Tome truths

14th August 2015 at 01:00

Did you hear that bell a few weeks ago? Yeah, it tolled for thee. It was the one that said, "Go home, faithful servant, work is over." Despite the British weather's propensity for irony and hatred of barbecues, it is summer. And if you think it's blink-and-you-miss-it south of the border, try Scotland, home of my gene pool, where the sun only has to show an ankle and we all run around slapping our scorched heads.

Despite the obvious opportunity this affords us to spend six weeks building sandcastles and finally writing that book, I still get asked by people what my recommended summer reading list would be for teachers. Sure, I say, read some books about teaching when you have a chance to reboot and recharge your batteries. Are you nuts?

But that's an unkind way to see it, I suppose. If you love teaching then, as Mary Poppins says, the job's a game. So here are some books that I would recommend to teachers. I won't say "all of mine" because that would be immodest (but just remember that I'm thinking it really, really hard). Some of these titles you'll probably know by heart, but they are the ones that stopped me and made me think.

Why Don't Students Like School? by Daniel Willingham is a great place to start. It's a scandal how little of this type of basic psychology is taught to new teachers, when understanding something about intelligence, motivation and learning makes such a difference to how we approach our lessons.

Urban Myths about Learning and Education by Pedro De Bruyckere is another good one to have in your pedagogical library. Like a companion to Daisy Christodoulou's Seven Myths About Education (which is also a belter) it explodes some of the more fanciful claims made about our profession, and seeks to replace them with cool heads and cautious enquiry.

Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov is also essential reading for anyone who wants to create a safe learning space for children of all ages by building up habits that will support success throughout school and beyond.

The Cage-Busting Teacher by Frederick Hess is one of the best books I've read this year. It suggests ways that teachers can empower themselves and break the cycle of prescriptivism and accountability that threatens to strangle us.

Fifty Major Thinkers on Education by Joy Palmer is one of my favourite guides to a topic we should all consider: what people have thought and said about education before now.

And finally, because being a teacher is about being a teacher, I recommend something that isn't a book but a film. Some people do refer to "video texts", so I reckon I can sneak it in. Etre et Avoir is a French documentary about a small, rural school. It moves at the pace of a snail but every frame is packed with joy, care and dedication.

When you're done with that lot, come back and see me - I have a roomful more. Enjoy the sun if it's still out when you read this.

Tom Bennett is a secondary teacher in East London, director of the ResearchED conference and the government's new school behaviour expert

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