Reading for Teachers

Use the tags below to jump to books and writing I have curated for that subject.


Stephen King

Loved this book. I am a fan of King anyway, which didn’t hurt, as in the same way he confidently leads through a fictional narrative, here he takes us through a biography of his youth and later life as a route into the inspiration for many of his characters and stories. He unpacks a toolbox of techniques, and repeatedly extolls the strict requirement to both read and write regularly (and then some!).

Most interesting to me, as someone who has taught primary (elementary) writing since 2000, is his approach to the nuts and bolts. In schools we teach kids to develop use of descriptive tools like adverbs, adjectives, simile, personification and so on. King’s take on this is that it is for the most part unnecessary, and that if your story is clear the reader does not need any of this to signal emotions and drivers.

Similarly, he loves a good ‘said’ and argues that this is almost always the best option for signalling speech. I take his point, and I think this may be an issue with teaching early writing, in that young writers do not write anything long enough to truly lay out the inner workings of their characters enough to allow the stripping back of the more direct clues to intent in favour of pace. It’s a popular fiction perspective of course, but has forced me to lead on to some of the other great books on the craft for some comparison. If you have any interest in writing yourself, this is worth reading.

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

Education and Pedagogy

“It’s not just what you know, but how you practice what you know that determines how well the learning serves you later.”


“In my experience, most people have a narrow view of intelligence, tending to think of it mainly in terms of academic ability. This is why so many people … end up thinking that they’re not smart at all.”


David Allen

“Use your mind to think about things, rather than think of them. You want to be adding value as you think about projects and people, not simply reminding yourself they exist.”

Graham Alcott

The book takes us through a wide range of productivity systems and techniques, and along the way gives a nod to many of the thought leaders in this space. The chatty and informal style may not be for everyone but I see what he is trying to achieve with this approach, which differs from most other productivity books which are usually quite dull.

Likewise the ninja analogy whilst accessible and fun could be said to be stretched a little thin to apply in all of the contexts covered. I did find it an entertaining read. For those new to focusing on their own productivity systems this is a really good induction into the religion, however if you are already well read around the subject (think Atomic Habits, GTD, etc) you will find much repetition here under other names, and likely find frustration in the rebranding or watering down of some of those already well defined processes and routines. Great for the newbie, skip it if already practicing.

“Realize that you’ll never get everything done. That’s not the game any more. Be safe in the knowledge that you’re in control, selecting the right things to do, and that you’re doing as much as one human being possibly can,”

David Allen

This follow up book in the series goes deeper on most of the principles and practices in the original Getting Things Done book. It explores David Allen’s subsequent thinking since the first book as well as exemplifies with many more recent examples, and also answers some of the questions bounced back at him over the years.

Having read the initial book and practiced most of the routines and systems for years I found it a useful refresher and a good way to rekindle enthusiasm for some of the later stages in the process.

For those new to the GTD methodology this is not the place to start – you definitely still need to read the first book as although this is useful content, it takes a more exploratory conversational route through the stages, horizons and routines and so would not make sense in isolation.

“It is a tricky business to know when you should set goals and objectives in order to achieve a focus, … so you can later step into new directions and responsibilities with greater stability and clarity.”

Richard Koch

Ironically the book proves it’s own point (or that of Vilfredo Pareto actually) as there is much repetition and could be significantly more concise. The finding Koch badges as the 80/20 principle in itself is very useful when applied to the many work, project and life scenarios he exemplifies, and for this alone the book is helpful. He also details a number of examples where others have used successfully (or not) the learning for themselves.

Later chapters branch out into healthy, money, relationships and wellbeing, with somewhat tenuous links back to the title topic. In this way the book is longwinded but ultimately a very useful read and exploration of a so-far little-covered subject.

“It is not shortage of time that should worry us, but the tendency for the majority of time to be spent in low-quality ways.”

Paula Rizzo

This is a very short read. Interview style, and like hearing a cosy chat over coffee. The whole is so short that the various ideas around productive use of different lists are therefore concisely introduced with warmth and the human touch that some productivity robots lack. There is little here for those that are already well read around the subject but for the newly interested in list making and organisation it is a gentle and warm introduction. It may also be a good route to judging if you would like to read any of Paula Rizzo’s longer books on the same subject.

Habit Formation

Angela Duckworth

“Be the designer of your world and not merely the consumer of it.”

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”

Angela Duckworth

Grit is an interesting and for many divisive take on the importance of perseverance and positivity on success. It builds on books like ‘Mindset’ and ‘The Power of Habit’ largely with Duckworth’s own research, much of which is US based and references the most famous examples over the average guy. In this way there is little relatable content in that part.

The later chapters are very education based, and in that part I found real value. Little of it feels like revelation, but does reinforce from a new angle what most educators already knew; that stickability and enthusiasm born of passion for your work will trump natural talent every time.

The book goes on to suggest ways to foster this, and so for that ank of useful insights I really enjoyed it. It is less clear on the definite pathway to personal grittiness, which would have been a welcome conclusion, rather than the positive cheerleading that it substitutes.

“as much as talent counts, effort counts twice.”

Simon Sinek

Sinek’s second book (the follow up to the excellent ‘Start with Why’) focusses on the core message that leaders who enlarge the circle of trust benefit from staff who work for the company and back them up instead of feeling they need to focus on protecting themselves at all costs. He makes the point that as companies grow and those at the top are more removed from those on the ground that leaders need to be careful working under what he dubs conditions of abstraction, where leaders can lose sight of the impact of their decisions on the actual staff. It is about leading the people not the numbers. He is talking about empathy and relationships.

Sinek also tries to dispel myths around the constant need to reinforce authority, describing legacy in leadership as the strength of what you leave behind, as opposed to the nostalgia of lamenting what you did at the time.

Simon dwells for much of the book on generational changes in attitude, and without damning any one group, towards the later half on millennials and the challenges of leading this generation. As an educator, leader and parent this was an interesting turn in the book to me. Leaders Eat Last is well worth the read time to my mind and has many thought provoking observations and insights into the true nature of leadership.

“the true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.”

Stephen R Covey