Reading into the Profession
Aah summer, the picture forms: endless sunshine,
waves lapping at your feet, a good novel in hand...hold it right there!
Stash that novel for the moment and dig out a book that is really going
to make your life a bit easier - one dedicated to your true passion - teaching.
Summer is a great time to catch up on your
professional development and there's no easier way to start than
by reading one of the many books dedicated to it. Whether it's reviewing one of the
classics on methods or contemplating one of the more controversial views
on discipline, one is bound to capture your attention. So pull up a comfortable chair and consider one of the following titles.
Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community
by Alfie Kohn
Association for Supervision & Curriculm Development/166 pages/1996
Undoubtedly, numerous American educators will
embrace Alfie Kohn's latest examination of American schools, Beyond
Discipline From Compliance to Community. However, readers should proceed
with caution as Kohn unabashedly challenges virtually every discipline
plan educators embrace to effectively manage classrooms.
Familiarity with discipline plans such as "Assertive Discipline," "21st
Century Discipline," "Cooperative Discipline," and "Discipline with Dignity"
is crucial as Kohn refers to these programs critically throughout his work.
Essentially, Kohn challenges not only the precepts of these and other
discipline programs, but also the mentality and purpose of the teachers
who implement such plans. Kohn's loaded language diminishes well-intentioned
and often effective discipline plans instructors across America rely on
to manage classrooms.
Kohn's theory to move beyond punitive discipline
to a classroom community is noble. His strategies for reaching this ideal
resonate with chords of reality as Kohn urges educators to "question our
own practices," and "maximize student involvement," and to minimize the
"punitive impact" of certain disciplinary measures.
Just as Kohn selectively refers to a vast number
of professional readings in the course of his book, so, too, should educators
choose among the ideologies presented by educational theorists, and Kohn's
Beyond Discipline is no exception. Kohn's assertions and criticisms
demand readers to contemplate the rationale behind and the implementation
of any discipline plan.
A Framework for Understanding Poverty
By Ruby Payne
RFT Publishing/232 pages/1998
In the face of demanding standards initiatives
and increasingly diverse student populations, Ruby Payne's A Framework
for Understanding Poverty should be required reading for America's
public school teachers. Incredibly insightful, Payne's work incises America's
social classes and biopsies the language, attitude, rules, and behaviors
that affect American classrooms. She offers fundamentally sound advice
for healing one of the wounds in public education: social inequality.
Payne's work is thought provoking at least
- philosophy altering at best. The supposition is that American society,
public schools included, operates on middle class mores and norms - exclusive
of upper and lower social classes. Payne purports that many students are
not achieving, or even surviving, academically because they are expected
to know and embrace middle class behaviors, yet have been raised with
differing values and mindsets. Full of "aha" moments for teachers
working with impoverished students, Payne's work exposes the fundamentals
of unfamiliar behaviors that middle class teachers find baffling. As
a teacher's understanding of language registers, hidden rules and support
resources grow, so, too, does her understanding of her students - past,
present, and future.
Daily, students are plucked from homes subsisting
in generational poverty and plopped into schools functioning according
to middle class rules. To better understand the disequilibrium created
by crossing social boundaries, Payne offers a "little quiz" about surviving
in the various social classes. This creates a monumental reference point
as teachers contemplate poor students trying to function in a "middle class
world" using their own rules.
Payne's book does not advocate or even propose
that educators should attempt to change the social class of students;
rather, she asserts that through understanding and specific instructional
practices, teachers can empower students to choose behaviors and responses
appropriately and discriminately. Payne describes why and how teachers
should build meaningful relationships with students from poverty. Payne
explains the importance of and techniques for teaching skills typically
not taught at home. Payne emphasizes that educators must
teach the hidden rules to low income students. When teachers understand
generational poverty and its impact on student achievement, they are
able to empower students with the skills necessary to operate effectively
across social boundaries.
Methods that Matter: Six Structures for Best Practice Classrooms
By Harvey Daniels and Marilyn Bizar
Stenhouse Publishing/259 pages/1998
"Genuine Best Practice embraces certain educational
ideas and activities, while clearly ruling others out. It has a deep basis
in research, in the study of child development and learning, in the history
and philosophy of American education. Best Practice, under other older
names, has a long and distinguished pedigree and is manifested through
a limited and distinctive set of classroom practices (2)."
Thus reads a portion of the introduction to
Methods that Matter, one of the latest writings to emerge from
the Best Practices movement. Need a good reason to read yet another methods
book? Well, perhaps one of the strongest reasons to read this book is
that it actually comes from former public school teachers - the authors
presently teach at the Center for City Schools of National-Louis University
Rather than simply prescribe what teachers
should be doing in the classroom, Bizar and Daniels spent considerable
time researching and contemplating what was and was not happening
in the most effective classrooms. They then eliminated the rigmarole to
recommend six methods that effective teachers use to create student-centered,
authentic, challenging classrooms.
Following the introductory chapter, each subsequent
chapter deals with one of the six methods fundamental to effective classroom
practices: (1) integrative units, (2) small group activities, (3) representing
to learn, (4) classroom workshop, (5) authentic experiences, and (6) reflective
assessment. Each chapter is rich with anecdotal notes and teacher-authored
illustrations that cross curriculum and grade levels.
Sensible and authentic, this book boils down
excess theory, leaving teachers with sound philosophy and practical applications
of essential methods- with no stone unturned. Including issues such as
time management, instruction, materials, and last but not least, students
- this book covers how to organize a Best Practices classroom.