Outside the Classroom

August’s Top Books on Education: See What’s Coming Out This Month!

It’s back-to-school season! That means setting up your classroom, prepping for the new year, getting back into lesson-planning mode, and so much more. To help get your head in the game, we’re sharing some of August’s top books on education. Interested in learning how to promote mental health in your students? Maybe you want to learn more about how you can improve as a leader and educator, or why middle school is such an important time for students. We’ve got books addressing all of that, and this month, we’re sharing a bonus book about self-care for educators. It’s important you stay healthy, too!

Best of luck on your first days back, educators!

C.R.A.F.T. Conversations for Teacher Growth: How to Build Bridges and Cultivate Expertise
Sally Zepeda, Lakesha Goff, Stefanie Steele

Conversations between administrators and teachers take place every day, for many reasons, but what can we do to elevate them so that they lead to better professional relationships, more effective school leaders and teachers, and improved learning for students? C.R.A.F.T. Conversations for Teacher Growth offers the answer, demonstrating how exchanges that are clear, realistic, appropriate, flexible, and timely can be transformational.

The authors explain how C.R.A.F.T. conversations support leaders’ efforts in four “cornerstone” areas: Building Capacity, Invoking Change, Promoting Collaboration, and Prioritizing Celebration. With this foundation in place, they offer explicit guidance for developing the skills necessary to move through all components of a C.R.A.F.T. conversation: planning, opening, engaging, closing, reflecting, and following up. Extended vignettes featuring administrators and teachers bring each component to life, illustrating how focused efforts on improving how we communicate and build relationships can help schools achieve their goals and become places where adults—and students—thrive.

The Relevant Classroom: 6 Steps to Foster Real-World Learning
Eric Hardie

Students need to connect to the real world, be engaged, and learn deeply. But how are teachers supposed to ensure that students meet these objectives in the current school system? In The Relevant Classroom, Eric Hardie presents six strategies derived from his two decades of experience as an elementary and secondary teacher and principal to show teachers ways to foster real-world connections, genuine engagement, and deeper learning:

  1. Make meaning central to student work.
  2. Contextualize the curriculum.
  3. Create space to learn.
  4. Connect student work to the community.
  5. Follow the (student) leaders.
  6. Reenvision feedback and evaluation.

This practical volume includes advice on how to get started, vivid examples, reflection questions, and tips on how to overcome common obstacles. The Relevant Classroom is about recognizing that teachers who tap into students’ capacities for creativity, collaboration, and innovation can create learning experiences that are truly meaningful for students.

Middle School Matters: The 10 Key Skills Kids Need to Thrive in Middle School and Beyond––and How Parents Can Help
Phyllis L. Fagell

A counselor and popular Washington Post contributor offers a new take on grades 6–8 as a distinct developmental phase—and the perfect time to set up kids to thrive.

Middle school is its own important, distinct territory, and yet it’s either written off as an uncomfortable rite of passage or lumped in with other developmental phases. Based on her many years working in schools, professional counselor Phyllis Fagell sees these years instead as a critical stage that parents can’t afford to ignore (and though “middle school” includes different grades in various regions, Fagell maintains that the ages make more of a difference than the setting). Though the transition from childhood to adolescence can be tough for kids, this time of rapid physical, intellectual, moral, social, and emotional change is a unique opportunity to proactively build character and confidence.

Fagell helps parents use the middle school years as a low-stakes training ground to teach kids the key skills they’ll need to thrive now and in the future, including making good friend choices, negotiating conflict, regulating their own emotions, be their own advocates, and more. To answer parents’ most common questions and struggles with middle school–aged children, Fagell combines her professional and personal expertise with stories and advice from prominent psychologists, doctors, parents, educators, school professionals, and middle schoolers themselves.

How Can I Help? A Teacher’s Guide to Early Childhood Behavioral Health
Ginger Welch

Sometimes misbehavior isn’t what it seems. Many children come to care with early signs of mental- or behavioral-health issues. Early childhood professionals are often the first to notice that something is different.

How Can I Help? is a practical guide that helps educators first identify issues and then create nurturing, safe, and successful learning environments to set up all children for success.

Learn how to:

  • Promote mental health for all children in your care
  • Identify signs of behavioral-health issues in children and family members
  • Support children who have specific behavioral-health difficulties
  • Work with the families of children with behavioral-health challenges

Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive Outside the Lines
Jonathan Mooney

Confessional and often hilarious, in Normal Sucks a neuro-diverse writer, advocate, and father meditates on his life, offering the radical message that we should stop trying to fix people and start empowering them to succeed.

Jonathan Mooney blends anecdote, expertise, and memoir to present a new mode of thinking about how we live and learn—individually, uniquely, and with advantages and upshots to every type of brain and body. As a neuro-diverse kid diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD who didn’t learn to read until he was twelve, the realization that he wasn’t the problem—the system and the concept of normal were—saved Mooney’s life and fundamentally changed his outlook. Here he explores the toll that being not normal takes on kids and adults when they’re trapped in environments that label them, shame them, and tell them, even in subtle ways, that they are the problem. But, he argues, if we can reorient the ways in which we think about diversity, abilities, and disabilities, we can start a revolution.

A highly sought-after public speaker, Mooney has been inspiring audiences with his story and his message for nearly two decades. Now he’s ready to share what he’s learned from parents, educators, researchers, and kids in a book that is as much a survival guide as it is a call to action. Whip-smart, insightful, and utterly inspiring—and movingly framed as a letter to his own young sons, as they work to find their ways in the world—this book will upend what we call normal and empower us all.

And this month, we’re sharing a bonus book to help get you through those first few days back (and the rest of the year):


Everyday Self-Care for Educators: Tools and Strategies for Well-Being
Carla Tantillo Philibert, Christopher Soto, Lara Veon

If you’re an educator experiencing burnout, compassion fatigue, or vicarious trauma, this book will help you embrace tangible self-care practices to improve your well-being both in and out of the classroom. Using the framework of the “window of capacity”—the zone of the nervous system arousal in which a person is able to function most effectively—the authors illustrate not only “the why” of self-care, but also “the how.” Chapters explore how stress at school impacts personal life, the way teacher self-care benefits students, and ways in which schools can implement and support well-being. The book includes a variety of tips and interactive activities to help you identify your own needs and implement helpful practices. You’ll leave with a toolbox of information and simple practices to effectively advocate for your well-being in educational spaces and beyond.

Did you miss last month’s recommendations? It’s not too late to see July’s top books on education.

About the Author


Laura Almozara

As a child, Laura spent a lot of time reading and telling stories, at one point reading a new book every day. She took that interest with her to college, where she studied English and journalism. She then started working in publishing and eventually made her way to edtech. Laura is excited to be a part of the Where Learning Clicks team, helping to provide innovative education tools to some of the people who need them most.