10 Books That Improved My Teaching

A wise man once said “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” This lovely Dr Seuss quote adorns my classroom wall and is just as true for me as it is for my students.

This time last year I was beginning my teaching career with the Teach for Australia program. Reading widely has helped me to both prepare for and improve my teaching.

Next weekend, 130 other Australians who are passionate about addressing educational inequity will start the same journey with TFA. With a few friends joining the program, I thought I’d take the time to highlight the top ten books that have helped me most.

I hope this list will help new teachers looking for advice before and during their first year of teaching. I’ve separated them into books I found useful to read before teaching, and those for while I was in the classroom.

Before you enter the school gates…

  • 1) Mindset – Dr Carol Dweck. While I didn’t specifically read this to prepare for teaching, I found the content important for my classroom. The mindset of each of my students genuinely impacts on their ability to engage and succeed in class. 
  • 2) How Children Succeed – Paul Tough. A must read! Tough argues that the qualities of grit, perseverance, and curiosity help shape our children’s future more than ‘intelligence’. Highly recommend listening to this piece from This American Life too. 
  • 3) Emotional Intelligence – Dr Daniel Goleman. A look into the ’emotional’ side of intelligence, something important for all teachers to actively develop in their students. 
  • 4) Learned Optimism – Dr Martin Seligman. Linking with Mindset and Emotional Intelligence, this one highlights the importance of building optimism in our students. I’ve worked with parents to create a number of simple homework tasks for Year 7 boys on this with positive results.

While you’re in the classroom… 

  • 5) Teach Like A Champion – Doug Lemov // Teach Like Your Hair is on Fire – Rafe Esquith. I included these together as I found them remarkably helpful with small and practical tips throughout the year. I wasn’t ready for them in week one, but regularly reviewing these books helped my practice develop.
  • 6) You Know The Fair Rule – Dr Bill Rogers. For classroom management strategies, Rogers work is an essential read.  
  • 7) Integrating Differentiated Instruction & Understanding by Design – Tomlinson & McTighe. A helpful and practical guide for two of the most important concepts for new educators. 
  • 8) Cultivating Judgement: Teaching Critical Thinking – John Nelson.A great book full of practical strategies to teach critical thinking in all classrooms. Has a range of relevant subject specific ideas. 
  • 9) How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk – Faber & Mazlish. Learning how to effectively speak with students is one of the finer arts of teaching, this one definitely helped!
  • 10)Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – JK Rowling. I highly recommend reading books you fell in love with as a child while teaching. It’s important to remember there should be a little magic in every classroom.

And an online companion for the whole journey..

  • Edutopia (George Lucas Education Foundation) – An incredible online resource full of ideas for new teachers to improve their practice.

Along with Edutopia, this selection of books have helped shape my teaching and build my understanding of what is required to become a truly ‘great’ teacher. While I’m a long way off, I’d be much further away without the wise words of these authors.


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