Outside the Classroom

January’s Top Books for Educators

Welcome to 2021! We sincerely hope this year will be better than the last for everyone, especially educators and students. Teachers and administrators are dealing with both existing and new challenges, as many districts and schools return to remote learning. With that, for January’s top books for educators, we’re highlighting several books that offer guidance and research for caring for students’ (and educators’) social, emotional, and mental health. In addition, discover how giving students a say in the assessment process can help transform it, learn how the intellectual lives of children can inform our interactions with them, and so much more.

As we begin a new year, discover our picks for January’s top books for educators, which we hope are helpful and enlightening for you and your colleagues.

Compassionate School Practices: Fostering Children’s Mental Health and Well-Being
Christine Mason, Dana Asby, Meghan Wenzel, Katherine T. Volk, Martha Staeheli

Is your school prepared to care for all of the students, staff, and families in your community? Sadly, your school might be the only point of care for many. Be already ready—establish a compassionate cultural foundation for strong relationships and holistic skills to weather stress, trauma, and promote well-being for your entire school population.

Help your school or district use available resources to create a compassionate culture of justice and care for all by leaning into this book’s approach to leadership and social emotional learning. Discover a collaborative visioning process to elevate compassion through dialogue, policies, and protocol.

Readers will find:

  • Practical strategies for working with parents and communities
  • Activities for the whole school
  • An implementation framework for elementary, middle, and high school
  • Deeper understanding of trauma, ACEs, and mental health concerns
  • Support for teachers’ mental health
  • What not to do—practices that don’t work, and why
  • In-depth case studies and vignettes

Read this and usher in transformational and compassionate change that may be the difference in whatever today, tomorrow, or the next day may bring.

Whole School Health Through Psychosocial Emotional Learning
Jared Scherz

15 strategies to jumpstart student and educator health

With rapid technological advancements and changes to how schools must respond to learning and mental health needs, the educational landscape looks considerably different from how it did 20 years ago. How do educators contend with this everchanging future? Jared Scherz answers this question and more by outlining the 15 critical steps to educators’ and students’ health through psychosocial emotional learning.

Designed for everyone involved in the educational system—including district administrators, teachers, students, parents, and the business community—this book provides a practical plan with steps to harmonize whole-school health, including sustainable growth in student character development, improvement of organizational health, and reduction of violence and other threats to education. A blueprint of applicable resources is provided, including:

  • 15 easy-to-follow guidelines for successfully implementing social-emotional learning practices
  • A spotlight on issues such as empathy, identity formation, self-control, and conflict resolution
  • Dozens of real-world stories from educators
  • Anecdotal and data-driven results from successful implementation

Educators today must navigate a newer and more dynamic terrain than previous generations. This book provides a practical framework for improving the satisfaction of educators, all through the lens of whole-school health.

Building Great Mental Health Professional–Teacher Teams: A Systematic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning for Students and Educators
Tonya Balch, Brandie M. Oliver, Chavez Phelps, Bradley V. Balch

A team-building resource for improving student well-being through social-emotional learning (SEL)

Teaching is no longer only about academics—it has become about educating the whole child. Practical and research-based, this resource empowers teachers, school counselors, psychologists, and social workers to harness their collective power to support learners in their social-emotional lives. Discover how to form teams, navigate group challenges, and collectively pave the pathway to meaningful, purposeful, and sustainable student success.

  • Discover how cognitive science and neuroscience can help educators better understand challenging students and plan interventions.
  • Understand why teams, rather than just groups, matter and how they can achieve true team cohesion through practical advice for connection-building and goal-setting.
  • Develop greater sensitivity to the needs of a diverse array of students, and discover ways to build trust, respect, and inclusivity within schools.
  • Learn how to examine and resist one’s own implicit biases.
  • Gain a deeper understanding of how social-emotional learning (SEL) positively impacts students and classrooms and how to incorporate it into everyday instruction.
  • Access professional development activities designed to help teams enact each chapter’s content and strengthen the group dynamic.

