It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/2/16

My reading goal for the year is to diversify my reading life. Typically I gravitate to the same type of characters, so this goal has pushed me to get uncomfortable. Here are a few books that have enriched my reading life:

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly blog meme. The kidlit version is hosted by Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts.


Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle

enchanted air

I jumped at a chance to read a free-verse novel AND a memoir in one. In this book, Engle has also written the perfect book to diversify my reading life.

As a younger child, Margarita grew accustomed to taking regular trips to Cuba to see her mother’s family. However, the trips soon stopped. With a Cuban mother, Margarita and her family felt the embargo on Cuba more than most Americans. While she lives in Los Angeles, her heart aches for the pulsating Cuban life she has grown to love.

Island’s End by Padma Venkatraman

island's end

In today’s concrete, industrial society, it can be hard to imagine a remote island inhabited by a tribe untouched by the contemporary world. Based on the tribes on the Andaman Islands, this book tells of Uido, a young girl who becomes her tribe’s spiritual leader. Training to become the most influential person in the tribe brings unwelcome hostility and conflict to Uido’s life. How can something she feels called to do create this much dissention?

With beautiful, descriptive words, Vankatraman creates a story that exposes us to a world outside of our own. After reading Venkatraman’s A Time to Dance, my student requested another book by her. When we conferred about this book, we really had to sort out the names of the characters because they are different and can trip up some middle grade readers. But once who’s who is sorted out, they can truly enjoy the story.

Teaching Outside the Box: How to Grab Your Students by Their Brains by LouAnne Johnson

teaching outside the box

I am so grateful to have read this book my first year teaching. The only downside was that I wish I would have read it before starting my first year. Johnson’s classroom management philosophy and tips have completely transformed my classroom. From reaching all students to systematic routines, this book blows the Wongs out of the water.

Being so new to the teaching profession, I appreciated Johnson’s honesty. I was struck with her statement that I can choose to be a good, super, or excellent teacher. It truly depends on how much effort I’m willing to spend on my profession. It’s okay to be a good teacher and not an excellent teacher.

More topics covered in the book:

  • Teaching psychology to students
  • An emergency plan for when you have a catastrophic, professional meltdown
  • An easy-to-follow plan for classroom management
  • Great ways to arrange the classroom for learning

Despite absolutely brilliant advice, I don’t think any of the topics covered by Johnson were truly “outside of the box.” While I agree that I now know how to grab my students by their brains, I don’t feel that a structured environment that allows all students to learn is an idea outside of the box, so to say.

My first year teaching has been full of highs and lows. Some days I never want to do anything else beside teach. Other days I scour the paper for a job with less stress. Often times I wonder if I have the stamina to teach long-term. As I finished reading this book, tears flooded my eyes as Johnson closed with this thought:

If you decide to switch careers, however, don’t beat yourself up. Congratulate and thank yourself for the time you spent helping young people. You don’t have to teach forever to earn your teacher wings. You have earned them already.”