Self-directed exploration of education as a topic

On December 12, 2013, I posted this on Facebook.

Dear learners and educators,

Please think about one book you have read about education that has greatly influenced your thinking or practice or learning, and post the title of it in a comment. I’m trying to make myself a deliberate reading list. Thanks!

My friends, relatives, and colleagues — all of whom work in or care about education — suggested the following. Two of the titles were actually Christmas gifts to me from my daughters, Lydia and Grace, who probably saw the post on Facebook but did not at the time respond.

This is a lot of reading. I put the list below as a reminder to myself and also as a resource for others. Also for Christmas I received a handmade notebook from my son Eli. I am reserving it for making notes and reflections on this course of reading.

a few books related to education and one blank one

a few books related to education and one blank one

I begin with bell hooks and Teaching to Transgress because (a) I already own the book but have never read it and (b) new projects should begin with radical inspiration.  Here is the first paragraph from her first chapter, “Engaged Pedagogy”:

To education as the practice of freedom is a way of teaching that anyone can learn. That learning process comes easiest to those of us who teach who also believe that there is an aspect of our vocation that is sacred; who believe that our work is not merely to share information but to share in the intellectual and spiritual growth of our students. To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin.

And here we go. Most of these books do not directly apply to my work as a teacher of scientific and technical communication and college students in a private research university, but it is my belief that any books on writing, education, or human development are relevant to my thinking and practice. There are 17 listed and linked. Please add your suggestion(s) in a comment.

Change-Prompting Books on Education

A Surge of Language: Teaching Poetry Day by Day, by David Capella and Baron Wormser (recommended by Meghan Cadwallader, a poet and director of admissions)

Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, by bell hooks (recommended by Sally Kokernak Millwood, trained as a social worker)

Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, by Richard Rodriguez (recommended by Karen Baloo, a pseudonym for a psychology professor)

Writing/Teaching: Essays Toward a Rhetoric of Pedagogy, by Paul Kameen (recommended by Anne Geller, a writing program director, who says she thinks all the time about Kameen’s thinking on “the difference between performing being and performing becoming” and indicates that the book is also online: link for the download)

Student Writing: Access, Regulation, Desire, by Theresa Lillis (also recommended by Anne Geller)

Experience and Art, by Nancy Smith; When Teachers Reflect: Journeys Toward Effective, Inclusive Practice, edited by Elizabeth A. Tertell; and The Colors of Learning: Integrating the Visual Arts into the Early Childhood Curriculum, by Rosemary Althouse (all three recommended by Ann M. Lacey, who teaches young children, which once included Eli and Lydia!)

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv (recommended by Vibeke Andersen Guterman, a teacher of young children)

The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life, by Parker Palmer (recommended by both Mary Caulfield, a fellow lecturer at MIT, and Neal Lerner, writing scholar and associate director of a writing program)

A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League, by Ron Suskind (recommended by Susan D’Entremont, an archivist, PTO president, and fellow alumna of Wellesley College)

Democracy and Education, by John Dewey. On Writing Well, by William Zinsser (recommended by Diane Felicio, who is a former professor now senior manager in health care fund raising, who also mentions bell hooks and Audre Lord as worth reading)

They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein (recommended by Leia Davies Richardson, a high school English teacher who like me has her MA in English from Simmons College)

Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre, by Keith Johnstone (recommended by James Powers-Black, writer, singer, actor, writing center director, and university administrator)

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism, by Naoki Higashida (given/recommended by Grace Guterman, 8th grade student)

Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, by Diane Ravitch (given/recommended by Lydia Guterman, high school senior)

6 thoughts on “Self-directed exploration of education as a topic

  1. This is impressive. I am interested in hearing your impressions as you go through this. When I was PTA president at our “failing,” “persistently lowest achieving,” “focus” or whatever the term of the week is now, I was obsessed with reading education stuff. Because we are a school allegedly in trouble, we are a guinea pig for every new approach, idea or thought because outsiders tell us it will “transform” the school. (We are forced to be the guinea pig, in case you are wondering.)

    At the time, I thought everyone meant the best for our students. Now I am more cynical, but that’s a story for a different day. But things are never allowed to be in place for long, and I really felt that the State, the reformers, whoever, don’t really get what is going on in our school, what certain directives would mean in a practical way for our staff and students, and, really, how much deep knowledge and understanding many of our own staff members truly have.

    I’m kind of burnt out on reading these sorts of books at the moment, especially since they can make me feel helpless. I would read some good ideas, but could see no way of every implementing them. However, if you read anything that you think would be especially applicable to a truly diverse school – racially, religiously, linguistically and socio-economically – with a higher than average number of financially troubled families, let me know.

    I am also curious about Reign of Error, which I haven’t yet read. I like Diane Ravitch (another alum), but sometimes she can be too polemical for my taste to make her points.

    • Susan, students or schools are indeed guinea pigs if an ‘experiment’ is only tried on them once. Often teachers and reformers leap from experiment to experiment. Transformation takes a long, boring time.

      I’m not burnt out on such books because I haven’t read any in a while. I hope that some of them will rejuvenate me and my energy for teaching, which sometimes gets crushed under the work load.

      I know what you mean about Diane Ravitch. But there looks to be a ton of research in here, and I see value in her having synthesized a lot of it.

  2. This is a brilliant list. I am going to check out, The Reason I jump: The Inner Voice of aThirteen Year Old Boy With Autism. Looks very interesting.
    Thank you Jane. You got me thinking when you posted your idea on Facebook.

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