Monday, July 19, 2010

Teaching as Leadership Book Review by ChristineMM

Teaching as Leadership Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Teaching as Leadership: The Highly Effective Teacher's Guide to Closing the Achievement Gap
Author: Steven Farr Teach for America
Publication: Jossey-Bass, February 2010

My star rating: 5 stars out of 5 = I Love It

Summary Statement: Inspiring and Practical Information for Teaching Methods for Highly Effective Teaching for Under-Achieving Schools (That Can Work in Any Classroom)

TEACHING FOR LEADERSHIP is a book for teachers explaining teaching methods with practical information that can be put into practice right now (if only the teachers are willing and allowed to make the change). With Teach for America (TFA), college graduates agree to teach for a couple of years (even when their major was not education) in order to do service to discount their student loans. They work in cities where kids are underprivileged, they’ve been labeled as failing and they are at-risk. I have heard in the media that these are places that are hard to lure union teachers to work in so TFA has been welcomed in to help out.

The book starts off trying to convince the reader that these kids who have failed, have imperfect home lives, low incomes, really are capable of learning and excelling at school. This teaching method not only teaches at grade level it works to raise each learner up from the point at which they are behind. Students can make multiple-grades advancement in one year with these methods. This book is an attempt to boost the reader’s confidence that these kids are not lost causes and that the teachers possess more power to effect change than they may believe (even with constricted budgets or broken down classrooms).

Once that pep talk is over the book launches into a detailed explanation of the ‘core values’ of TFA. The book’s website lists their core values (if you want to learn more about what is in the book). This book expands each item in the framework in detail. Case studies are given to illustrate the ideas. Sidebar quotes tempt the skimming reader to stop skimming and read the whole thing instead.

Before reading this book I didn’t know that TFA has a certain teaching method that is completely different than what is normally done in public schools. I’d heard of TFA in the media and assumed they taught by whatever method the schools told them to, boy was I wrong! This TFA method is not winging it by any means. The method is taught to the TFA teachers in a short training period then the TFA teachers are thrown into the fire.

The most surprising thing to me is that a TFA teacher uses their method in a classroom right next door to a union paid, experienced teacher using the same old, same old way that isn’t working. Despite no extra money and the building being in whatever state of imperfection or disrepair that it may, students in the TFA classroom suddenly are learning more and scoring higher on tests. There is an attitude change and a new positive outlook on learning within the children. They are said to make multiple year’s strides in one school year using the TFA teaching methods.

I see this TFA initiative as a kind of back door education reform but happening in limited locations and only in certain classrooms within one school building. What a shame that a more wide-sweeping reform is not happening across our nation.

It also seems to me that the TFA attitude instilled in the students is more motivating and energizing than what is happening in middle class and upper class towns across our nation. If every school uses the TFA methods I can’t imagine what our nation’s children could accomplish.

This book is fantastic!

I’m a homeschooling mother and read these books to get inspiration for my home education teaching experience. One reaction I have is that what homeschooling parents like me are doing is actually outlined in this book as the optimal way to teach! Yet I had never seen it written out in one place like this. Much of this I have learned through experience and trial and error with my own kids or hearing a tidbit here and trying it then seeing how that worked in real life.

How to set goals, how to plan lessons to achieve that goal, and how to custom design an education is all here, in an attempt to persuade teachers to take on this way of teaching. The book also includes rubrics for measuring academic performance and outcomes.

I recommend Teaching As Leadership for any teacher who is looking fore new ideas to boost learning in the classroom (and for homeschooling parents too).

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Amazon Vine program. I was not under obligation to blog this review. I was not paid to write this review. My blog's full disclosure statement can be found at the link at the top of my blog's sidebar.

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