10 Reads Before You Teach Abroad

Words shape our world. It’s why you want to teach. You have a voice to speak into the lives of your students and they need to hear it. But don’t be fooled into thinking you can give what you don’t have. You need people continuously speaking into your life as well. Wiser people. People who have been there and know what it’s like. People who love what they do and want to share their passion in hopes that it’s contagious.

These are their stories.

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Books on Fire

Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire by Rafe Esquith

Why Read? Here’s where inspiration and admiration mix to make you believe you can do what Mr. Esquith does. You can and more. But learn from him first. Think 5th graders can’t memorize Shakespeare or learn Vivaldi? You’re talking to the wrong teachers. Get ready for an incredible ride and I assure you, you’ll wish you were back in 5th grade again with Rafe at the helm.

Teaching With Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach edited by Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner

Why Read? Sometimes the right words come in rhyme and verse rather than autobiographical form. Let these words rise up and speak courage into hearts weary or worn or apathetic. Once you are sufficiently stirred, hear from a range of teachers offering their own connections with this poetry.

For Solidarity’s Sake

The Accidental Teacher by Eric Mandel

Why Read? Feeling a bit inadequate? Unprepared? Not ready for this? You’re in good company with Eric Mandel. Another first year perspective on the difficulties and joys of influencing the next generation accompanied by the humorous disbelief that you’re the one they’re looking to. And you get paid for it. Who knew?

Educating Esme by Esme Raji Codell

Why Read? There is something about the first year, isn’t there? Esme’s been there and had the audacity to publish her inner thoughts. Peek inside the fears and insecurities and ingenuity of this Chicago public school teacher. I reckon you’ll find much of yourself right there with her.

See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers by Roxanna Elden

Why Read? What you need when you walk into the classroom – nay, beforehand – is no-nonsense truth about what it’s like to teach. You want to know how to do it well, how to do it consistently, and how to do it with clarity. Because you’re not perfect and teaching is difficult. Here’s a book to inject the right doses of humor and honesty in order to keep you in the game of making a difference.

open books

Pencils and Other Practicalities

The Essential 55 by Ron Clark

Why Read? When you need some solid practicalities to implement in the day to day classroom, Ron Clark will give you a hand. Covering the realm of being a respectful, responsible human being both inside and outside of the school walls, there is sound advice here which will prove helpful for parents, teachers, and students alike. Just in case we get caught in the daily humdrum of routine, here are 55 reminders of our potential.

The First Days of School by Harry Wong and Rosemary Wong

Why Read? A useful guide for structure and management, this best-selling book has proven itself successful in over 120 countries across a wide range of grade levels. You’ll have to see for yourself what the hype is about, but don’t be surprised if you walk away with some solid strategy in organizing your teaching life. After you’ve been inspired to teach with courage and fire, it’s time to get your stuff together and get in the game. Here’s how.

So You Don’t Forget Why

No Future Without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu

Why Read? For a perspective which starts in the classroom but is founded in the world outside, Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks on the power and implications of forgiveness. And being in the throes of South Africa’s Apartheid struggle means he has seen this truth firsthand. Upholding honesty and compassion, Tutu is helping paint a more humane and peaceable world and implores us such a place can be possible if we take the first steps in making it happen. Then, teach others to follow our lead.

The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell

Why Read? You probably knew this one was coming, huh? Since its release as a Hollywood movie, the Freedom Writers and their expectation that their words and voices matter have encouraged many to teach and write and learn and live better stories. When faced with the endless cycles of corruption, violence, death, and hate, these students fight back with actions of peace, affirmation, and love.

The Courage to Teach by Parker J. Palmer

Why Read? Breathe new life into your bones and come back to Parker Palmer’s book when you find yourself thirsty, disoriented, and over it. Days when everything is going our way and days when it’s all you can do to survive, we must see teaching for what it is: an overflowing of what is in our own hearts; the good in us will spill out, or the bad will. Thus, integrity and identity are the essence of our decision to teach. This book seeks to claim or reclaim our foundation of what it means to be a good teacher. The answer starts and ends with us.

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There you have it. Guides on whatever quest has lead you to this profession. A final word from me: When I want to become a better writer, I read lots of books on writing and I practice my craft. When I want to build muscle, I learn what exercises to do, what foods to eat, and I go to the gym. When I seek to be the best teacher I can possibly be, it is these words I turn to in order to learn, grow, and put into play my very best for the sake of those who look to me.

My hope is these words can serve you well as you reach to teach the coming generation.

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