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If you plan on teaching, you should plan on reading these first.

If you’re an education major, teaching becomes a central part of your life. Getting into the classroom is one of the best ways to learn about teaching, and there are many insightful books that can help you along the way.

As teaching is a field that is constantly changing, staying up to date is important. Many college programs stress the importance of reading trade books, listening to education podcasts and keeping up with the political side of education, but it is just as important to hear first-hand stories from real teachers.

The five titles below are must-reads and can inspire young teachers to learn more about the field of education. Although these books are based in education, they are great reads for everyone, especially those who attended public schools.

1. “Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher’s First Year” by Esmé Raji Codell

Every education major has their student-teaching experience and the image of their first classroom in the back of their mind. At times, the idea of being alone in the classroom with 25 students might seem daunting.

“Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher’s First Year” offers an amazing glimpse into the first year of Esmé Codell, a fiery and independent teacher. Even when her principal and administrators wouldn’t cooperate, Codell approaches her job with excitement and ambition.

Her hard work pays off, as readers get to see her students grow tremendously throughout the book. Told in a diary format, readers get a behind-the-scenes look at how Esmé handles the highs and lows of her first year. With no shortage of touching as well as hair-pulling moments, the work is a great first dive into books about teaching. Codell provides great ideas to include in your own classroom and lessons on how to be yourself in front of a class.

2. “The Children in Room E4” by Susan Eaton

I believe “The Children in Room E4” should be required reading for not only every education major, but everyone who has ever attended a public school. Eaton tackles the issues of urban education and school segregation by highlighting the Sheff vs. O’Neill legal case in Hartford, Connecticut. Readers get to see the case from its struggling start, getting to know each of the players that work to make this de facto segregation case a reality.

Eaton also follows Ms. Luddy, an incredible urban educator in Hartford and her student, Jeremy. Readers are able to see Jeremy’s home life, Ms. Luddy’s teaching strategies and the entire class’s performance, which makes this book a true winner.

By combining both the legal and historical elements of segregation in schools with real classroom experiences of teachers and students, the book offers insight to urban education from all angles. Whether or not you intend on teaching in an urban area, this book shows readers how our school system promotes inequality, and what we can do to change it.

3. “Because of Mr. Terupt” by Rob Buyea

“Because of Mr. Terupt” is a work of fiction and should be read by every elementary education major. It is also a great addition to a classroom library for older elementary and middle school students. Written from the perspective of seven students at Snow Hill School, the book demonstrates how the energy and love of one teacher can profoundly impact students.

By highlighting the difficulties that each student faces in their personal lives while still focusing on the classroom, Buyea portrays the heart of every teacher’s mission — to help  students succeed in and out of the classroom. This book will make you cry for the students’ pain, revel in their successes and smile with hope for each of the amazing characters.

Although the work is fictional, it is just as impactful as the non-fiction stories on this list. The characters might not be real, but the struggles of the characters mirror those of real students that might be in your classroom.

4. “And Still We Rise: The Trials and Triumphs of Twelve Gifted Inner-Students” by Miles Corwin

Following 12 high school seniors in south-central Los Angeles, “And Still We Rise: The Trials and Triumphs of Twelve Gifted Inner-Students” has no shortage of show-stopping moments. With two English teachers at odds and a line of students doing their best to simply eat and sleep, this book shows the challenges of both teaching and learning.

The students in the book are unique, each with a backstory more harrowing and traumatic than the last. Seeing how different teachers and administrators deal with the students’ difficult home lives informs education majors of both good and bad teaching practices. Readers will undoubtedly find themselves crying for and caring for these amazing students by the end of the book.

With a background in reporting, Corwin presents the story as is, with little dramatic flair, because these stories don’t need any exaggeration. With California’s banning of Affirmative Action acting as the backdrop for the stories, the struggles of college acceptance and scholarship searches are at the forefront of the book.

5. “Losing My Faculties: A Teacher’s Story” by Brendan Halpin

Halpin shows readers his journey beyond the first year of teaching. The author gives an in-depth look at a variety of schools and administrators that challenge his teaching. Although not every situation is a good fit for Halpin, readers get to see him figure out what he wants for both himself and his students.

There is no sugarcoating in Halpin’s style, and he is unafraid to show times where he might not have been at his best. Education majors need to pick up this book to remind themselves that teachers are still people who make mistakes and sometimes lose their control.

Most books about teaching feature amazing teachers that beat the odds and overcome huge challenges, which romanticizes what teachers do every day. Halpin brings readers back to reality, portraying a teacher at his strongest and weakest moments.

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