Easter time, and its accompanying Spring Break (yippee!), is a time of renewal and new growth, not only spiritually and personally, but professionally as well. Whenever I am looking for professional inspiration, I turn to a handy little book called The Quotable Teacher edited by Randy Howe. This little volume is divided into ten chapters devoted to various teaching topics of interest to educators. For example, “Those Who Teach,” “The Philosophy Behind Good Teaching,” “The Need to Think Outside the Box,” and “Those We Teach.” I keep a copy on my desk at school for those moments when I need a little lift. If you wish to acquire this thought-provoking little volume, you can find The Quotable Teacher on amazon.com.
Just about everyone has heard of the best-selling book The Freedom Writers Diary, written by teacher Erin Gruwell and her high school class of inner-city at-risk students. This collection of student experiences, which will tug at any teacher’s heart strings, was also depicted in a movie starring Hollywood celeb Hilary Swank. This book really zeroes in on some of the challenges our kids face when they are not in school, and how much a caring and dedicated teacher can help them overcome those challenges. The movie delves a little more into the personal life of the teacher, and aside from the suggestion that you have to work three jobs and give up your marriage to be a good teacher, it’s pretty inspiring. What I think is amazing is that my high school students love this book just as much as my fellow teachers do! The Freedom Writers Diary is easy to find on amazon and at just about any brick-and-mortar bookstore.
If you haven’t read this book yet, run, don’t walk, to your nearest brick-and-mortar bookstore and buy it right away! I absolutely loved this action-packed true story about a young teacher, Anne Hobbs, who travelled to the Alaskan wilderness in the 1920’s to teach in a frontier school. Besides encountering the expected lack of teaching materials and frigid temperatures, she heroically battled prejudice against the Native Alaskans. As much an adventure story and a romance as it is a chronicle of early Alaskan history, this tale will keep you on the edge of your seat. Don’t miss it! If you are good at deferred gratification, you can also order Tisha on Amazon.com, but don’t wait too long to read this exciting story!
Carter Godwin Woodson is often credited with originating annual Black History Month celebrations. He is also recognized as the first African American of slave parents to earn a Ph.D. in History. To be sure, these are noteworthy accomplishments. But there is so much more to this brilliant man’s life story than is usually publicized. Did you know that Carter was required much of his childhood to work on the family farm rather than attend school? As a child he taught himself to read using the Bible and local newspapers. He didn’t finish high school until he was 20 years old. Were you aware that he once worked as a coal miner in Fayette County, West Virginia, and then later went back there to teach school to black coal miner’s children, offering them a model for using education to get out of the mines? Did you know that Carter taught school in the Philippines, and then became the supervisor of schools, which included duties as a trainer of teachers, there? All these biographical details and more can be found in the book Chalkboard Champions.
Have you ever heard of the Orphan Trains? During the early years of the 20th century, there were literally thousands of homeless children living aimlessly on the streets of New York City. The Children’s Aid Society (CAS), an organization which still exists to benefit children today, developed a method for finding loving and wholesome homes for many of these children. The CAS organized small groups of children to be transported west and placed them in foster homes on farms and in rural communities. To care for the children, the CAS recruited teachers to escort them, conduct background checks on the prospective foster parents, and make periodic checks on the children’s progress. One such teacher was Clara Comstock, born in 1879 in Hartsville, New York.