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It’s complicated to bring up teacher books before September. Teacher burnout has never been higher than these past few pandemic-scrambled years, and any educators who haven’t outright left are clutching the ledge with broken fingernails. The eight-to-ten week summer vacation seems like the perfect time to catch your breath, but is it really enough? During the school year, doctor’s appointments, family vacations, and personal growth are constantly put on hold for the summer. Many teachers take summer positions to supplement their income. And after all of these obligations, educators are expected to use unpaid summer hours to build lesson plans and professionally develop themselves. Educators are underpaid, burnt out, and seeing school supplies in Target before the Fourth of July. You see why I feel nervous suggesting teacher books. I want my colleagues to breathe.
However overwhelming this profession continues to be, teaching young people means we have an enormous responsibility. Public schools are set up to serve a very specific group of straight, white, middle class, neurotypical students and families. No wonder the job seems so impossible. The system works for so few. Where I live, teachers must have a Master’s Degree to maintain their teaching license, and despite all those classes, very few educators feel prepared to truly meet the needs of their amazing, diverse, creative, interesting students. Luckily, we have books. There is a wealth of knowledge currently available from brilliant educators who see the gaps in our teacher preparation and know what our students deserve.
Start Here, Start Now: A Guide to Antibias and Antiracist Work in Your School Community by Liz Kleinrock
I first encountered Liz Kleinrock through her very popular Instagram account, @TeachAndTransform. As the title suggests, her book is an excellent starting point for teachers who want to integrate antibias work into their careers, but are unsure where to start. Using actionable conversation starters, anchor charts, and real life examples, Start Here, Start Now is an excellent first step on a necessary journey.
In this book, described as a “manual for doing brilliant messy work,” Minor draws on his experiences as a middle school teacher in Brooklyn and the Bronx, as well as his own past as a student. The goal is equitable access, and a large part of that is creating a school experience relevant to students’ actual lives. This illustrated, engaging book is an amazing first step in that direction.
Textured Teaching: A Framework for Culturally Sustaining Practices by Lorena Escoto German
With a focus on the secondary classroom, Textured Teaching is a framework for integrating crucial social justice skills along with rigorous literacy work. Instead of providing lessons, Escoto German empowers educators to create a classroom climate that centers the student, benefits the community, and can be replicated in any school setting.
Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy by Gholdy Muhammad
Cultivating Genius is a framework that uses four tenets — identity development, skill development, intellectual development, and criticality — to ensure that all students, but especially students of color, are given an opportunity to think critically about historical oppression and the ability to thrive in their time.
We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom by Bettina L. Love
It is undisputed that the educational system caters to a privileged subset of actual students, and a lot of energy goes into teaching survival tactics to underserved groups. Love proposes a complete shift to radical change, challenging the status quo, relying on civic engagement, and demanding intersectional justice. This powerful book is not a beginner educational reform text.
Under her handle @TheTutuTeacher, Ahiyya is another author I discovered first on Instagram. Her deep love of children’s literature and finger on the pulse of what is new in children’s publishing leads to this awesome books of lessons that pair picture books with conversations about diversity.
The Ramped-Up Read Aloud: What to Notice as You Turn the Page by Maria P. Walther
Here’s more read-aloud magic to fill classrooms with the joy of literacy! This book gives rich language to supplement conversations about all aspects of a read-aloud, from admiring details in the illustrations to recognizing overarching themes. Examples from specific books are great, but the overall routine of sharing a book can be applied to any literature!
Teach, Breathe, Learn: Mindfulness in and out of the Classroom by Meena Srinivasan
Mindfulness is such a buzzword in the current academic climate, right up there with “social emotional learning” and “rigor.” These terms are catchalls, but what do they look like in the classroom? At least for mindfulness, Teach, Breathe, Learn answers that question. Srinivasan first tackles the teacher psyche, which I love. Exercises in responding vs. reacting and building healthy breaks into the actual school day lay a great foundation. Next, actionable plans are provided to roll out a mindfulness practice that includes students. This book teaches skills that will benefit teachers in and out of the classroom.
Hopefully you’ve found some teacher books to pique your interest. If you are an educator, take a deep breath and promise me that you’ll pace yourself. Pick a single text and let it soak in. Challenge yourself to a single action and check in with yourself often. The thriving spot between going numb and burning out is small and tenuous. If you’re looking for more teacher books, check out this expansive list of books for about teachers.