Monday, November 5, 2012

Review and Giveaway: 'The Together Teacher' by Maia Heyck-Merlin

Maia Heyck-Merlin has put together what should be required reading for teachers who are a couple of years into their career, a sort of sequel to The First Days of School that paints with a much wider brush.  The Together Teacher is, in short, a powerful toolbox for veteran teachers.

The structure of Heyck-Merlin's book reflects heavily on the style of thinking and planning that Teach For America and Achievement First similarly employ in their respective organizations.  Each chapter is full of reflection questions, critical thoughts about why each tool is important, and real life examples and scenarios that provide guidance on what these tools might look like in action.  The emphasis on nuanced, detailed planning is also a hallmark of what these organizations teach their people to do.

The most important thing about this book is not the structure, however, but the philosophy behind the tools. You need all this planning and organization not just to become a more effective teacher, but to make sure you have time for your life outside of teaching.  Heyck-Merlin wants effective teaching to go hand in hand with a sustainable career, something that TFA and high-performing charters like AF talk about but don't necessarily prioritize.

The amount of planning, organizing and systematization that goes into being a "together" teacher might seem daunting to those who aren't so formal with their routines, systems and procedures. Yet Heyck-Merlin breaks down her methods and templates so well that most teachers should be able to pull much of it off if they're willing to put in the effort.

A guide as comprehensive as The Together Teacher must be read, absorbed and used like any other resource: you take what you can.  Teaching is more art than science, both in how each of us approaches the job and in how carry it out.  The tools in The Together Teacher aren't going to work for everybody, but everybody will be able to find something in these pages.

I have a copy of the book to give away. All you have to do for a chance to win the book is send an email with the subject "Together Teacher Giveaway" to by Tuesday, November 6 at 11:59pm CST.  I'll select a winner at random.

Thanks to John Wiley & Sons, Inc. for providing a review copy.