Good reads for the career teacher

23rd September 2005 at 01:00
Ask any seasoned teacher to name the best year of her career and I doubt it will be the first. Our initial year in the classroom is too often a switchback of both pleasant and unwanted emotions, as we establish our credibility, learn to play the part of "real" teacher and master the art of hiding the panic as we realise just how much we don't yet know. No, for many of us things start to get more interesting and stable in our second year.

As you leave your first emotional year and begin to reflect on where your career is heading, it's important to challenge yourself with relevant reading material. Here are some recommendations.

Practical guidance

Our second and third years of teaching are ideal for honing our craft as teachers. Sometimes we need down-to-earth guidance that provides easy solutions to familiar issues. The Teachers Pocketbook series has established itself as an indispensable source of practical advice. Two titles stand out. Don't miss Roy Watson-Davis's Creative Teaching which contains a host of original, not to say wacky, ideas like wearing a Superman outfit and getting students to throw paper aeroplanes at you containing their questions.

If you're thinking about taking on subject responsibility, a good source of ideas is Brin Best and Will Thomas's Head of Department's Pocketbook (Management Pocketbooks Ltd, pound;6.99). You'll find helpful advice in a reassuringly compact format.

your learning

Effective teachers never stop learning, and there's a wealth of material available to develop your insight into how the brain works. Perhaps most authoritative and easily-digestible is The Learning Revolution by Gordon Dryden and Jeannette Vos (Network Educational Press pound;14.95). It's an import from New Zealand and - once you get past the relentlessly jaunty tone - it skillfully maps out issues relating to the changing nature of society, research into the brain and learning, multiple intelligences, and so on. It's a feel-good book too, reminding us that we're engaged in one of the most important careers there is.


Good teaching will never really happen without good classroom discipline.

Several books contain helpful advice. Here are two of the best known and most useful.

In Cracking the Hard Class (Paul Chapman Publishers, pound;16.99), the undisputed master of behaviour management, Bill Rogers, shows us that being an effective teacher isn't a result of God-given gifts of charisma and presence, but can be developed through a series of specific skills and learnt actions. It's one of the most useful books around for new teachers.

Sue Cowley's books are similarly grounded. Her starting-point was the fabulously well-titled Getting the Buggers to Behave 2 (Continuum, Pounds 12.99) which remains a reassuring and entertaining guide to the subject.

The bigger picture

As you get ready to start thinking about the educational world beyond your own classroom, there are various books that help to open your mind to issues of school self-evaluation and monitoring. For my money, best of these is The Intelligent School (Barbara MacGilchrist, Kate Myers and Jane Reed, Sage, pound;18.99). It's a book that exemplifies how good academics can help us to step back and use data to improve the life chances of the pupils in our care.

If you want an inspiring call-to-arms for stepping into school leadership, take a look at Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan's What's Worth Fighting for in Your School (Open University Press, pound;16.99). It's another of those extraordinary books that can nourish our souls even at the end of a bleak winter stint of breaktime duty.

The hurly-burly of school life can leave us feeling too exhausted to think of ourselves, to stand back and reflect on the skills and qualities we need to develop, and to plan the next stage of our professional development. All of these books will help. Over to you to make time for them.

The writer is headteacher at King Edward VI School, Suffolk, a 14 to19 training school

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