Category: Book Review

“Are There Any Books That You Recommend for New Teachers?”

“Are There Any Books That You Recommend for New Teachers?”

A few weeks ago one of my new teachers asked me if there were any books that I would recommend for new teachers. At first I was stumped by this question. It has been a while since I read a teaching specific book. Most of my recent reads have been about the creative process. After some thinking I came up with a list of three books that I would recommend for new teachers.

Shouting Won’t Grow Dendrites

By Marcia L. Tate

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During my first year of teaching I participated in BTSA. While I didn’t find most of the program useful, I did have the opportunity to attend two presentations from Dr. Marcia L. Tate. At one of the presentations BTSA provided us with a copy of her book Shouting Won’t Grow Dendrites. This was my classroom management bible for my first few years. In the book Dr. Tate shares 20 classroom management techniques that are based on brain research. What I really like about the book is that it  just doesn’t share a bunch of research, it also offers actionable management tips that can be implemented immediately. I highly recommend it to anyone who has never taught before.

A Whole New Mind

by Daniel Pink


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I was first introduced to Daniel Pink through his book Drive. I really enjoyed Drive so I decided to pick up one of his earlier works. This book is awesome. It really helped me open up my mind to how much design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning impact our day to day lives as educators. I would recommend this book for new teachers because it helped me think about lesson planning and designing assignments for my students.

Die Empty

by Todd Henry


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This past spring I randomly found Todd Henry’s podcast The Accidental Creative while searching the iTunes store. Being obssessed with creativity and looking for ways to improve my own creativity I immedietly took an interest in Todd’s work. Die Empty is Todd’s second book. It focuses on how to maximize your potential every day and ultimately feel satisfied with the work that you are doing. New teachers are normally overwhelmed with learning about the culture and climate of their new school, navigating the politics of education, and ultimately teaching. It is very easy in the first few years to get discouraged and give up or lose hope because you feel like you are not living up to your potential. Die Empty offers several tips for avoiding this burnout. Even as an “experienced” educator I still found this book to be extremely helpful. I have already started implementing some of the strategies Henry shares and have seen an increase in productivity and overall work happiness.

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon


I recently finished reading Austin Kleon’s second book Show Your Work! Being a fan of his previous book Steal Like An Artist, I was super excited to get my hands on Show Your Work! The basic premise of this book is to well….show your work. In this short yet insightful read Kleon offers 10 tips for showing your work and getting noticed.

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The biggest takeaway that I had from reading this book is that creatives don’t need to find an audience for their work, the audience finds you. As an educator I there are a ton of parallels between Kleon’s artistic sharing and the sharing that we do with students. We no longer work in a world were  our student’s only share their work with their teacher. When leveraged correctly, teachers can use technology to help students show their work to a broader audience. By doing this we are showing our students that their work matters beyond just getting a grade. 

Another takeaway I had from reading this book is Kleon’s process for deciding what he posts online. Kleon uses a very simple process to decipher what to post and what not to post. I’m sure we can all agree that this is something that we need to be teaching our students. Kleon says to

Ask yourself is this helpful is it entertaining this is something I would be comfortable with with my boss or mother seeing.

Overall I highly recommend checking out Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work. To properly write a review of this book I would need to basically rewrite it. There is no filler here and it’s a very fast yet motivating read. For more on the book you can check out my book notes by clicking here.

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

A few months back my coworker recommend that I check out Simon Sinek’s Start With Why. I recently finished the book and thought I would do something that I used to dread doing..a quick book report about the book.

The premise of this book is that leaders need to focus on why their company does something instead of how or what their company does. Sinek argues that consumers (or in my case students) don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Throughout the course of the book he uses real life examples of successful products, companies, and people (Apple, Southwest, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Wright Brothers being his favorite) and compares their approach to marketing their product to unsuccessful competitors (Yes the Zune is mentioned).

The basis of his idea is a diagram that he refers to as the Golden Circle. In the book Sinek argues that when the Golden Circle is placed on a diagram of our brain that science can actually prove the importance of starting with why. Sinek argues that the why portion of his diagram lines up with the part of our brain that we refer to as our “gut feeling”.


So how does does the concept of starting with why apply to teaching? When teaching a lesson it is important to let student’s know why it is important to them. The canned answer “It’s on the test” is no longer an acceptable answer. Students’ today are busy and are being bombarded with content. By starting with why when teaching a lesson, you are letting them know that what you are teaching is important and will one day have an effective on them. In my new role of Coordinator of Academic Achievement I plan making sure I focus on the why when it comes to planning PD sessions. By starting with why and showing teachers why the content we are covering is important, I hope to avoid many of the “boring” PD sessions that many teachers complain about.

My biggest issue with this book is the length. On several occasion Sinek repeats himself and several of the chapters are very similar. He uses several of the same examples to make the same point he made the first time he shared the example.  I found this at times frustrating and think he could have done a better job either making the book shorter or adding more examples of companies that started with why. I also wish this would have come with some sort of tool kit like Daniel Pink’s Drive did. While I understand the concept and have a good idea of how to implement it, a few guiding questions or other resources would have been nice.

Overall I would rate this book a 3.5 out of 5. If you were a fan of Sinek’s TED talk and are looking for a deeper look into starting with why I would recommend checking it out. If you would like a quick summary of the concept I would recommend checking out Sinek’s TED Talk on Starting With Why.