“Chasing Greatness” by Mike Roberts

My husband will tell you that it’s easy to observe when I’m obsessed with something: I start my own total immersion program, usually by reading a stack of books as tall as the Frankfurt “tv tower” that used to be visible from our balcony back home. My most current obsession, and one that doesn’t seem to want to let up, is learning about teaching. Weird? Well, I am lucky enough to co-teach two biology classes at my current school, and after I finish CELTA certification this summer, I hope to have my own EFL classroom soon. In my head, that translates to “there’s no time like today” to figure out how to be the best instructor possible.

“Chasing Greatness” would not have been picked up by my book radar, had it not been recommended in a newsletter I subscribe to (thank you, newsletter!). The title alone is not that descriptive, where content is concerned, and the cover features a road and a footprint. Author Mike Roberts cleverly finds parallels between teaching and running a marathon (say what?). Although I am not ambitious enough to go long distance, I used to enjoy running when I had the luxury of doing it on beautiful forest paths, which are somewhat lacking here in fields-in-a-square Indiana, so I understand the attraction of the metaphor. Incidentally, it not only works well, but is also presented in a very readable, interesting format.

There are 26.2 chapters (really), each with a title that relates equally to marathon training and teaching, like “It Takes Planning”, “At Some Point, You’ll Want to Quit”, and “People Won’t Understand Why You Do It”. In almost every chapter but one, you will find an introduction that has to do with running, an interview with a marathon veteran, a part that goes into teaching, and an interview with a teacher. In between, you will find questions to ponder and things you can implement in your classroom tomorrow. Each part has a running-related title like Warm-Up, Aid Station, or Cool Down.

People who have been teaching for a very long time might complain that there’s nothing new in this book. I’ve only been at it for a year, so I can’t judge if that’s true or not; personally, I found the book a fast read with lots of great ideas, and I really appreciated the teacher profiles! You may shy away if you’re not athletically inclined or find the color choices for the cover too male-oriented, but please don’t let that keep you from reading this book if you’re looking for inspiration and/or ways to improve your and your students’ time spent in the classroom.

“Chasing Greatness” is published by Times 10 Publications. I actually bought my own copy, nobody is expecting me to review it, and all opinions are totally my own. Read this!

Review: “The Quick Guide to Classroom Management” by Richard James Rogers

Some of you know that I started a new job in August. I was looking for a way to do something resembling a practicum in Teaching English as a Second Language, but I also needed to get paid. What worked out for me was taking a position as ESL School Assistant at a local high school. When I started, I knew that I wouldn’t really be teaching anyone. The job description sounded like providing assistance to kids who were struggling to keep up with their school work because of language restrictions. After my first day, during which I shadowed an experienced assistance, I was ready to throw in the towel: it appeared that her day primarily consisted of trying to get kids to be quiet and persuade them to do any work at all. Fortunately, I decided to go back the next day and see my own students, and I have been committed to the cause ever since.

However, I also quickly realized that in fact I would need to find a better approach at getting students to do what they needed to do to get the work done that was due. Yelling, talking to them in the hallway, and pleading with them to pretty-please do the reading wasn’t going to help anyone. So, being me, I sought help from experts. At some point during my research, I ran across Richard James Rogers’ book, which had garnered some good reviews and looked useful at first skim.

For a beginning teacher, a career changer like me, or someone who is in dire need of some new ideas on wrangling kids, this is a great resource. As Mr. Rogers is a graduate of the British school system, the real-life examples are based on it, but they are quite easily transferable to various subjects and settings. The tone of the book is wrought with gentle humor, a trait that is certainly helpful to any teacher. There are also wonderful illustrations by one of Mr. Rogers’ former students, some of which are lovely examples of what great note-taking can look like – useful when you’re trying to show your students how to take notes properly.

As you might have guessed from the title, you will find plenty of classroom management tips in these eight chapters, all of which aim to ignite students’ interest and keep them hooked to prevent bad behavior or nip it in the bud. There are tips on using tech in classroom, building good relationships with parents, doing proper exam preparation, and what pitfalls to avoid with new colleagues. The final chapter talks about teaching overseas, which is of particular interest to anyone in my future field of employment.

Every once in a while, Mr. Rogers runs a promotion of this book on Amazon, where you might be able to snag a copy of the Kindle version for free. But even if you don’t, if you fit any of the profiles mentioned above, this is a good investment.

“The Quick Guide to Classroom Management” is self-published using Create Space. I purchased my own copy, and all opinions are, as always, my own.

quick guide