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With states and districts closing schools suddenly due to the pandemic, some teachers are finding themselves with two weeks of “early summer”, extended spring break, or even voluntary time at home otherwise avoiding illness. 

If you’re faced with seemingly endless hours with little to do (after you’re tired of binge-watching and before you have cabin fever), here are some ideas for furthering your professional development during your unexpected downtime. 

Some of these materials are not necessarily for educators but might make a good read (or listen, or … watch) on topics that concern learning and education loosely. In other words, we tried to find a few things outside the confines of what might be considered typical required professional development.

(Just to be safe, though, we’ve added a few predictable items, too. Sometimes a little predictability feels nice in uncertain times!)

Education Innovation

Education in a Time Between Worlds

by Zachary Stein

Zachary Stein self-identifies as a “high-achieving dyslexic”, and for those unfamiliar with the capacity many dyslexic individuals show for deep thinking and creativity, get ready for some interesting reading! This thought-provoking book raises as many questions as it answers about how the world around us is changing into something radically different,  in addition to how and why education (and educators) must change with it.  

Rewiring Education: How Technology Can Unlock Every Student’s Potential

by John D. Couch

For those who aren’t familiar with his work, John D. Couch was the first Vice President of Education for Apple under co-founder Steve Jobs. As the company’s 54th employee, the driving reformation force behind a struggling school’s rebirth, and the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Harvard for Innovation in Education, Couch knows the education business as well as he does technology, and he has some important things to say to fellow educators in this book.  

Student Diversity

Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain

by Zaretta Hammond

Although you may think you know what culturally responsive teaching is, this book is known to transform the ideas, methods, and paradigms of both highly qualified educators and “newbies” alike. Filled with both practical, “how-to” advice as well as a unique perspective, this book is one you’ll not only enjoy, but one you’ll likely want to gift to every educator you know.  

The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain

by Brock L. Eide M.D., M.A., and Fernette F. Eide M.D.

This book is one we mentioned that wasn’t made specifically for education or educators, but it’s still an interesting read. The focus of this book by two doctors with a dyslexic child is the positive aspects of the learning difference. 

NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity

by Steve Silberman

Along the same lines of The Dyslexia Advantage, this book begins by exploring the history of autism. From there, the author spins a story of possibility, suggesting how different our future could be if we accept a paradigm shift from viewing neurodiversity as “disabilities” and start viewing diversity as merely providing additional  ways a “neurotypical” brain can work. The writer pleads a convincing case for broadening our view of what is an acceptable, expectable difference and what can be classified as a disability.

Selective Mutism

by Aimee Kotrba

We’ve mentioned this book before. It’s the go-to manual for educators and others who work with students with Selective Mutism, a severe anxiety-based disorder that causes students to be unable to communicate in certain social situations. It’s a great tool to have and an interesting read. 

A Practical Guide to Mental Health & Learning Disorders for Every Educator

by Myles L. Cooley Ph.D. 

Dr. Miles Cooley, the author of this book, is a board certified clinical psychologist who has worked as a consultant with many school districts and provided training on mental health issues in children and teens for over thirty-five years. His practical guide for educators can be used in the classroom to determine what differences or illnesses they may be dealing with and ways to specifically work with students struggling. Although educators are not diagnosticians and should not use this tool as a device for diagnosing students, it can be so helpful to have a guide that can explain the best practices - and least helpful actions - teachers can employ in working with specific students.

Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students: Helping Kids Cope with Explosive Feelings

By Christine Fonseca

Christine Fonseca challenges readers to understand that gifted and talented individuals are “frustrated by the mundane and repetitive processes found in many classrooms” and that this is the root of many students’ apathy, underachievement, and misbehavior. This book can be a helpful tool for both teachers and parents. Fonseca looks at the social and emotional needs of gifted and talented students and provides practical, researched-based methods for meeting those needs both at home and in the classroom along with helpful, detailed examples.

The Survival Guide for Gifted Kids: For Ages 10 & Under

By Judy Galbraith

This book has been an important tool for children identified as gifted and talented for more than 35 years (don’t worry, this is a revised and updated 3rd edition). Gifted students see the world differently and often feel different, struggling to fit in with their peers. The author, Judy Galbraith who has an M.A. in guidance and counseling of the gifted, surveyed 1,000 gifted and talented children in order to write a book on their level and targeted to their specific needs. Topics include making friends, dealing with bullying and perfectionism, tips on communicating with teachers and parents, and using technology appropriately. This fun, easy-to-read book also includes a list of resources, anecdotes, and the Gifted Children’s Bill of Rights.

The Gifted Teen Survival Guide: Smart, Sharp, and Ready for (Almost) Anything

By Judy Galbraith

If you think being a gifted child is challenging, imagine facing all the challenges of adolescence in a world that doesn’t seem to understand or appreciate your differences. Much like its companion book above, this book was composed after surveying nearly 1,400 gifted teens. The goal of this book (now in its 4th edition) is to help gifted teens appreciate their unique giftedness rather than trying to hide behind it or hide from it. In this book Galbraith addresses traits that gifted teens tend to live with, such as: perfectionism, stress, bullying (and cyberbullying), and other emotional intensities. The book also guides students in how to take charge of their education and work towards their goals which can be an overwhelming endeavor for them. The author doesn’t steer away from uncomfortable topics like LGBTQ, suicide, and digital citizenship.

Human Learning

Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning

by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark. A. McDaniel

The authors of this book explore the current methods of learning that have been proven not to work so well but people continue to use. They explain why they seem to work well, what they are lacking, and alternatives that help learners truly learn more. Although it’s geared toward adults working on their own learning skills, it’s a good read, and once the methods and ideas are understood it can easily be translated to information that can then be shared with students. The methods are based on scientifically proven, research-based techniques.   

Small Things: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning
by James M. Lang 

This book by James M. Lang is also about learning, but the approach is from the more traditional PD approach. Lang shares details about what we currently know about human learning, and shares how to make small changes in your everyday teaching that will enhance your students’ ability to learn. 

Social-Emotional Learning 

Managing Emotional Mayhem

by Dr. Becky A. Bailey

This is an excellent book for those just starting out with social-emotional learning. It acts as a guide for adults who work with children whose executive functioning skills are low or underdeveloped in key areas of need. By leading educators through the process of connecting to and enhancing their own emotional IQ, the author helps teachers experience the coaching process from the viewpoint of the student which enables them to then pivot, becoming the coach students need to get them through the process of building those social-emotional skills. 

Reaching and Teaching Children Exposed to Trauma

By Barbara Sorrels

This award-winning book for early childhood teachers walks educators through the identification of children who are operating from a system framed by hurt and harm. The author also provides strategies for working with these children, ways to connect with them, and specifics on how to teach them the skills they desperately need. It’s a wonderful resource for any educator in any early childhood environment, promoting sincere care and love from a place of true understanding from teachers for their students. 

Additional Resources 

Free Spirit Publishing offers many resources for teachers, students and parents in the categories:

Social & Emotional Learning for Kids & Teens

Gifted & Special Education

Self-Help for Kids

Self-Help for Teens


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