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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Summer is the time when new teachers learn and when veteran teachers relax and then learn. Whether at the beach watching over your kid who is flinging the beach ball too hard, or at home with your face right on the full-power air conditioner, here's hoping the following five books give you something to enjoy and discuss. These books fall into three categories: leadership, race, or math (and in one case, all three). I'm recommending them all, and feel free to let me know what you think in the comments section below.

  1. Math Matters: Understanding the Math You Teach, Grades K-8
    by Suzanne Chapin and Art Johnson

    When I wanted to rethink my lesson planning, I remembered having this book somewhere on my bookshelf. I'd never read it before, but as I sifted through it, I found concrete and fresh approaches to the thinking behind the math I taught. It leaves enough room for the teacher to create lesson plans around it, but still demands rigor and understanding of the math being taught. For example, their chapter on percentages has a nice progression that might remind you of this new set of standards everyone keeps talking about.

  2. "Multiplication is for White People": Raising Expectations for Other People's Children by Lisa Delpit
    If you’re not familiar with her first book, Other People's Children, you’ll love this multi-dimensional update. Her book sets the record straight on the ways in which people had distorted her earlier work, and provides a plethora of examples for thinking about teaching children of color in all subject areas. For teachers of color, I might also recommend reading this if you're taking public transportation, and let the uncomfortableness simmer.

  3. The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation
    by Elena Aguilar

    Full disclosure: the author writes for Edutopia. Since I got a chance to look at this book, I found myself enthralled with the idea that someone would integrate social justice with developing schools and teachers. Aguilar proves herself a transformational leader in the truest sense, managing the delicate balance of direct discussion with a nuanced coalition-building, all with hints of passionate people who've influenced her work. This is also great for anyone looking to lead better.

  4. Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers
    by Eric Gutstein and Bob Peterson

    For experienced math teachers, we always want to find ways to bring "real-life" situations into the math class. Gutstein and Peterson make a great attempt at pulling math back from the abstract to the concrete. After reading just a few of these articles, I was already finding ways to talk about social issues without looking too contrived or off-track from my curriculum.

  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
    I'll probably recommend this book to anyone and everyone who is or has been a teacher. As someone who has taught math in a special needs environment, I found this book truly shifted the way I thought about teaching children who don't fit the mainstream academically. Well-written and fast-paced, it has a narrative that captivated me to the point where I almost missed a few classes. I won't ruin it for you here. Just pick it up.

Well, that's as far as I got. By the time you read this, I hope you have a margarita in one hand and a highlighter in the other. Which means you have to drop one of these to pick up any of the aforementioned books. Best of luck!

Comments (25)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

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zep's picture
zep
Education Specialist

While many have completely transformed my pedagogy any reading list of mine starts & ends w/ A.S. Neill. This list is his books is borrowed from his school's (Summerhill) website:
A Dominie's Log - Herbert Jenkins, 1916; Hart, 1975
A Dominie Dismissed - Herbert Jenkins, 1917; Hart, 1975
A Dominie in Doubt - Herbert Jenkins, 1921; Hart, 1975
A Dominie Abroad - Herbert Jenkins, 1923
The Problem Child - Herbert Jenkins, 1926; McBride, 1928
The Problem Parent - Herbert Jenkins, 1932
That Dreadful School - Herbert Jenkins, 1937
The Problem Teacher - Herbert Jenkins, 1939; International Universities Press, 1946
Hearts Not Heads in the School - Herbert Jenkins, 1945
The Problem Family - Herbert Jenkins, 1949; Hermitage Press, 1949
The Free Child - Herbert Jenkins, 1953
Summerhill - Gollancz, 1962; Penguin, 1968; Hart 1960
Freedon not License! - Hart 1966
Talking of Summerhill - Gollancz, 1967
Neill! Neill! Orange Peel! - A Personal View of Ninety Years, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1973; Quartet, 1977. ISBN 0 297 76554 X
All The Best, Neill, Letters From Summerhill - Jonathan Croall (ed.), Andre Deutsch, 1983. ISBN 0 233 97594 2
The New Summerhill - Albert Lamb (ed.), Penguin Education, 1992. ISBN 0-14-016783-8

M. A. Hauck, M.Ed's picture
M. A. Hauck, M.Ed
Life Skills Support Teacher

Lida Delpit's book would be a much better book if she didn't side step the obvious. Urban school districts are plagued on two, not just one, front. The one apparently not mentioned in the book is the toxic culture from which these kids come from that not only affects them but many of their parents, too. Unless an at-risk kid has been assigned to a residential treatment facility for a year to 18 months, where expectations, structure, and discipline is consistent with the academic setting, they have a limited chance to correct whatever behavioral deficiencies are unfortunately developed in relatively feral environments. Everything learned and practiced from 8 to 3 Monday through Friday in the school is completely undermined by lack of structure and discipline at home.

Change the culture that at-risk kids come from, reintroduce more faith based initiatives in urban environments, and things can improve. Once that improves, school performance will improve, but IT MUST START IN THE HOME ENVIRONMENT.

I've had many church pastors agree with me on that point, which is why they've opened their doors to offer safe alternatives for kids instead of sitting around getting high and listening to violent and foul mouthed rap music.

I've been working consistently with at-risk kids in an urban environment and in residential treatment facilities for the last six year so my perspective is valid.

Unfortunately, stating the obvious around certain people close to this issue will result in your being called foul names. People like this aren't interested in completely erasing the problems once and for all so they never return. Somehow, their livelihoods are partially dependent on perpetuating misery and strife because without it, dollars from taxpayer sources won't keep flowing.

M. A. Hauck, M.Ed's picture
M. A. Hauck, M.Ed
Life Skills Support Teacher

A. S. Neill was a fraud. An overwhelming volume of research indicates that children crave and require highly structured learning environments, plus authoritative figures to lead them. Reality check: the real world of adults and adult endeavor does not run like a Summerhill (or Montessori, for that matter) classroom.

Kenneth John Odle's picture
Kenneth John Odle
Science and English teacher

[quote]Reality check: the real world of adults and adult endeavor does not run like a Summerhill (or Montessori, for that matter) classroom.[/quote]

Yes, but part of the point of education is not to perpetuate the status quo, but to give children the tools to change it, and models for how that change should look.

M. A. Hauck, M.Ed's picture
M. A. Hauck, M.Ed
Life Skills Support Teacher

Yes, Kenneth, that is the idealistic view of education that sounds great to academic elites, but in a more working class European immigrant mentality that's learned about life via struggle and personal need to survive, the purpose of an education is to acquire the skills to get a good job that provides the wage or salary so you can get married, start a family, provide for that family (including your surviving forebears) and lead a respectable honorable life. Essentially, create and maintain a safe and healthy environment for your own flesh and blood. This is the survival mentality that built this nation and I see no reason to depart from what has been a successful formula. It's only the elites who sneer at such things because it seems to them, intact nuclear families and the definitions of traditional households are passe.

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