communicating knowledge and skills, it is also about communicating why those knowledge and skills are important. Educating is also not about forcing compliance, it is about hearing children’s needs and meeting them in a way that works for the greater good. For example, I had a student one year who just needed to move around in order to pay attention. Other students, though, needed to be able to focus on the lesson and his fidgeting bothered them. Meanwhile, I needed him to be engaged in class and learning. Therefore, the solution was not to force him to sit down in his chair and not fidget, it was to give him a seat in the back of the classroom where he could, when he needed to, stand up and rock from foot to foot, out of the line of sights of other students. Nonviolent Communication teaches how we can all relate to one another in a way that fundamentally respects each other’s needs and peacefully solves potential conflicts.

If you have more books that have fundamentally changed your life as an educator, please share in the comments below.

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