Over 33 years of teaching, I’ve read a great deal, explored resources available on the internet, and attended many workshops. I know that these had a profound impact on me and my understanding of what it means to me to be a teacher. I came to know that being a teacher was so much more than just the subject which I taught. Through these resources my sense of self as an educator deepened and was enriched. I have chosen to share the resources which have influenced my teaching and which have also influenced my life.
Books which have informed (and still inform) my practice.
* Teacher Lore Schubert and Ayers
This is a wonderful book of essays by Schubert and Ayers. The one that particularly moved me was a letter written by a mother to her child’s teacher. In the letter the parent asked the teacher to remember that what that teacher said and did would have a far reaching effect on the mother’s child. It reminded me that words and actions are never benign. It is something which I’ve carried with me ever since as I’ve worked with students and as I’ve lived my life. I am reminded that I always have a choice and that I must be conscious to the choices which I make.
* Composing a Life Mary Catherine Bateson
This is a wonderful book written by the daughter of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. What it reminded me of was that we all must ‘compose’ our own lives. We are all at choice. It reminded me that I can think about my own life differently – how I make decisions and especially how I deal with adversity. I can surprise myself.
* Peripheral Visions Mary Catherine Bateson
I was so moved by this book that I gave copies of it to several of the participants in my doctoral study. Her insights are profound. For example:
“Not only don’t we know what we know, we don’t know what we teach.”
“Most of the learning of a lifetime, including much of what is learned in school never shows up in the curriculum.”
* Composing a Teaching Life Ruth Vinz
This book was written by Vinz using Bateson’s title as a starting point. It was one of my resources in readings for my doctoral thesis which is on reflective practice and teacher’s personal professional development. Vinz has teachers talk about teaching and how it is that we can teach mindfully.
* Inviting School Success William Purkey
To say that this book saved my sanity when I first began to teach English would not be too much of an exaggeration, I think. Purkey’s major premise is that we have a responsibility to make the work we give our students real, honest and challenging. We must hold our students as able to do what we ask of them while we provide them with the scaffolding which they might need to accomplish the work.
* Subjects Matter Daniels and Zemelman
I found this book when I joined the International Reading Organization. I was the Literacy Facilitator at my school at the time and was trying to find ways to work with subject teachers to help them see themselves as teachers of literacy. The book has a great appendix of immediately useable forms. It also has a great section of lists of books with synopses and a reading meter for each book indicating the difficulty level. It’s a great book especially as it is user friendly – written by teachers for teachers.
* The Big Picture Dennis Littky
Available through ASCD, this is a fantastic book. It made me laugh and it reminded me of my own experiences and it made me think. I really enjoyed the questions at the end of each chapter. Great personal reflective practice for any teacher at any point in his or her career. I liked it so much that I wrote to Littky and investigated jobs at Big Picture Schools.
* The Case Against Standardized Testing Alfie Kohn
I was given this book when I was a member of the OSSTF Provincial Educational Services Committee and became the first Chairperson of the Curriculum and Testing Sub-committee. If you have never read Kohn on the impact of standardized testing in the United States, then you should. It reminds me that teachers often have to practice ‘guerrilla teaching’ in order to change things they know are counter to student success.
* Beyond Monet Bennett and Rolheiser
I first saw this book when a friend on the Provincial Ed Services Committee showed me her copy. She’s a drama teacher and has a son with ADHD. She had found a wealth of ideas and strategies in the book. I wanted a copy and was told it was out of print. Then, last year, I was given a copy of the book. It provides great insights into how we can teach every student, not just the best and brightest. There are good strategies and instructional organizers provided in this book.
* A Soprano on Her Head Ristad
I found this book when I was having a problem with my singing. While it wasn’t meant to be used by a teacher, it gave me some great ideas of ways to re-think what I do and how I do it and how I teach it. It reminded me that what I think is easy might not be easy for someone else and I need to find the way to help the person I’m working with understand. I really liked the idea of reading music sideways.
* Teacher Man Frank McCourt
I was given a copy of this by another teacher who is a member of the same choir as I. Before I finished the first chapter I was laughing. In reading the book, I was reminded that how we teach is as important, if not more so, than what we teach.
* Understanding by Design Wiggins and McTighe
If we want to get teaching right, then we have to turn things around. That’s the premise behind Understanding by Design. We need to decide what expectations are important in any unit we teach and how will we assess student understanding of these key points. Once we’ve decided on this, then we can decide how to teach the material. We need to identify desired results, determine acceptable evidence of student acquisition of knowledge and then plan the learning experiences for our students. It seems so simple but we often lose sight of the important learning in the midst of the overwhelming number of expectations attached to each course. Understanding by Design simplifies this.
* Teaching Adolescent Readers Berrill, Doucette, and Verhulst
This was developed and written by teachers in the Trent University Professional School.It has great and immediately useable forms. The book shows teachers how to make the best use of reading tutors in their classrooms. It’s a great resource.
