Managing the Inner World of Teaching
Reviewed by Ashley Pursley
The purpose of Managing the Inner World of Teaching: Emotions, Interpretations, and Actions by Robert and Jana Marzano is to present a model based on three decades of research into the operations of the human mind in various situations.
Throughout the book the authors provide classroom teachers with research to assist in understanding how and why teachers or their students react in specific situations.
Although the book is heavily research-based and includes complex content, the simple structure alleviates an otherwise challenging reading experience. All chapters are organized with an introduction, explanation, implication, and summary. They present information in a variety of formats including paragraphs, tables, and figures.
Starting with brain theory research, the Marzanos begin the first chapters helping readers understand cognitive functions. I devoured the descriptions because I enjoy brain theory. Information enters a person’s working memory; it gets interpreted with a script, and the person acts based on interpretations. A person’s goals, needs, and beliefs (their self-system) impacts his or her interpretations and actions.
After providing details to understand how emotions influence our inferences of situations, the authors help the reader develop skills to improve interpretations and actions through awareness, analysis, and choice. All chapters end with details on the effect of that theory and research on classroom teachers.
How to practice what we’ve learned
After an in-depth discussion on brain theory, the Marzanos spend Chapter 3 offering a variety of ways to practice the awareness, analysis, and choice skills. Readers start with retrospective practice, then move on to mental rehearsal, and finally graduate to real-time practice in various situations (people, events, and tasks).
I was relieved to find generalized AND specific teaching scenarios as well as recommended plans for specific situations like defusing dangerous situations. Teachers will find the practices relevant to their own teaching experiences.
The final three chapters echo a self-help style that incorporates reflections, mindfulness, the student’s self-system, and implications for a teacher’s life outside of the classroom. Teachers reflect on their own negative thinking and are encouraged to be mindful of the dangerous impact that negative thinking can have on a person’s self-system.
Because teachers work so closely with their students, the authors dedicate an entire chapter to teaching with the student’s self-system in mind. Teachers need to be aware of their impact on students’ thinking. The Marzanos add a chapter on empathy by instructing teachers to work on the self in daily life. They clearly understand how difficult it is for a teacher to transition from work to home and offer ways to incorporate their theory in daily life.
It’s written in “Marzano style”
Managing the Inner World of Teaching has the potential to discourage readership because of the substantial research-based theory. Yes, I found myself exhausted after the first ten pages – ashamed I’d lost the reading stamina my college years afforded me when I was writing and reading research papers weekly.
I found myself wondering why the authors felt compelled to provide such an excessive amount of research, desiring more scenarios and skills/implications, but it wouldn’t be a Marzano book without all the research. That’s just the Marzano style.
Classroom teachers who can draw on their own experiences will find this book most useful. The Marzanos have supported their theory with years of research, making the practices of each chapter valuable resources for a teacher’s inner world.
Ashley Pursley (@Ms_Pursley) is an 8th grade ELA and English I Honors teacher in the South Carolina lowcountry. She has her undergraduate degree from Clemson University where one of her lessons was published in the Leading Edge magazine. Her teaching experience includes curriculum from eighth to twelfth grade. Ashley serves on numerous teams at the school level including leadership, technology, and public relations.