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Do I have any fellow bookworms out there? While I read in order to relax and catch a mental break, I also find time to read books that will help me personally and professionally. 

I have read countless books relating to education and teaching practices, but the following stick out and completely transformed my teaching.

In this episode, Khristen discusses the following books:

Never Work Harder Than Your Students and Other Principles of Great Teaching by Robyn R. Jackson


If I could only choose one book to recommend to teachers it would be this one. For a while there, it is the only book I ever did recommend to another teacher. 

Never Work Harder Than Your Students is a teacher mindset book that grounds itself in good teaching principles–not just teaching strategies. 

Robyn guides teachers using the following seven principles.

  1. Start where your students are
  2. Know where your students are going
  3. Expect to get your students there
  4. Support your students along the way
  5. Use feedback to help you and your students get better
  6. Focus on quality rather than quantity
  7. Never work harder than your students. 

Robyn shares examples from her teaching and how to apply these principles. She also gives examples of how you can implement these principles NOW. 

You can read it cover to cover, but I recommend taking the quiz in the Introduction. This tells you what type of teacher you currently are and what principle you should start learning about first. Not sure I convinced you? Check out the free chapters and quiz by following this link: 

Free Chapters and Quiz (in Introduction) from ASCD

Hacking Assessment by Starr Sackstein


Have you ever struggled with the grading system and how some students it favors while others it doesn’t? 

At the time this book came out, I was looking into what standards-based-grading could look like in my classes. There seemed to be a lot of opinions and I just wasn’t sure where to start–until I heard about this book from some of my colleagues at a nearby school. 

This book introduced me to self-reported grading and most importantly: holding student conferences. Game-changer! 

Holding student conferences was a pivot point in my teaching career that I wished I would have implemented sooner! Want to know more about student conferences, check out Episode 5: How to Build Relationships with Students Through Student Conferences.

What I love about the Hack Learning Series books, is that every chapter has examples of implementation. They have simple “what you can do tomorrow” tips in addition to how to fully implement these “hacks.”

Learning by Doing: A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work by Richard DuFour, Rebecca DuFour, Robert Eaker, Thomas W. Many, and Mike Mattos


Honestly, this was one of my textbooks for my admin degree but stick with me. 

In my school district we are big on professional learning communities (PLCs) and even have scheduled time to meet with our PLCs every Monday. 

I had been in a “PLC” for several years where we met together and chit-chatted here and there about teaching and quite frankly, I felt like it was a waste of time. Especially twice a month when I would get to drive to the other end of the district to meet with my team. 

It wasn’t until I read this book that I actually understood what a PLC should be doing and how to function as a team to help our students. 

While I was reading this book, a group of us teachers who were all interested in looking into standards-based-grading decided to form our own PLC team. We met during our lunch hour. We were then able to make vast improvements in our teaching and assessment based on the framework of this book. 

If you are currently part of a PLC–which many of us are–you need to get this book so that you can follow the framework yourself.

Hacking School Discipline by Nathan Maynard and Brad Weinstein


I almost didn’t include this book because I recently discovered it in my aspiring administrator position and haven’t been able to apply it to my own classroom, but feel like it is worth the mention. 

I may also be including it here because as an administrator, my least favorite part of my job is discipline. If more teachers would “create a culture of empathy & responsibility” they would improve relationships and teaching. For selfish reasons, I would be able to shift my focus during the school day to improving the school instead of putting out fires. 

When I am summoned to remove a student from class, I break up the awkwardness of walking them to the front office by talking to them and asking why they are being removed. 

The majority don’t know what they did and they also express that his/her teacher doesn’t like them. I don’t feel that this would be the case if we spent the time to create the culture that is mentioned in this book. 

This book includes scenarios, scripts to use, and plans for implementation. It focuses on how to develop a classroom culture using restorative justice which is what is needed with our children today–especially in such a technical world where they may not get the opportunity to discuss their feelings and stories with others.

Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess

Have you ever been to a keynote that got you pumped to teach? Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like a Pirate is one of those speakers (and great teachers). He came to one of our district’s pre-service meetings a few years back and was fabulous!

At the end of the school year prior to his keynote, we were each given his book. Most of the time I only read it after the keynote, but the title got me. One of my favorite parts of his book is where he talks about “hooks.” Get it? Pirate – Hooks?

Anyway, I was taught they were “anticipatory sets” although “hooks” sounds WAY cooler. What I love about the book is that he goes into several different types of “hooks” and how to use them to gain interest and engagement from his students. He not only gives short examples but also stories on how he used them in lessons.

Bonus! I’ve not only used this idea of “hooks” in my classroom, but I’ve started using it for social media as well. “Hooks” can be used to get your audience to stop the scroll and pay attention to what you want them to read or how to interact.

So, the next time you are browsing Amazon for a book to improve your teaching, be sure to consider those on this list. Share this post with your teacher friends who will benefit from these books as well.

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