You Are Not A Finished Product; You’re An Evolving Being

Why Aren’t Teachers Expected to be Readers?

Teachers often choose not to be readers, and because of this choice, they lose, and their students lose. What we choose to read challenges and enlightens us and is just as important as what we make our students read in the classroom.    Let us explain before you become upset and close the lid to your computer.

  • Fact:  Teachers often choose not to read citing lack of time due to their grading and preparation schedule.  They are tired and don’t know how to change the inertia that is holding them in place.
  • Fact:  Teachers often choose not to read because they forget the world outside of their classroom, the relevant world that their students will enter.  They have become so focused on the classroom that they forget GREAT BIG THINGS are occurring right outside their windows, and those GREAT BIG THINGS could make their classroom a better place-for everyone.
  • Fact:  Teachers choose not to read because if they could read, they would want to read something that makes them feel good after a week of parental e-mails, poorly penned excuses and semi-plagiarized papers.
  • Fact:  Teachers do not read because often their post-graduate programs allowed them to assume they are through, they were a completed product.  Rather than creating inquisitive students and graduates who want to take a system and make it better, they create students who believe they are the completed package, and that their job is to be content, to be a member of a system that everyone screams, “Change!”  And though their voices are the loudest, they do not attempt to bring change because they believe they have arrived and there is little they can do to improve themselves as professionals.
  • Fact:  Teachers do not read because they are not expected to.   Administrators read and cite authors in staff meetings, but it’s almost as if reading is only for those on the administrative tier of the salary scale.

The good news is that all of these reasons can be addressed, and a teacher can become a reader that will bring more than the lesson to the classroom; the teacher can bring the world to the lesson through enrichment of the lesson because of their reading.

Action: start a Book Club:

No, it is not one more thing; it is the thing that can transform a teacher from competent to enriching.

Sample norms:

  • Different leader each time to keep it fresh and develop different points of view.  Also keeps it from becoming a monopoly on one person’s ideas.
  • No shop talk.  The problems of the day happened and they can’t be changed.  Look at the ideas in the book with a fresh mind and see potential in them.  Talk about the horrible class of 9th grade girls you inherited from the teacher on maternity leave during this time focuses the time on problems rather than solutions.
  • Honor each other’s point of view.  Argue the idea and not the person.  Remember, not everyone sees the world the same way you do.  Allow other perspectives to have a voice, too.  They might even be right a couple of times!
  •  Teachers are territorial creatures, so have your meeting at a neutral location.   That prevents talk about what is on the board or the stack of papers on the desk, or in our cases, comments about our messy desks.  A local coffee shop where you can have a latte, skinny, and feel a part of the culture.
  • You don’t have to finish the book to participate.  Sometimes life happens, and you cannot complete an assigned reading.  (OMYGOSH!, don’t tell the students we wrote that!) Come with what you know and learn from others.
  • You do not need to have all the answers.  This is where you become the student, the explorer, and you learn from the reading and the conversation.  In short, shut up and listen to others.  Just saying.

In short, the book club becomes my yoga mat of ideas where I focus and breathe.   Let it be the same for you.

 Suggested Books for September and October (we’ll post book suggestions every month, so check back us):


Mindset by Carol Dweck

Why:  Bright underachievers drain us as we try to help them succeed. What I discovered through Dr. Dweck’s research is that understanding the fixed and growth mindset is imperative for a teacher to help their student achieve both inside and outside the classroom.  It made me see that students are not bored or uninterested, but a product of messages they receive from their parents and teachers. Imperative read for all grade levels.  You may discover that you have a fixed mindset about teaching!


Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Why:  Whenever I give a student this book to red, they excitedly inform me that it has changed their lives.  And I understand, because after reading it, my life was changed too.  It is important because it addresses his experiences in the camps during WWII, but it does so much more.   It explains our right to choose our attitudes and outcomes.  It is not pop psychology but a memoir of a man experiencing great change in his life.  And as he is changed, so is the reader.  Short and to the point, it is an excellent read for October when teachers are routinely considering a career in food service.

 A Softer Approach:

Joan designed this approach to reach out to the reluctant readers in her district.  It involves TED Talks, short articles, iTunes University for ease of access, and three books:  Educators as Readers

iTunes University Code:


About Teaching it Forward

We are high school language arts teachers in Oregon.
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One Response to You Are Not A Finished Product; You’re An Evolving Being

  1. Pingback: Changing the Trajectory of Non-Readers into Vibrant, Passionate Readers | Teaching it Forward

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