Magazine Reflections

Book Smart

What book has inspired your teaching?

Summer 2021

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. Lessons abound from his philosophy. First, education should be about transformation, not knowledge transmission. Second, everyone has something to add. Freire overcomes the dichotomy between teacher and student. Peer-to-peer learning and flipped classrooms are reflections of Freirian education. Last, there is no neutrality in education. Our role is to ask our students to critically reflect on their context as we immerse ourselves in that reflection process.—Carlos Faerron Guzmán, InterAmerican Center for Global Health

My ninth-grade geometry textbook! It is one of the most important books on my bookshelves. It keeps teaching me about the fundamentals of life. Did you know that Aristotle taught that we could tile and tessellate the universe with just the tetrahedron? He missed the gap, and his mistake was taught for more than 1,800 years! And that gap he missed is pure and simple geometry.—Bruce Camber, Center for Perfection Studies

Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks. Thanks to this book, I actively approach my own teaching as a practice of freedom with my students.—Kim Case, Virginia Commonwealth University

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. It demonstrates how important it is to encourage students as whole people and not just praise their accomplishments. Accomplishments can be dismantled (like the Twenty Mile House in the book), but who you are is invaluable.—Kimberly Young Walker, South Carolina Technical College System Office

The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was a poor (welfare, Medi-Cal, food stamps) Chinese American girl in San Francisco. My only escape was the library. I could walk there, hang out, and read without the distractions of neighborhood violence or irritating sisters. From Laura, who was equally poor, I learned many lessons that influence my teaching: sustainability (using gingham for clothing, sacks, and tablecloths); friendship; humility; never complaining (ha!); and living with gratitude despite all obstacles.—Leeva C. Chung, University of San Diego

Professors Are from Mars, Students Are from Snickers by Ronald A. Berk. My teaching disciplines (research methods, statistics, finance) are often negatively stereotyped as being difficult and causing anxiety for students. If I can use humor as Berk suggests to overcome those barriers and to help students learn what we want them to learn at the level we want them to achieve, then I will have accomplished my goals as an educator.—Sharon A. Valente, Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University

Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers by Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross. It taught me how to create a variety of activities that engage students in thinking metacognitively about their learning.—Jeanne P. Mullaney, Community College of Rhode Island

The Bible contains timeless stories, principles, and lessons for personal and professional growth. —James Hauschildt, Mission College of Health Sciences and Global Education Ministries Foundation

A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling by John Taylor Gatto. This book calls into question the purpose and structure of compulsory schooling in the United States. Gatto has challenged me to reconsider how humans learn most authentically—and how far that often is from what students encounter in a traditional classroom.—Chris Elliott, University of Virginia

Teacher Man by Frank McCourt. This wry memoir is better than any educational psychology textbook (and I love ed psych). He covers classroom management, inclusive teaching, innovation in pedagogy—all through the lens of his “accidental” success as a beloved teacher. When I was a young teacher, he helped me realize that, even if I was unsure of myself, caring about my students and addressing their innate curiosity would pay off.—Sheri Popp, Weave Education

Image credits (left to right, top to bottom): Bloomsbury Publishing; Courtesy Bruce Camber; Routledge Taylor & Francis Group; Back Bay Books; HarperCollins; Stylus Publishing; Wiley; iStock; Berkeley Hill Books; Scribner