* Special Education Transformation Report MOE, Ontario
For any educator who wants to understand the Ministry of Education’s directions and initiatives regarding Special Education in Ontario, this is a great resource. It’s important to note that the Ministry acted on over 25 of the 34 recommendations contained in this document.
* Assess for Success TorontoDistrictSchool Board
The Toronto District School Board has a large Curriculum and Development Department which is charged with creating materials which apply to all subjects and which meet the demands of the course expectations for all course in all grades. This particular book addresses teaching boys and the specific literacy needs of boys. While it does this, it sets up specific types of reading and writing tasks and lays them out for teachers – what they will need, how to teach the material, how to alter the material and adapt it. It’s a great resource that is well worth its nominal cost.
* Failing Our Kids: How We are Ruining Our Public Schools Ungerleider
While some may argue that Ungerleider’s research is not broad based, he makes his point thoughtfully: that we have never placed a higher value on education but we are making impossible demands on schools while strangling them financially, that we are creating change for the sake of political ideology, and that we are, as a result, avoiding necessary change. This is a book which every parent, teacher and policy-maker should read.
* It’s So Much Work to Be Your Friend Rick Lavoie
I attended a workshop given by Rick Lavoie before I read this book. The point he makes is that we need to teach our identified students social skills. They need to be ‘socially competent’ in order to be successful in life.
While I’m at it, teachers would benefit from reading and reviewing the Pre-Referral Intervention Manual and the Emotional Behavior Disorder Intervention Manual (revised). These are great resources which identify a particular problem which a student might be exhibiting and then provide suggested strategies which the teacher can try to help the student deal with the particular issue successfully so that the student can engage with their school work and their peers effectively. The strategies listed are good ones for the teacher to try but, I think, each teacher should also extend the strategies beyond what they can do to what the student can do to demonstrate skill acquisition.
This is a neat site where you can access articles on just about everything. For teachers who want to find out about particular disorders which their students might have, these articles are easily found and are not so long or so theoretical that they are not immediately useable.
This site was created by a man who, himself, suffers from a learning exceptionality. He created the site in his desire to find out about how he learned and how he could improve his learning. It has articles for teachers and parents. Here you’ll find information on LD and ADHD, fostering self-esteem and success, dealing with behavior issues, emotional and psychological issues, social skills, managing school and learning, connecting with others. It’s a great site that I was introduced to by an EA in my school.
I found this site while looking for ideas to work with an identified student who was having difficulty with grade 11 courses. I got more information to help me better understand that student’s learning issues. While I didn’t get many new strategies, I did get information.
This is Dr. Kathy Nunley’s site. It’s a great resource of information on brain research and how the brain works and how we learn. Visitors to this site can access articles and strategies to use in working to differentiate instruction for students.
This is a great site. Rick Lavoie is an acknowledged expert in the field of working with students who are exceptional learners. While one can order videos and books from the site, one can also download his articles. They are timely, an easy read and provide teachers with many strategies to help students develop social skills, self-esteem and intrinsic motivation.
Kathy Schrock’s site on the Discovery site is amazing. Unit plans and tests and strategies and articles. Material developed by teachers and for teachers. The material is easily adaptable. When I taught English, it was a great resource in finding new and real ways to teach grammar and writing.
The TorontoDistrictSchool board has a great Curriculum Development and Research Department. Some of the material listed in their catalogue is free and some of it comes at a cost. The curriculum materials developed are for all subjects areas and all grades and are specifically tied to the Ontario Curriculum.
This site is a development of the Carnegie Foundation. Teachers can access web sites developed by other teachers which demonstrate how these teachers teach particular skills and which discuss how the teachers think about teaching. It’s a great site to get teachers to learn not only how to teach but also to learn about teaching.
* This is a Test, This is Only a Test.
I used to use this when I taught Learning Strategies. Part of the course of study required students to consider how to improve their study skills and their test taking skills. This was a great video which was written by teenagers for teenagers.
* How Difficult Can This Be?
When I was at a workshop given by Rick Lavoie, I was reminded that I had seen this video. I used it in working with Peer Tutors. I remember, when I first saw it, I was shocked by what I saw and even more concerned because I could see myself in how Rick Lavoie, as the teacher working with students who are learning disabled, was ‘teaching’. I think every teacher should see this at least once a year. It’s a great reminder of the impact of our words and our actions on students’ self-concept and student success.
Again, I used this when teaching Peer Tutors. It’s a great reminder that attitude is everything. We have the choice to be positive or negative, to have fun or not, to work together effectively or not. This video is also used at my school by teachers of Careers and our Learning Strategies teacher.
Rick Lavoie has several Videos/DVDs which my board is in the process of acquiring. These include:
Last One Picked…First One Picked On which deals with helping educators understand the social emotional issues which learning disabled students face
Learning Disabilities and Discipline which offers practical strategies and advice on dealing with students’ behavioural problems in order to create a stable learning environment
It’s So Much Work to Be Your Friend which provides practical advice on how to help students work through the many issues they face each day as they deal with what Lavoie calls ‘the social contracts’ we have with each other.
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