5 Relevant Reads for the New Year

As we say goodbye to 2021 and welcome 2022, most people begin thinking of ways that they might grow and change during the next calendar year. Here are a few books that will empower you as an educator.

Differentiating instruction for all students can be cumbersome and overwhelming, especially when balancing social-distancing, masking, and everything else on our plates related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In her book How to Differentiate Instruction in Academically Diverse Classrooms, Dr. Tomlinson empowers educators to honor the differences of students, understand the importance of differentiation, and effectively plan and facilitate meaningful lessons.

As most learning communities continues on the journey of implementing a 1:1 blending learning framework, adapting to this new approach to teaching and learning is vital in order for teachers and students to thrive. In her book Hacking Flex Teaching, award-winning teacher and tech coach Hollie Woodard offers best practices and easily-implemented solutions for digital learning. From classroom culture and student equity to personalized learning and strategic instructional planning, there’s something for us all.

If you’re wanting to make deeper connections with your students or find more meaningful ways to engage them in the classroom, Dr. Carrington’s book Kids These Days is for you! Bringing over 15 years of experience in schools and the mental health field, Dr. Carrington helps educators better understand student perspectives and empowers them to be better leaders and teachers in the community they serve. Kids These Days is an important read for all educators.

I know that teacher burnout is a thing. Educators across our nation – and the world – are feeling the pressure of teaching in a pandemic on top of all the other responsibilities public education brings. These feelings can be so disconcerting and lead to hopelessness. In her book, Hacking Teacher Burnout, Amber Harper helps teachers understand their burnout type, take helpful actions, and prepare for inevitable hardship in the future.

One of my favorite educators, Dr. Nathan D. Lang-Raad, recently co-authored a book with James V. Witty entitled The Boundless Classroom. In an effort to empower teachers in a blended learning environment (you!), this book explores blended learning models, provides templates for creating blended and virtual lessons, and includes strategies for implementing authentic, student-led assessments. It will be released this upcoming February, so add it to your Amazon shopping list now.

While reading reviews of The Boundless Classroom, I have been inspired to rethink my own methods for delivering training and professional development and reimagine my role as an Instructional Technology Coach. I’m sure that you will feel the same inspiration and encouragement, too. Read more about the authors and the book here.

I hope these books will be helpful as you continue to serve your school community well. What are your favorite education reads for 2021? What do you plan to pick up in 2022?

The Value of Struggle

When you hear the word “struggle,” what feelings crop up for you? Looking at the world around us, it’s clear that struggle is something we’ll often do anything to avoid. But as you and I both know, pushing through challenges develops many character traits and skills that we need to be humans who are full of good things like determination, commitment, and kindness.

Just like in life, struggle is a necessary part of learning in the classroom. In order for students to truly learn at the deepest levels, they must grapple with academic challenges and learn how to stay the course. “Struggle” will mean different things for different students, of course, but in order for all students to learn and grow, they must each face appropriately difficult tasks and lean into them instead of trying to find a shortcut or give up altogether.

When I allow my students to struggle and walk with them through it, I am telling them that I believe they have what it takes to succeed. I am giving life to my students’ self-confidence. I’m empowering them to believe in themselves and do difficult things. And I’m building trust in our relationship, too.

Don’t get me wrong. It is difficult sometimes to let this process play out, but removing important obstacles in my students’ experiences will ultimately be calamitous. Doing so robs them of opportunities to develop life skills they need to be successful adults. I choose to sit with my students in their struggle, helping them put words to their feelings and fears. I encourage them to problem-solve on their own in order to find their own light at the end of the tunnel instead of carving the path for them.

And I believe that this is what every teacher – and parent, for that matter – should do for the children in their care. It’s tough work. But it’s worth it.

For further reading on this topic from a parenting perspective, check out Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: the Heart of Parenting by John Gottman.

The Sunday Night Struggle Bus

I don’t know about you, but around 4pm on Sundays, I start a brief period of melancholy. I can feel the weekend coming to a close, and I’m bracing myself for the week ahead… teaching lessons that require a lot of emotional energy, wading through difficult situations with students and their parents, balancing work and life obligations, trying to squeeze in “fun” time with my kids and husband.. Just typing all of that out makes me want to take a nap.

Only those who are teachers or deeply know teachers understand just how demanding our profession can be. When my husband and I started dating a few years ago, he was truly stunned at the amount of work I put in during a regular work week. And that was in May, one of the chillest, most laid-back months of the school year!

If you find yourself on the Sunday Night Struggle Bus during the school year, know that you’re not alone. And remember you are doing some of the most significant work in the world. 

Teaching is one of the most under-appreciated jobs in our nation. Until a seven-day series of snow days hit and parents would gladly give two months’ salary just to get their kids out of their hair and back in the classroom. Don’t believe me? Watch this Atlanta mama begging for area schools to open their doors. (Not gonna lie, I spit out my coffee laughing so hard, so be careful!)

I know that your job isn’t easy, and I know it takes a lot out of you. But you. are. a. difference. maker. At the end of your career, hundreds of grown adults will look back on their educational experience and remember you, the teacher who loved them and showed up. So keep on keepin’ on.

This week, I’m gonna be thinking about all my teacher-readers out there when I feel like calling in for a mental health day. We got this.