7 Simple Secrets: A Must Read Book Revisited

Seven Simple Secrets: What the BEST Teachers Know and Do 
By Annette Breaux and Todd Whitaker
(Routledge, 2014 – Learn more)

LaurieW-120Reviewed by Laurie Wasserman

The first time I read and reviewed this lovely little gem, I thought it was one of the best books I had read to guide teachers in becoming the best they could be.

I still do.

This is the second edition and I think it is even better than the first – something I didn’t think was possible. The authors are Annette Breaux, a former classroom teacher, curriculum coordinator, author of numerous books on teaching, and a coordinator for teacher induction at Nicholls State University; and Todd Whitaker, a presenter, former math teacher, principal at the elementary, middle/junior high and high school levels, author of books for teachers and principals alike, and a professor at Indiana State University. Together they share not only a wealth of educator knowledge and best teaching practices, but invaluable tips on being the best we can be, through humor and relatable stories.

What’s in the book

7SimpleSecrets-2ndEdAs educators, both newbies and veterans alike, we often need a plan to set up our classrooms with procedures, policies and expectations, rather than a long list of rules that can be challenging for our students to follow and for us to maintain.

The structure of this book follows that “plan don’t rule” philosophy, providing short chapters with humorous and relatable vignettes of two scenarios: an ineffective teacher and an effective teacher (often with nicknames such as “Ms. Reactor” and “Ms. Preventer”). The authors provide us with procedures rather than rules for what to do when students speak out and what to do when they don’t. They also guide us on so many important topics – such as how to make every minute count (“Teaching from Bell to Bell”), defusing negative coworkers, working with parents cooperatively, and “becoming better not bitter.”

The format of the book is broken down into seven “Secrets”: Planning, Classroom Management, Instruction, Attitude, Professionalism, Discipline and Motivation/Inspiration. Within each of these chapters, the authors provide us with seven parts, giving us a “How To” with strategies, stories, great examples, and even a little poem written by Ms. Breaux.

For example, in Chapter 4 (“The Secret of Attitude”), the authors share their insightful ideas about how to deal with negativity (both from students and colleagues). In addition they share how to strengthen our own attitude into a positive one that will sustain us through the ups and downs of being a teacher.

One of my favorite parts of this chapter is what to say and do with a negative colleague: “If a coworker speaks negatively about a student try this: ‘I love that kid. I know he’s not always easy to deal with, but thankfully he has us to help him learn better ways of dealing with life,’ and walk away.

In addition, each chapter gives us a summary and questions to ask ourselves such as:

  1. Do I ever allow my students to push my buttons?
  2. Am I clear and consistent with my discipline plan?
  3. Do I find the good in every student and help all to realize their strengths?

Some extra features

This new edition includes special features such as incorporating technology and using social media appropriately, a bonus list that can be copied for use in staff meetings and PLC meetings, a study guide available on line to extend the reader’s learning, and links to the authors’ websites.

As a veteran teacher and someone who mentors new teachers, I just love reading and rereading this book. It helps keep me fresh, renews my passion in teaching, inspires me to self-reflect on my teaching practice, and is a great resource to share with our new-to-teaching colleagues.

Read another review of this book.

Laurie Wasserman has served as a middle grades Learning Disabilities National Board Certified Teacher in the Medford, MA public schools since 1984. Laurie blogged for MiddleWeb’s Two Teachers in the Room during the 2012-13 school year. She is a co-author of Teaching 2030 from Teachers College Press and has written for other publications, including Education Week Teacher.

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