Giving Students a Say: Smarter Assessment Practices to Empower and Engage
Myron Dueck

Assessment is an essential part of teaching and learning, but too often it leads to misleading conclusions—sometimes with dire consequences for students. How can educators improve assessment practices so that the results are accurate, meaningful, informative, and fair?

Educator and best-selling author Myron Dueck draws from his firsthand experience and his work with districts around the world to provide a simple but profound answer: put student voice and choice at the center of the process.

In this engaging and well-researched book, Dueck reveals troubling issues related to traditional approaches and offers numerous examples of educators at all levels who are transforming assessment by using tools and methods that engage and empower students. He also shares surprising revelations about the nature of memory and learning that speak to the need for rethinking how we measure student understanding and achievement.

Readers will find sound advice and detailed guidance on how to

  • Share and cocreate precise learning targets,
  • Develop student-friendly rubrics linked to standards,
  • Involve students in ongoing assessment procedures,
  • Replace flawed grading systems with ones that better reflect what students know and can do, and
  • Design structures for students’ self-reporting on their progress in learning.

Inspired by the origins of the word assessment—derived from the Latin for “to sit beside”—Dueck urges educators to discard old habits and instead work with students as partners in assessment. For those who do, the effort is rewarding and the benefits are significant.

The Intellectual Lives of Children
Susan Engel

A look inside the minds of young children shows how we can better nurture their abilities to think and grow.

Adults easily recognize children’s imagination at work as they play. Yet most of us know little about what really goes on inside their heads as they encounter the problems and complexities of the world around them. In The Intellectual Lives of Children, Susan Engel brings together an extraordinary body of research to explain how toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary-aged children think. By understanding the science behind how children observe their world, explain new phenomena, and solve problems, parents and teachers will be better equipped to guide the next generation to become perceptive and insightful thinkers.

The activities that engross kids can seem frivolous, but they can teach us a great deal about cognitive development. A young girl’s bug collection reveals important lessons about how children ask questions and organize information. Watching a young boy scoop mud can illuminate the process of invention. When a child ponders the mystery of death, we witness how children build ideas. But adults shouldn’t just stand around watching. When parents are creative, it can rub off on their children. Engel shows how parents and teachers can stimulate children’s curiosity by presenting them with mysteries to solve.

Unfortunately, in our homes and schools, we too often train children to behave rather than nurture their rich and active minds. This focus is misguided, since it is with their first inquiries and inventions—and the adult world’s response to them—that children lay the foundation for a lifetime of learning and good thinking. Engel offers readers a scientifically based approach that will encourage children’s intellectual growth and set them on the path of inquiry, invention, and ideas.

The Power of Explicit Teaching and Direct Instruction
Greg Ashman

Direct instruction and explicit teaching can offer you a shorter, straighter route to developing effective learning in your classroom.

In this smart and accessible book, Greg Ashman explores how you can harness the potential of these often misunderstood and misapplied teaching methods to achieve positive learning outcomes for the students you teach.

It investigates key foundational principles, combined with thoughtful commentary on what these mean in classroom practice and an examination of relevant research and theories from cognitive psychology that substantiate these approaches to teaching and learning.

The Feedback Pendulum: A Manifesto for Enhancing Feedback in Education
Michael Chiles

The art of giving feedback is widely recognized as one of the most powerful tools in education and equally one of the most variable aspects in the way it is applied. In The Feedback Pendulum, Michael aims to explore how the use of feedback has evolved over time, drawing on a combination of research and sharing experiences, and examples of best practices across the different phases of education to establish a culture of efficient and effective feedback that supports the teaching and learning cycle.

This book will unpack the research, the experience of expert practitioners, and practical strategies in the different phases of education, including:

  • the evolution of feedback over time
  • pre-school feedback
  • primary and secondary school feedback
  • specialist education feedback
  • parental feedback
  • CPD feedback

Did you miss last month’s recommendations? It’s not too late to see December’s top books for educators.

About the Author


Where Learning Clicks

Since 1998, Edgenuity has been creating products and services that help all students achieve their full potential. As an extension of our efforts, we also produce Where Learning Clicks to share meaningful and timely ideas about trends, developments, and changes in education, as well as how to further incorporate technology into today’s classrooms.