Dog Days of Summer Reading

Reading is breathing in. Writing is breathing out.

During the school year, I teach American Literature and spend A TON of time digging into the finer points of fiction. But no school means that I can read whatever I want! So each Wednesday throughout the summer, I’ll try to post a sort of living, breathing “works in progress” reading list of a handful of books I’m working through, along with a few lines about what I’m learning as I go.

I once heard it said that the books you are reading today is the person you'll become in five years. I really like that idea. Click To Tweet

Fair warning: I’m a “dabbler,” who works in spurts through a ton of different books at a time. Audiobooks, Kindle, PD reads, leisure reading, and a whole bunch of non-fiction books — usually for professional growth along the lines of personal branding or dedicated research for future projects on down the line.

This week’s audio book:*

Nir Eyall – Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products

Gotcha!: My mom was a classroom teacher. My dad was a salesman. And I’ve always thought that my work has been a pretty even balance between the two. Before I was a teacher, I spent five years in social media and event marketing — and I think there’s a lot to be learned from the promotional strategies that resonate outside of an academic setting. In my classroom, I absolutely want my students walking away with a top quality education. But I also want them to BUY IN! And so I spend a pretty sizable chunk of my time away from work trying to figure out what makes people motivated to plunk down their hard-earned cash. This book gives some fantastic insight on why people are so willing to invest time and money in all sorts of habit-forming products. And as an educator looking to reverse engineer a classroom designed to hook students’ attention from the very first day? It provides an invaluable road map for creating an education environment that leaves students excited to come back and see what’s next.

Verdict: A play-by-play strategy guide to crafting projects that appeal to all sorts of “users” (students) and their myriad reward centers. Super thorough and a ton of fun — packed with ideas that will get your wheels turning!

This week’s PD read:

Tisha Richmond Make Learning Magical: Transform Your Teaching and Create Unforgettable Experiences in Your Classroom

Abracadabra: This book has been sitting at the top of my “must-read” list of PD books for months, and I’m so glad I finally had some time this week to crack it open and unleash the magic within. In Make Learning Magical, Tisha Richmond outlines the blueprints on how she transformed her culinary arts classroom into an endless hub of student-centered curiosity and wonder. With a sprinkle of gamification, a splash of student-centered creativity, and a healthy dose of innovation — this book is a breezy, fun read, jam-packed with tips and tricks that can apply to any course or content area (I LOVE the idea of a team-vs-team sabotage card where you can force a rival squad to work in total silence!). Such a great addition to any teacher’s bag of tricks!

Verdict: If you’ve read Michael Matera’s eXPlore Like a Pirate and are looking for a worthy spiritual successor, you’ve absolutely found it here with Tisha Richmond’s Make Learning Magical.

This week on Kindle:

My People The Sioux by [Standing Bear, Luther]

Luther Standing Bear – My People The Sioux

The Voice of the People: I was turned onto this book while reading Christopher Emdin’s phenomenal For White Folks Who Teach in the Hoodand was fascinated to explore the world of Indigenous Americans through the eyes of someone who had lived through so many pivotal chapters of American history firsthand. And this book absolutely does not disappoint: every bit as thoughtful, detailed, and revealing as you could hope from a primary text. Alternatingly heartbreaking, fascinating, and compelling to a level where you can’t walk away without feeling an increased level of reverence for The Sioux and so many other Indigenous people who’s stories are too easily swept aside in the traditional narrative of American history. I will absolutely be incorporating more than a few excerpts of this book into my American literature course this fall. It’s well worth the read.

Verdict: I haven’t encountered a(n) (auto)biography this thorough since Ron Chernow’s Hamilton. If you’re a history buff, this book will break your heart and open your eyes in some of the best ways possible. Absolutely worth the read!

*A quick note on Audiobooks: Two hours of commuting every day = lots of time to “read” in the car! And yes, audiobooks absolutely count as reading. The research is super clear on this point, especially for readers with learning differences — including folks with dyslexia like me — and I wholeheartedly encourage my students to do the exact same thing.

Author: John

John Meehan (@MeehanEDU) is an English teacher and school instructional coach at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia. He began his teaching career in 2010 as a career switcher through The New Teacher Project, after spending five years working in social media and event marketing. He is a 2017 ASCD Emerging Leader, and an alumnus of the 2016-2018 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council. In 2016, he was named one of Arlington, Virginia’s “40 Under 40” by the Leadership Center for Excellence. He is a past presenter and regular attendee at educational conferences throughout the United States, including the annual conference for National Catholic Education Association, ASCD Empower19, and the Play Like a Champion Today: Character Education Through Sports summer conference at the University of Notre Dame. He’s an avid runner who’s completed more than three dozen marathons, half marathons, long-distance road relays, mud runs, and obstacle course races. John lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with his wife, Laura, a high school music teacher and fellow graduate of The Catholic University of America, and a giant-sized Maine Coon cat named Jack.

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