I know you scarcely have time to even think about reading. Start thinking about reading anyhow. Summer’s coming, and maybe you can make some time then. You need to, and here’s why.
1. You can’t teach unless you know stuff.
As John Milton Gregory puts it in the first of his Seven Laws of Teaching, “The teacher must know that which he would teach.” Whatever you recall from your own time in grades one through twelve will rarely suffice. You’ll have to crack open a book. I suppose that the student textbook and its accompanying teacher’s guide will do in a pinch, but
2. You can teach better if you know more stuff.
Ideally, you will teach every lesson from a position of knowledge at least one level—and preferably several—beyond what you expect your students to master. This will give you the tools you need to place the lesson in context, answer questions that arise, and provide details for extra interest and illumination. It’s one thing to recount the tale of World War I as told in the textbook. It’s another thing to explain how the Cold War, terrorism, and many of the other major issues of the last hundred years are directly connected to that conflict, and still another matter to tell the stories of individuals who lived through these events. If you’re going to pull this off, you’ll need to read some books first.
3. Reading puts you in a learning mindset.
After reading a good book, I’m often amazed at how much I’ve learned, and at how grotesque was my previous overestimation of my knowledge. Reading reminds me of the endless potential for further learning, and that learning is hard work. It helps me identify with my students as I guide them in learning.
As the theoretically carefree days of summer approach, find some good books to read. Watch for my next blog post if you’d like some suggestions.
CONTRIBUTOR: Peter Goertzen