Review of the Energy to Teach

I’ll be attending the National Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute for Teachers at UNC Charlotte for the next several weeks. I’m planning to post some of the writing I do for it here. You can also follow the twitter tag #unccwp. Below is a review of Don Graves’ The Energy to Teach.

Recently Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” garnered over a million views on The Atlantic‘s website. The interest surrounding the article and responses to it point to the great deal of interest in the question of how to apportion the limited supply of energy that each of us has.

Donald Graves’ book The Energy to Teach tackles this issue as it pertains to a profession in which its members often try to figure out how to do all that is asked of them. Burnout is perennial problem in the teaching profession.  After five years, over 30% of beginning teachers have left the profession.

Many articles have been written suggesting reasons for this attrition. Graves addresses the concerns, but focuses the majority of his book on offering practical suggestions to teachers to reflect upon their energy level and maintain or increase it, even in the high-pressure environment of many schools. Throughout the book, Graves offers a series of invitations for teachers to help assess their level of energy and find ways to increase their energy.

Graves undertook a study of teachers asking them to chart sources of energy and activities and interactions that took energy. He found that lack of control over space and time, lack of support, and difficult children were the primary factors that took energy, and a sense of collegiality with other colleagues and connection with students were the most significant sources of energy for teachers.

In the book, Graves offers suggestions for teachers for drawing energy from curriculum, colleagues, learning, assessment, parents, interactions between principals and teachers, and activities outside of school. He offers two detailed portraits of energy, analyzing how schools in Maine create atmospheres that foster teacher energy and how a curriculum coordinator in a Virginia school draws energy from her work.  He also discusses his interviews of professionals in other fields and how they find sources of energy and deal with energy drains.

The Energy to Teach offers practical suggestions and thoughtful analysis. Graves’ warm voice is also a welcome gift to teachers struggling with maintaining energy in their lives or those seeking to proactively address the issue.

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