Top 10 Reads for Teachers who Want to be Amazing

By Dominick Cooper, Director of Launch Academy, 2012 Nominee for Young Entrepreneur of the Year, University Guest Speaker, and 2011 Winner of the DaVinci Scholar Award

Are you a teacher who wants to be a game-changer?

Are you dissatisfied with the system and have a stomach-churning reaction when you hear the phrase “standardized test?”

Do you get gleeful at words like “creativity,” “projects,” and “technology?”

If you answered yes to any of those, this list is for you.

No really, it’s for you.

These books may be books but you can make them MUCH MORE.

As Thomas Edison said, “Knowledge without application is useless.”

Read away, use what you learn, and together, we can help change the education system!


1. Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice by Howard Gardner

This book brilliantly captures the theory of multiple intelligences and describes a revolutionary school. This book is so marked up in my collection and I continue to add new underlines and highlights in it. Check this book out if you want an example of what a school system looks like that values each individual.

2. The Third Teacher: 79 Ways You Can Use Design to Transform Teaching & Learning by Inc. OWP/P Cannon Design

Loris Malaguzzi, designer of the Reggio Emilia approach to education, posited that there are 3 teachers in a student’s life – The first is the adults, second is their peers, and the third teacher is their environment. This book discusses what an environment looks like that is more than a “holding cell for learning” and actually is a part of the curriculum. It looks at the environment as a curriculum through 79 different lenses and is the best book on the subject matter. It is also filled with many examples from around the world of schools that engage students in learning simply through their building design.

3. The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need–and What We Can Do About It by Tony Wagner

Recognized as a champion of many progressive ideas of education, Tony Wagner catalogs in this book, not only the skills that are necessary for surviving in the 21st century, but how to teach them. He dives into the muck, interviewing thousands of businesses and professionals, to discover what are the skills that matter most. If you’re looking for a checklist type of book on what students should be learning, then this is your book. It’s an excellent, thought-provoking resource for any teacher or homeschool parent.

4. The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Sir Ken Robinson

When we talk about someone being in “their element,” Sir Ken defines it as the intersection of their natural talents and their personal passions. This book discusses not only the importance of connecting the two realms themselves in order to live a fulfilling life, but examples of how others have found their element. It also explores the ideas of “how do you find your passion” and “are your natural talents natural or created by your environment?” Sir Ken Robinson is recognized as an authority on creativity in education and his TED videos have been viewed millions of times.

5. Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative by Sir Ken Robinson

Have you ever wondered if you could teach yourself to be “creative?” This book not only explains why creativity is vital in the economy of the future but how each of use can strengthen our own creative potential. Creativity is what allows to address situations and problems that have never before been encountered, which is an essential skill for any teacher and student to know. From defining what creativity actually is to schools that already teach creativity, this book is a must have for any teacher who wants to be on the forefront of education.

6. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink

Do you want your students to be engaged? Ever wondered what real motivation looks like? This book reveals with popping imagery and examples what is necessary for true, intrinsic engagement and motivation. Going beyond “sticks and carrots,” Daniel Pink defines what the 3 necessary keys that any task (or company or school) needs to have in order to be truly motivating for an individual.

7. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

This has got to be one of my most underlined books. These habits should not only be taught to students but need to be learned by anyone who wants to be successful! It sounds cheesy, but these really are the habits of highly effective people. Filled with examples and exercises, this book can turn your life and productivity around if you let it.

8. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

This book is the best-selling self-help book of all time, despite being published in 1937. After interviewing and researching thousands of successful entrepreneurs, presidents, and professionals like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and others, Napoleon Hill found 13 shared characteristics that made them successful and put them in this book. If you read this book and apply what it says, I assure you, you can overcome nearly any task that would keep you from being successful in your field, your life, and your finances.

9. The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses by Jesse Schell

Whether you are a game designer or not, one thing is well-known to us – games are engaging. From Halo and Modern Warfare to Monopoly and The Sims, there is something about games that draws us (and keeps us!) in. This books takes apart the system, exposing the little gears and mechanics that turn new game players into loyal followers. Using these same principles, schools and teachers can engage their students,
motivate healthy competition, and create a system that appeals to individuals of nearly any personality. This is a must ready if you’re interested in student engagement.

10. The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach by Howard Gardner

This book has a much more scholarly tone than the other preceding books. From a researcher’s perspective, it’s extremely enlightening. From a practicing teacher’s perspective, it allowed me to better understand by student’s cognitive understandings and preconceptions at a much deeper level. It really brings to light how prejudices (not just in the racial sense) and predispositions shape a student’s a learning and how both teachers and parents can use this to their academic advantage.



What are some books that you would add to this list?


Stay Smart.


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