Reading Suggestions for Christian Educators

January 6, 2011

Al Boerema starts the conversation:

Hello people,

The theme of the next issue is books that all Christian educators should read. Our contribution will be the books that you are reading these days and think would be good for others to read.

January 14, 2011

Rebecca De Smith starts it off:

Happy new year to all!

For busy teachers, it’s sometimes difficult to find time and energy to read, whether for pleasure or for expanding our competence as teachers. I am blessed to teach with colleagues who are willing to share interesting book ideas and to engage in meaningful dialogue after reading. I’ve listed a few books from this past year that have been a stimulus for change and growth in my teaching.

The most thought-provoking book on education I’ve read recently is What’s Worth Fighting for in Your School? by Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves. This book shares practical ideas for how teachers can begin to make positive changes in their school. I really appreciate how the authors advise teachers and principals to strive for balance between respecting individualism and encouraging collaboration as we work to improve our schools.

I have read some of Daniel H. Pink’s books this past year. In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Pink provides an engaging look at motivation. His idea that intrinsic motivation is what really brings satisfaction and helps us realize our fullest potential challenges teachers to look at how we can authentically motivate our students in the classroom.

Another of Pink’s books, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, focuses on the premise that we need to expand our right brain if we want to succeed in our world. It’s an interesting read as teachers prepare students for living and working in a fast-paced, technology-driven world.

Currently, the professional learning community in our school is discussing Bruce Wilkinson’s book, The Seven Laws of the Learner: How to Teach Almost Anything to Practically Anyone. This book outlines seven principles and techniques that enable teachers to make a lasting impact on their teaching and on their student’s learning. It’s a great book to discuss with colleagues, providing opportunities to make his ideas personal and applicable in your school.

Happy reading!

January 15, 2011

Mary Ashun added:

Thanks for lighting a fire under me Rebecca! I needed that. I also have enjoyed Daniel Pink’s book so I second what Rebecca says. Now to my reading list. I’ve been reading fiction set in different cultures in an attempt to be more globally aware. I’m daily reminded of the multicultural society we are living in, and while I demand that others try to understand me, I wonder to what extent have I tried to understand others? So here is my little list of what I’ve read so far:

The Romance Reader, by Pearl Abraham—The story of a Hasidic girl in New York City, questioning her identity, circumstances, her family’s rituals, and her impending marriage to a rabbi. An eye opener for me.

Secret Daughter, by Shilpi Somaya Gowda—The story of the search for a birth mother by a young Indian woman adopted by an Indian father and her American mother.

American Fuji, by Sara Backer—An American female professor of English is introduced to Japanese culture when she accepts a position to teach in a Japanese university. She is able to live the expatriate lifestyle without encountering “too much” Japanese culture until she loses her prestigious job and has to work as a funeral director in a funeral home that sells dreams of “space death” to wealthy Japanese. A lovely book.

I Do Not Come to You by Chance, by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani—Which one of us has never received that e-mail that tells us to send our account number to a particular address and by doing so, we will share in the millions that will be transferred from an African, Saudi, or Libyan bank? In Africa and specifically Nigeria this cyber scam is called 419 and in this story, we get to understand how it all starts, why it starts, and some of the social consequences of poverty in a country that has been so blessed with resource wealth. Nwaubani’s writing is crisp, and for those who’ve had the opportunity to live in Africa, you will smile at the nuances.

The Prophet of Zongo Street, by Mohammed Naseehu Ali—Set in Ghana and New York, this is a collection of short stories that are interesting to me because they are written by a Muslim trying to understand his religion, its effect on his culture, and how he is perceived by others, especially in New York after 9/11.

And almost everything by Maeve Binchy and Frank McCourt (Irish)!

Happy reading!

January 20, 2011

Christian Altena offers:

The vast majority of my reading (yes, even my “light” pleasure reading) consists of histories. So here’s a list of what’s been on my pile as of late.

