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6 books you should be reading. (Maybe now. But later works too.)

My daughter calls them “the Before Times.”

As in . . . the days before COVID-19. Before stay at home orders. Before you were teaching via Zoom and Google Classroom and Meet.

In the Before Times, I wouldn’t feel at all uncomfortable suggesting that you read more. Whether you prefer the feel of paper, use a Kindle, or do long reads online, reading for both fun and personal professional growth is always a good thing. Learning more content. Expanding perspectives. Exploring teaching strategies. All make us better at what we do.

And now?

I feel just a little bit uncomfortable. Because the normal normal of spring 2020 is not like the Before Times. You’ve been asked to do a ton of things differently. Your last few months of the school year (and your life) are not what you expected them to be. But here’s the cool thing. As I talk with teachers around the country, the new normal really is becoming a normal normal. Teachers, kids, and families are adapting and doing some really cool stuff.

Is it easy? No. But I get the sense that you’ve been taking deep breaths, figuring some things out, that you’re adjusting and getting your head above water a bit. So I’m suggesting (with a little uncomfortableness) that you begin to think about some personal professional growth. And I’ve got a few suggestions of things to put on your to read list.

I’m a hard copy kind of guy. But feel free to grab these suggestions via a Kindle app. Or even better, grab the Overdrive Libby or Hoopla app and check them out digitally via your local or state libraries.

Let’s start with a few practical, best practice kind of books right at the get-go.

Things will not be the same in the After Times, we know that. Blended learning. Digital tools. Just in time instruction. Flipped classrooms. All of those cats are out of the bag and when we get back into the classroom, it’s gonna look different because they’re loose. Enrique Dans shares some of his thoughts about what that might look like. Will he be 100% correct? Probably not. But don’t expect things to go back to the Before Times normal.

So start getting ready for next fall – and feel free to use some of the ideas now – with these handy how-tos.

Practical Classroom Strategies: A History Teaching Toolbox
Russel Tarr, of the incredible and, wrote this back in 2016. The second edition came out two years later. Both are jam-packed with ready to use ideas, resources, and strategies. Some perfect for 100% digital learning right now and others more adaptable for a blended environment in your classroom next fall.

Google Tools Meets Middle School
Most, if not all of you, are using some form of Google’s G Suite for Education. This 200 page book goes through the basics and provides specific ways of using the tools to encourage critical thinking and product creation, right now and next fall. And don’t be thrown by the middle school part – all of this is super adaptable up or down the grade levels.
Balance With Blended Learning: Partner With Your Students to Reimagine Learning and Reclaim Your Life
Catlin Tucker always has tons of handy stuff and this is her latest. You’ll find strategies to actively engage students in setting goals, monitoring development, reflecting on growth, using feedback, assessing work quality, and communicating their progress with parents.

But you need more than just resources with basic best practices and strategies. You want some content too. So try any or all of these three history related reads.

How To Be An Anti-Racist
Ibram X. Kendi, author of Stamped from the Beginning, says simply not being racist isn’t enough. We must actively choose to be “antiracist,” working to undo racism and its component polices in order to build an equitable society. He gives us a clear and compelling way to approach “the basic struggle we’re all in, the struggle to be fully human and to see that others are fully human.”

Citizen 365: The Hunt for Hitler’s Hidden Soldiers in America
As a descendent of German speaking Mennonites who migrated to the US from Ukraine, Debbie Cenziper’s research hits pretty close to home.  She describes the work of State Department historians and lawyers searching for Nazi soldiers now living in the US, including a Ukrainian Mennonite who joins the SS to track down and murder Jews living in his community. A sobering but necessary story that humanizes the events of the Holocaust.

Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War
One of my all time faves. Tony Horwitz travels throughout the South, visiting Civil War battlefields and interacting with all sorts of people, including historians, white supremacists, and historical re-enactors. Part travelogue, part social commentary, all interesting.

We can always learn more and get better at what we do. This spring shouldn’t be any different. Absolutely focus on the task at hand but as you begin to settle into the normal normal, don’t be afraid to grab a book.

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Glenn is a curriculum and tech integration specialist, speaker, and blogger with a passion for technology and social studies. He delivers engaging professional learning across the country with a focus on consulting, presentations, and keynotes. Find out more about Glenn and how you might learn together by going to his Speaking and Consulting page.


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