6 Books for Teachers That Teach Beyond the Classroom

Throughout my career as an educator, I have read numerous books on classroom management, technology integration, and other educational topics.

However, I have also discovered non-education titles that have contributed to my growth as a teacher, leader, and individual. These books have provided me with a fresh perspective and stimulated new ways of thinking.

Recommended Books for Teachers Outside of Education

1. Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking by Jon Acuff

Key quote: One of the greatest mistakes you can make in life is assuming all your thoughts are true.”

In the field of education, it is common to rely on traditional practices simply because they have always been done that way. However, Acuff reminds us that just because something is familiar doesn’t mean it is the best approach. He encourages us to challenge ourselves and ask how things could be done differently. Additionally, he emphasizes the importance of overcoming self-judgment in order to make progress.

As an English teacher, I used to believe that I wasn’t skilled at writing. However, through professional development and self-reflection, I discovered that I was actually competent in this area. I changed my mindset and abandoned the negative thoughts that had hindered me. Similarly, many of my students initially felt insecure about their abilities in math or writing. But when provided with proper support and individualized instruction, they realized that they were more capable than they had believed, leading them to change their own soundtracks of self-doubt.

2. How to Work With (Almost) Anyone: Five Questions for Building the Best Possible Relationships by Michael Bungay Stanier

Key quote: “Humans are creatures of patterns and habits, and when we name something, it tells us how to navigate it.”

In education, we often find ourselves working with diverse groups of people that we haven’t personally selected. This book offers valuable strategies for building positive relationships, both with individuals we have already established connections with and those we may find challenging.

The book provides practical tools for engaging in difficult conversations in a respectful and productive manner. It has improved my communication skills and taught me that I have an active role in shaping the quality of my relationships. Additionally, it has helped me express my needs, clear up misunderstandings, and respect individuals with whom I may disagree. By investing intentional effort into building strong relationships, we not only benefit personally but also model positive interactions for our students.

3. Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon

Key quote: “If you want to be accepted by a community, you have to first be a good citizen of that community.”

This book equips readers with tools for effectively sharing their work and ideas with others, especially through social media platforms. In the realm of education, being active on platforms that connect educators can greatly contribute to professional development.

By openly sharing our professional processes and resources, we contribute to a collaborative network and reap the benefits of others doing the same. Reading both Soundtracks and Show Your Work! made me realize that I have valuable work worth sharing. As a result, I now post resources online that have proven successful in my own classroom. In return, I benefit from other teachers sharing their experiences and ideas.

4. Life in Five Senses: How Exploring the Senses Got Me Out of My Head and Into the World by Gretchen Rubin

Key quote: “Because I noticed more, I appreciated more.”

Teachers and school leaders constantly work in stimulating environments. However, despite the hustle and bustle, it is easy for us to feel disconnected. The field of education can be overwhelming, even leading to negativity.

Reading this book prompted me to challenge myself to focus on my five senses. I began to notice things that I had previously overlooked, such as a student’s enthusiastic proclamation of success or their expression of pure joy. I also became more aware of the faces of students who felt genuinely seen and heard, as well as various visual elements throughout the school. Taking note of these details helped me maintain balance in my daily experiences, without resorting to toxic positivity.

5. You Need a Manifesto: How to Craft Your Convictions and Put Them to Work by Charlotte Burgess-Auburn

Key quote: “Defining your manifesto will give you a clear understanding and crisp articulation of the goals you’re moving toward, the values that drive you, and the ethics that govern the boundaries of your work.”

In education, we often discuss the “why” behind our actions. However, it can be challenging to break down this “why” into tangible criteria that guide our decision-making processes. This book inspired me to create my own personal manifesto, a clear statement that guides my approach to teaching and leading.

My manifesto emphasizes leading with a coaching approach, which involves starting conversations with teachers and students through questioning and active listening. This approach has resulted in collaborative discussions focused on critical thinking and active learning, rather than simply providing advice. By having a clear manifesto, I am able to say no to requests that do not align with my core values and goals, allowing me to stay focused and connected to my work.

6. Design for Belonging: How to Build Inclusion and Collaboration in Your Communities by Susie Wise

Key quote: “When people feel like they belong, they are able to be their best and do their best.”

As educators, we have the power to create spaces that foster a sense of belonging for all individuals. This book provides valuable insights and strategies for seeing and supporting the diverse students and adults we teach and lead.

In my classroom and professional learning groups, I prioritize creating an environment where everyone feels valued, heard, and supported. This book has reminded me to design activities that cater to the needs of all learners, not just those in the middle. I strive to incorporate extensions as well as scaffolds, providing opportunities for both introverted and extroverted individuals to share their thoughts and ideas. Additionally, I conduct intentional check-ins that support differentiation, enabling me to build a sense of belonging and inclusivity.

Expanding Horizons

Reading books outside the field of education has immensely contributed to my professional growth. While instructional tools and educational content are essential, exploring broader topics has shaped me into a more well-rounded educator.

Through focused reading, clarifying my purpose, establishing a suitable structure, and learning to navigate various personalities, I have become a more effective educator and individual. I encourage you to explore these recommended titles and beyond, enabling yourself to grow and thrive both inside and outside the classroom.

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