Writing a "What Works" Book about Teaching


Every Teacher ought to write a book titled “What Works”. In their book, teachers should include philosophies, quotes, strategies, activities, observations and anything else that they have found to be effective in the effort to successfully teach their students. A teacher’s book should be unique to them—a reflection of their journey in the world of teaching and learning. The book should probably be more accurately titled, “What Works for Me”, because not everything that works for one teacher will work for another teacher.

Taking the book a step further, if we are taking into account the unique style and personality of the teacher, we should also take into account the unique style and personality of the students, so the book should really be titled, “What Works for My Students and Me”—truth be told, something may be working great for the teacher, but if it is not working for the students, it truly is not working. With this in mind, the book may have to change and adapt a little each year to take into account the new crop of students a teacher encounters each year.

Each individual teacher should constantly be looking to add items to their book as they are learning about teaching at ground zero in the classroom. A teacher’s “What Works” book should be made available to their supervising administrator for their perusal. By reviewing their book, the administrator can actually take into account the many different things that the teacher does that play a part in the success they achieve in the classroom. Greeting students as they enter the classroom, having a neat desk, using humor, encouraging student questions, inviting feedback, attending extracurricular activities, etc.—these things would probably not show up on a teacher’s lesson plan, but they do indeed contribute to the ultimate success a teacher’s lesson, and they would show up in a teacher’s “What Works” book.

If a teacher is struggling in a particular area, the administrator can recommend that the teacher observe another teacher that may be strong in that area of need. If a teacher seems to be getting visits from multiple teachers from around campus at the suggestion of the administration, that particular teacher deserves performance pay. Performance pay would then be based not only on a teacher’s expertise in the classroom, but also on their willingness to help fellow colleagues in their school, which could potentially help all of the students at a school—now that’s performance that deserves to be rewarded. If an administrator sees an idea or activity of interest in a teacher’s “What Works” book, they can ask the teacher when they will be using that strategy in the future so that they can stop by and observe that particular technique or philosophy in action. In this way, the administrator can observe the teacher at their best.

When it is all said and done, it should come down to “What Works” for the teacher in the trenches of the classroom. When a staff of teachers, administrators and support personnel come together and are passionately pursuing to grow in the area of “What Works”, there’s nothing they won’t be able to accomplish—the sky is truly the limit! John Wooden, winner of 10 March Madness NCAA National Championships, said it best: ”It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Be open to the ideas of others, stretch yourself, grow, take risks, have fun, reflect, get out of your comfort zone…and watch your book of “What Works” grow every day, week, month and year.


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