Read Now to Thrive This Fall


Teaching Matters (2nd Edition): How to Keep Your Passion and Thrive in Today’s Classroom 
By Todd Whitaker and Beth Whitaker
(Eye on Education/Routledge, 2013 – Learn more)

Linda-Biondi-120Reviewed by Linda Biondi

Teaching is often quoted as one of the noblest professions. But it is also one of the most stressful jobs in America. According to the ABC News Report, teaching ranks 4th, between medical professionals (5th) and police officers (3rd) in stress levels.

Day in and day out, teachers touch the lives of their students academically and emotionally. Teachers reach into their pockets to purchase school supplies, shoes for the needy student who has outgrown his present pair, or food for a family who is struggling to make ends meet. Good teachers make sure that their students leave the classroom eager to come back the next day. They work hard to keep morale in the classroom high and help students develop resilience and self-esteem. .

However, teacher satisfaction is at the lowest levels in a quarter century, according to the latest annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher. Only 39 percent of teachers felt they were satisfied, down from 62 percent five years ago. More than half of the teachers surveyed said they felt under “great stress” several days a week.

teaching matters biondiIn these difficult times, teachers need a book to help them with three other important Rs: learning how to reaffirm, recharge, and rekindle their teaching. Teaching Matters: How to Keep Your Passion and Thrive in Today’s Classroom by Todd and Beth Whitaker is the #1 book to put on your 2013 Summer Reading List.

This is a book that you will likely not be required to read as part of your professional improvement plan or teacher book club. However, it is a book that you should read before September, highlighting the parts that stand out to you, placing sticky notes on the sections you want to reread, and keeping it by your desk at school or home.

Real teacher leadership

We hear a great deal about developing “teacher leaders” in our schools. Principals choose teachers to become “teacher leaders” in all subject areas of the curriculum, but the most effective and important teacher leader is the one who inspires others to adopt Mr. and Ms. Whitaker’s “TGIM” (Thank God it’s Monday) attitude. It’s the teacher who praises you about your bulletin board or student work. It’s the teacher who inspires you to join the after-school book club even though you feel tired. As you read the book, you’ll be reminded of teacher leaders you already know and realize that if you are reading this book, you’re probably one of those teacher leaders too. Or could be.

The Whitakers take a common sense approach toward making each day of teaching count for the student and the teacher. For example, the chapter “Your Home Away from Home” centers on the little things you can do to make your classroom and school environment a place you want to be. As Todd Whitaker notes elsewhere, “In schools with a more positive climate, the atmosphere was orderly, warm and inviting.” The Whitakers argue that this transformation can begin with just one person (YOU) and can change the climate of the school.

Practical and economical ideas accompany each section of the chapter: asking for help from the PTA to decorate the hallways and foyers, making the Faculty Room inviting and a place that is upbeat and comfortable, or doing a “climate hunt” to find places that might need a bit of sprucing up.

Peers and cheers

Each chapter reminds you of your first days of teaching when you walked through the front doors ready to take on any challenge in front of you. The authors acknowledge the importance of teachers taking time to reflect and take care of themselves. They also devote a chapter to easy-to- implement ideas to keep you in a positive frame of mind. In addition, the section “Peers and Cheers” offers ideas on how to circumvent the old adage “Negativity breeds negativity” and how to turn negative peers to positive peers.

It is a challenge for educators to stay afloat during a tidal wave of reforms, demands, and negative press. Teaching Matters: How to Keep Your Passion and Thrive in Today’s Classroom will help you weather the storm and set your sails for sunny days in the classroom.

“The best thing about being a teacher is it matters. The hardest thing is that it matters every day. All the time.” — Todd Whitaker, reported by Lyn Hilt at her blog, Living in Technicolor

Linda Biondi is a fifth grade teacher at Pond Road Middle School in Robbinsville, New Jersey. She is also a Teacher Consultant with the National Writing Project and co-facilitates a symposium at Rider University each summer to improve teacher practices, specifically in literacy. This year she participated on the New Jersey Department of Education Teacher Advisory Panel to provide feedback on current state initiatives and new opportunities to support teachers in increasing student achievement.


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