How to Thrive as a Teacher: A Book Review
by Janice Ewing and Rita Sorrentino
During the winter months, teachers and students have more to cope with than just cold weather and icy roads. Deadlines, data-driven decisions, and daily demands of classroom life loom larger as testing schedules, teacher evaluations, and interim assessments fill up the calendar. Finding time to accomplish all that is required of a teacher, while keeping students’ best interests at heart, can zap the energy of the best-intentioned educators. If this rings true for you, pick up a copy of Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching by Meenoo Rami, a local author and educator, who reaches out to teachers with inspiration and practicality to not merely survive but, more importantly, thrive in their professional lives throughout the year.
Each chapter highlights a set of practices that help to make the goal of thriving a reality. In the first chapter, for example, Meenoo discusses the benefits and logistics of mentoring. She shares examples of mentoring partnerships within one’s school and beyond — how to start one, and how to customize it to meet your needs. In the following chapter, she shares ideas for connecting with other teachers. Again, you might start within your school, but you are also encouraged to expand beyond the walls of your building through professional organizations, such as NWP, EdCamps, and Twitter (Meenoo and guest hosts facilitate the well-attended #engchat on Monday evenings at 7:00).
In Chapter Three of Thrive, Meenoo continues to make the case that we, as teachers in various stages of our profession, need to take the initiative to seek out the supports that work for us, but, additionally, take steps to stretch ourselves (and our students) to another level of participation, conversation, and collaboration. The more we keep ourselves in the learning process, the greater opportunities we will have for experiencing intellectual joy and fulfillment. Through reflection (not perfection), we recognize the true purpose of our work. Our teaching practice evolves as we connect the dots between mastery of content and pedagogical practices. By looking through new lenses of inquiry, investigations and interactions with students, we recognize the complexity of our ‘subject’ and ‘subjects.’
The final chapters of Thrive address ideas that are central to our identities as teachers, regardless of grade level or level of experience. Meenoo challenges us to ask ourselves how we address the struggle to align our teaching with our values, how we find the courage to overcome internal and external resistance to doing what is best for our students, and how to empower our students with authentic learning opportunities. In one of the many teacher profiles featured throughout the book, a fifth grade teacher, Katie McKay, explains how she carved out some time from her restrictive minute-by-minute scheduled environment by using an approved holiday party to build a community of writers who shared identity poems at a nearby café.
In her gentle yet compelling narrative, Meenoo’s beliefs mentor us. She encourages us to join and build networks, keep our work intellectually challenging, respect our inner voice, and empower our students with meaningful, authentic work that, ultimately, sustains and reinvigorates teaching and learning for both students and teachers. In a little less than 100 pages, Thrive is a book to read and keep handy as we continue on our journey as life-long learners
Janice Ewing and Rita Sorrentino are Co-Presidents of the Philadelphia Reading Council. See our online discussion of Thrive at philadelphiareadingcouncil.weebly.com.