10 Must-Read Books About Teachers

10 Must-Read Books About Teachers

Considered one of the most demanding but rewarding professions, these 10 must-read books about teachers will take you back to school and make you appreciate the educators in your life.

1. Up The Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman

Up the Down Staircase is the funny and touching story of a committed, idealistic teacher whose dash with school bureaucracy is a timeless lesson for students, teachers, parents–anyone concerned about public education. Bel Kaufman lets her characters speak for themselves through memos, letters, directives from the principal, comments by students, notes between teachers, and papers from desk drawers and wastebaskets, evoking a vivid picture of teachers fighting the good fight against all that stands in the way of good teaching.”

2. Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

“It’s the start of fifth grade for seven kids at Snow Hill School. There’s . . . Jessica, the new girl, smart and perceptive, who’s having a hard time fitting in; Alexia, a bully, your friend one second, your enemy the next; Peter, class prankster and troublemaker; Luke, the brain; Danielle, who never stands up for herself; shy Anna, whose home situation makes her an outcast; and Jeffrey, who hates school. Only Mr. Terupt, their new and energetic teacher, seems to know how to deal with them all. He makes the classroom a fun place, even if he doesn’t let them get away with much . . . until the snowy winter day when an accident changes everything—and everyone.”

3. Reading Blue Devils by Jon Bennett

“The American education system is turned inside out when a frustrated teacher incites his students to stage an uprising. In a poor suburban community in southern Ohio, Dieter Vogel is a failing English teacher at a high school populated predominately by minority students. He is bullied by the basketball coach, neglected by the principal, ignored by his crush, Esther, and pressured to workout with Jose, the art teacher. At the end of the first day back after summer break, Dieter is visited by Satan, who takes the initial form of a Twinkie. Satan convinces Dieter to overthrow the school mascot, Gretel the Pretzel, so that the Devil can take its place. Dieter is promised Esther’s love and the position of principal in return. All Dieter has to do is follow the Devil’s advice and use classic literature to manipulate the students into a racially charged frenzy against the mostly white staff.”

4. Tuesday’s with Morrie by Mitch Albom

“Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher, or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, helped you see the world as a more profound place, gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it. For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago. Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded, and the world seemed colder. Wouldn’t you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you, receive wisdom for your busy life today the way you once did when you were younger? Mitch Albom had that second chance. He rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man’s life. Knowing he was dying, Morrie visited with Mitch in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final “class”: lessons in how to live. Tuesdays with Morrie is a magical chronicle of their time together, through which Mitch shares Morrie’s lasting gift with the world.”

5. Election by Tom Perrotta

“Tracy Flick wants to be president of Winwood High. She’s one of those ambitious girls who finds time to do it all: edit the yearbook, star in the school musical, sleep with her English teacher. Staunch idealist, Jim McAllister (aka ‘Mr M’) thinks the students deserve better. So he persuades Paul Warren – a well-liked, good-hearted jock – to run as well. But that puts Paul’s sister, Tammy, in a snit. So she runs too, on an apathy platform – before starting a real campaign…to get herself kicked out of school. The idea was to educate the students of this suburban New Jersey school in the democratic process and the American way. But with all the sex scandals, smear campaigns and behind-the-scenes powerbrokers at Winwood High, it doesn’t look as if they need any lessons…”

6. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

“Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.”

7. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

“Special Topics in Calamity Physics is a mesmerizing debut. As teenager Blue van Meer tells her story we are hurled into a dizzying world of murder and butterflies, womanizing and wandering, American McCulture, The Western Canon, political radicalism and juvenile crushisms. Structured around a syllabus for a Great Works of Literature class (with hand-drawn Visual Aids), Blue’s wickedly funny yet poignant tale reveals how the imagination finds meaning in the most bewildering times, the ways people of all ages strive for connection, and how the darkest of secrets can set us free.”

8. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

“Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life!” So asserts Jean Brodie, a magnetic, dubious, and sometimes comic teacher at the conservative Marcia Blaine School for Girls in Edinburgh. Brodie selects six favorite pupils to mold—and she doesn’t stop with just their intellectual lives. She has a plan for them all, including how they will live, whom they will love, and what sacrifices they will make to uphold her ideals. When the girls reach adulthood and begin to find their own destinies, Jean Brodie’s indelible imprint is a gift to some, and a curse to others.”

9. The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman

“Twenty years ago, Jane Hudson fled the Heart Lake School for Girls in the Adirondacks after a terrible tragedy. The week before her graduation, in that sheltered wonderland, three lives were taken, all victims of suicide. Only Jane was left to carry the burden of a mystery that has stayed hidden in the depths of Heart Lake for more than two decades. Now Jane has returned to the school as a Latin teacher, recently separated and hoping to make a fresh start with her young daughter. But ominous messages from the past dredge up forgotten memories. And young, troubled girls are beginning to die again–as piece by piece the shattering truth slowly floats to the surface. . . .”

10. To Sir, With Love by E. R. Braithwaite

“With opportunities for black men limited in post–World War II London, Rick Braithwaite, a former Royal Air Force pilot and Cambridge-educated engineer, accepts a teaching position that puts him in charge of a class of angry, unmotivated, bigoted white teenagers whom the system has mostly abandoned. When his efforts to reach these troubled students are met with threats, suspicion, and derision, Braithwaite takes a radical new approach. He will treat his students as people poised to enter the adult world. He will teach them to respect themselves and to call him “Sir.” He will open up vistas before them that they never knew existed. And over the course of a remarkable year, he will touch the lives of his students in extraordinary ways, even as they in turn, unexpectedly and profoundly, touch his.”

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