Three Books Every Educator Should Read

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By Jennifer Ward

For the past decade, teaching has been my life. My Brooklyn public school classroom is like a second home to me. I’m sure most teachers feel the same. I spend a lot of time there because my students are an important part of my life, and I love teaching. Over the years, there are a few books that I have found to be very insightful about education in the United States. They may not offer a step-by-step guide on what to do as a new teacher, but they shed light on systemic flaws and how so many politicians and those in higher positions get education wrong. Being an educator goes beyond knowing what to do in the classroom. It also means understanding the issues we are confronted with and where they stem from outside the classroom. These are three books I have found helpful along my way.

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The Life and the Death of the Great American School System by Diane Ravitch

In the midst of Bloomberg’s mayoral term in New York City, I read Ravitch’s book for a class I took in college. Bloomberg’s business model approach is part of what Ravitch discusses, which shows how there is a lack of understanding of what students, parents, and teachers need. Although this was many years ago, a lot hasn’t changed. Ravitch goes into depth about NCLB, No Child Left Behind, and how standardized tests and accountability causes major damage. My favorite chapter in this book is “The Billionaire Boys’ Club,” which talks about The Gates Foundation and The Walton Family Foundation, both of which vastly influence education in America. It is eye-opening and disconcerting, yet necessary to think about the survival of public schools.

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Lives on the Boundary by Mike Rose

Mike Rose, author of Lives on the Boundary, is another book every educator should read. It discusses the educational challenges students from impoverished and immigrant homes face. Rose grew up in California and was a child of Italian immigrants during the 1940s and 1950s. Although he became a successful educator and author, he had many struggles early on. He never forgot those hardships and has written about them in many of his books. Lives on the Boundary draws from Rose’s personal experiences, as well as those around him, leaving us with a book that is poignant and informative.

Photo By Elke Wetzig (Elya) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Teacher Man by Frank McCourt

Teacher Man is a candid memoir authored by Frank McCourt that chronicles his professional growth as a teacher in New York City. His career spanned decades while he taught at high schools and universities. This book was published a few years before his death in 2009. I love a beautiful memoir, but even better when it is about an author and teacher I truly admire.

Have you read these books? Are there any you would add to this list? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below.

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