Read! Read! A Professional Imperative for Effective Teachers
Theresa London Cooper
Recommended Book of the Month:
Yardsticks Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14: A Resource
for Parents and Teachers by Chip Wood
the literature. Subscribe to at least one professional journal.
This is the easiest way to know how, who, and what is happening
is one of the most powerful strategies teachers can employ to build
a repertoire of ideas that will energize a classroom. As teachers,
we know this, but I think we grapple with two major challenges:
selecting the materials that will best meet our needs and finding
the time to begin and maintain a professional reading life. I will
share with you a few routines that have worked for me. I invite
you to try them and let me know what works for you.
may ask the same questions I asked when I began teaching, " When
one cannot read everything, how does one decide what to read?" "And,
how does one find the time?" Over the years, I have learned the
importance of balancing what I read to support my work in the profession.
I read the bulletin board above the time clock at work to find out
about courses, trips, free materials and conferences. I read newspapers
to find out about free materials and workshops. Teacher magazines
provide ideas, reproducibles, and strategies that I use immediately
or with little preparation. Professional journals and books focus
on the research and theory that support effective practice.
us begin with our work environment.
#1: " How did you find out about those free materials?"
Teacher #2: "The flyer was posted on the bulletin board next to
the time clock."
Teacher #1: "Oh, I never have time to read that bulletin board."
Teacher #2: "Gee, that's too bad."
this conversation sound familiar to you? Principals often post worthwhile
information over the time clock and/ or on a bulletin board near
it. I incorporated what I call my "five-minute reading routine"
as part of my daily schedule. I take five minutes just before line-up,
lunch, or a preparation period and five minutes at the end of the
day to read what is posted. Sometimes, opportunities occur on a
first-come, first-serve basis. Usually, there is an impending deadline.
Just by implementing this routine, I have gathered the following
Trips and transportation for classes
Workshops providing free materials
Conferences featuring well-known authors
Substantial savings on children's literature
think about the materials that are mailed to you because you are
union members. We have three newspapers at our fingertips: New
York Teacher, American Teacher, and American Educator.
If I don't have time to read the entire paper, I spend five minutes
skimming the table of contents and noting anything that piques my
interest and will provide me with new ideas to try with students
or teachers. At a later time, I will peruse the articles. In five
minutes, I found a website (http://intel.com/education/math/)
that features an online course with various algebra teaching techniques
(on the back page of American Teacher, September issue)
and a website for resource materials to celebrate Hispanic Heritage
month (see page 23 in the September issue of American Teacher).
After thumbing through the New York Teacher for five
minutes, I spotted information on grants for teachers and information
on free books (see page 10, October 8, 2003). Lastly, the spring
2003 issue of American Educator focused on strategies
that build support for struggling readers. I think it is a "must
read" for every teacher in grades pre-kindergarten through twelve
years ago, while browsing through a magazine entitled, Learning,
I found a coupon for a free science program for grades K-4. It included
a video and hands-on activities for the students. The Mailbox
is another magazine that offers creative teaching ideas and reproducibles
across the curriculum from pre-kindergarten to grade six.
the same reading routine to professional journals that pertain to
my expertise. It is important as professionals to know what the
research says about effective teaching practice. As professionals,
our practice should inform research and research should inform our
practice. Our classrooms can become places where action research
occurs to confirm and extend the findings or provide another perspective
to the findings.
know that what we do is developmentally appropriate, research-based,
and inviting to our students. To that end, I recommend Chip Wood's
book Yardsticks Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14: A Resource
for Parents and Teachers. Students' physical, social, language,
and cognitive needs play a critical role in creating the dynamic
learning environment. Woods provides helpful guidelines.
let us think about how we can find time to read in spite of our
hectic schedules. When do you find yourself waiting for something?
Reading is a proactive strategy that will fill the time and focus
your attention on something beneficial. I always carry a book with
me just in case I have some unexpected time to wait. I read when
I am waiting in the doctor's office, standing in a grocery line
or bank and riding on the train or bus.
I have also made a commitment of a minimum of one hour a week to
read a professional journal, newspaper, or magazine article for
the purpose of collecting strategies and information to enhance
my knowledge and build my repertoire of skills. Additionally, I
take at least fifteen minutes to search the Internet. I may not
have a particular site in mind, but I type in my topic of interest
and decide to visit one or two of the sites that appear. If I find
useful information, I will record the name of the site for future
or the lack thereof is always a factor in the lives of teachers
regardless of where we find ourselves on the continuum of experience-
new, intermediate, or seasoned. Nonetheless, reading is a professional
imperative for effective teachers who want to create a learning-centered
environment that motivates and engages students. Throughout my teaching
career, my colleagues have often asked me," Where did you get those
free materials? How did you find out about that seminar? How did
you think of that idea?" I have often responded, "I read about it."
If you don't have a professional reading life, take a few minutes
to decide how you will begin. Start with a practical and simple
routine similar to one I described. See where it takes you and your
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