The first three are surveys of American history. The first is The Rise of American Democracy, by Sean Wilentz. If you’re interested in a thorough discussion of the roots and development of the democratic experience from the beginnings of the republic to the Civil War, then this is your book.

Next is Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen’s A Patriot’s History of the United States. Don’t let the introductory interview with Rush Limbaugh scare you off; this conservative’s answer to Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States is a fun and fascinating read. I particularly appreciated the sections on the Civil War taking the neo-Confederates to task.

Finally, a book I’m currently reading in preparation for my Presidential March Madness unit (e-mail me if you want the brackets to play in your classroom!): The Leaders We Deserved, by Alvin Stephen Felzenberg. This book takes a novel approach to presidential rankings by evaluating the leaders in a number of separate areas including character, competence, and policies.

The last three are period-specific works. The Burning, by Tim Madigan tells the gut-wrenching and little-known history of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot. The “nadir of race relations” of the interwar period is graphically exposed. James Bradley’s Imperial Cruise tells the story of Teddy Roosevelt’s behind-closed-doors diplomacy with Japan, Korea, and China just after the turn of the century, in the wake of America’s brief and tragic imperial experience in the Philippines. Finally, on the pile waiting to be started is Summer for the Gods, by Edward J. Larson. This Pulitzer Prize winner tells the story of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial of 1925.

January 23, 2011

Tim Leugs reports:

I have found my reading swaying in the direction of rereading books I have read from long ago—classics ranging from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. My intent in reading these books has been to tap back into books that have become part of the public consciousness; this has been a fun activity for me, enriching my reading of news and journals. I think this is a good experience for any educator to try.

Next, I enjoy reading the books my students are reading. Although series for fifth-graders like Guardians of Ga’Hoole and Warriors are not particularly good literature, they really help me to better appreciate and understand those I am working with and working for.

Finally, some personal favorites of mine:

Till We Have Faces, by C. S. Lewis. This book is a retelling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, and reads like an adult version of the Narnia books.

Watership Down, by Richard Adams. This series does for rabbits what Tolkien did for Middle-earth. In addition, after reading this, I found that I was much more tolerant of rabbits eating up my garden, for some reason.

The Girl With the Brown Crayo,n by Vivian Gussin Paley (or any other books by Paley, for that matter). Although she wrote about her experiences as a preschool and kindergarten educator, the things she has to write make a difference for anyone working with students.

January 23, 2011

Bruce Wergeland adds to the stack:

Good evening,

My recent book selection has focused more on “being” rather than “knowing.” During this school year, I have been drawn to authors that challenge me to go beyond the contemplation of my faith to putting it into practice.

Desiring the Kingdom, by James K. A. Smith, explores the importance of habit, ritual, and tradition in the Christian life. Western Christians need to practice their faith like a Jew, rather than contemplate their faith like a Greek.

Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath, presents an engaging strategy for practicing and communicating your ideas and passions to others. Although this book is written for anyone who speaks to an audience, the ideas of the authors are particularly useful for teachers who understand the power of language in their classroom.

Teaching Like Your Hair Is on Fire, by Rafe Esquith, is a wonderful compilation of stories, lessons and teaching philosophy from an experienced teacher in Los Angeles. His writing connects with the fears, frustrations and joys of all committed teachers.

After You Believe, by N. T. Wright, investigates the importance of virtue for the formation of Christian character. Salvation does not exist simply so we can be reunited with our Creator when we die, but exists to invite all people into a greater understanding and practice of what it means to be truly human.

The panel consists of:

  • Al Boerema who teaches in the Education Department at Calvin College
  • Rebecca De Smith who is the Discovery Room Coordinator and the Curriculum Coordinator at Sioux Center Christian School in Sioux Center, Iowa
  • Mary Ashun who teaches in the Education Department at Redeemer University College
  • Christian Altena who teaches at Chicago Christian High School in Palos Heights, Illinois
  • Tim Leugs, who teaches at Legacy Christian School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  • Bruce Wergeland who teaches at Langley Christian Middle School in Langley, British Columbia