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Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone)
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Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone)

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,172 ratings  ·  185 reviews

A 2014 New York Times Book Review Notable Book

We’ve all had great teachers who opened new worlds, maybe even changed our lives. What made them so great?

Everyone agrees that a great teacher can have an enormous impact. Yet we still don't know what, precisely, makes a teacher great. Is it a matter of natural-born charisma? Or does exceptional teaching require something more?

Kindle Edition, 385 pages
Published August 4th 2014 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Dan Shonka
Jul 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a Goodreads giveaway book that I won. As a retired teacher of 31 years in the public schools, many of my friends were asking me why in the world I would read this. "You're done teaching," they said. Honestly, I was a little leery of reading it, and it sat on my "to-read" pile for a while. That being said, once I started reading it, I really got pulled in by Green's well written book. She tells about teaching in the past and where it could go. . . if the right people got behind it. I onl ...more
Aug 24, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a very difficult book for me to review.

It veers between some near-eloquent descriptions of how master teachers learn to analyze their own instruction--to hero-worshipping, misguided prose on constructing a no-excuses classroom climate. And then it turns around and shares the bursting of education "reformers'" collective balloon, as they realize that control and compliance come with an ugly aftertaste. Followed by a little light-hearted recognition of Erik Hanushek's "genius" in single-ha
Jenny GB
Apr 24, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaway
I received a free copy of the book through Goodreads First Reads.

I am a public school teacher myself so reading this was interesting at some parts and old news at others so this will color my review, I'm sure, so keep that in mind. I think Green is attempting to write a story of events in one particular trend in teaching (the lesson study idea) from Japan.

I thought she was doing a nice job at the beginning of the book by writing about some teachers in America that hit upon this successful way t
Mar 05, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After 32 year in classrooms, I confess I'm skeptical of books about teaching by non-teachers. Despite a Epilogue where Green describes teaching with a master teacher for one day, her appreciation of what teachers do and are seems naive. And her presentation of their methods and strategies seem, to this teacher, quite tin-eared, full of startling observations on the obvious and overblown praise for the most rudimentary techniques. Green obviously impresses easily, which may be endearing for some ...more
I got this as Goodreads Giveaway. I am a member of my local school bloard and teach quality control and statistics as an adjunct professor. I taught remedial math at Ohio State. I hoped to learn something about the art and science of teaching I was very disappointed.

The book is far too anecdotal. I expected something like concrete lessons learned and got a newspaper article depth summary of feel-good stories. The author shared very little that might help me understand how teaching works except i
Jun 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Painstakingly researched, scholarly, and beautifully written. A must read for all who care about the future of education in this country.
I think, for a journalistic effort, this is really well-done, and Green really tries to get into the history of teacher education in relation to ongoing issues. She tries to take a few different perspectives, while at the same time taking a stance on what's important. She also manages to weave her research together into a neat narrative. From the point of view of someone steeped in the academic research and the field, this is missing huge pieces of the puzzle, including substantive aspects of th ...more
Oct 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this book would be better served if it was renamed "Building a Better Teacher: A History."

As a teacher, I found this book to be extremely fascinating! And very true about teachers and teacher reform. And I actually liked Green's writing habit of building a particular movement up as amazing before dismantling it in the next section. It truly shows how teaching has to evolve as time progresses. I also took some of the math techniques back to my classroom with great success (and I'm now hyp
Jun 13, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I probably would have given this two and a half stars. There's no doubt Green is an intelligent woman and good writer. But even for someone with multiple graduate degrees and who grew up in education (both parents are in education and my family had a tutoring/testing business), I found her confusing and wordy - at times, even a bit disorganized. I'm not sure who her audience is - parents won't find it helpful, but I don't think teachers, will, either, for the most part. Especially taking into ac ...more
Ope Bukola
Oct 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Green does a fantastic job of explaining why teaching is difficult, and why most of us don't understand how difficult it is. She digs into the history of teaching teachers to help readers see how/why the craft of teaching has been neglected for so long. I left the book feeling a bit hopeful and dismayed. Hopeful that the craft of teaching is getting the attention it deserves in academic circles, but dismayed that politics may prevent us from doing what is right for our nation's teachers and lear ...more
370.711 GRE
CD 370.711 GRE

My summary: Really, teaching need to be so complicated? I am not convinced so. I believe people borne with ability to learn. It is precisely what we so emphasize teaching making people feel that they doubt themselves, believing lacking the ability to learn by themselves. Chap 5 author really praise charter school, quite opposite opinion from author "Reign of error". I do not like this kind of style of writing, I find this particular popular in authors who are from libera
Aleksandar Tasev
The book is full of fillers with some bits of useful information in-between.
Mark Ballinger
Nov 08, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teaching
This was a frustrating read, and in the end I have to say this book failed to meet its promises.

How does this country go about building better teachers? Great question, and one that we teachers, I can assure you, think about constantly. The book launches okay, with a tear-down of any lingering myth that some people have an innate talent for teaching, and that this can't be an acquired skill. Okay so far.

But, then, we get way too many dives into irrelevant history and stories. Teaching methods at
Jul 14, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This wasn't at all what I expected. Instead of reviewing best pedagogical practices, Green's book consists of a lengthy walk down memory lane of educational reforms and movements from the last 30 years. Some of the stories were interesting, but I kept waiting for the promised tagline of the book, "How teaching works and how to teach it to everyone" to take center stage. It never did.

However, I did glean a few resources and articles from the book I'm eager to dive into, so that bumps my overall r
Oct 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really got me thinking about how my school produced such great teachers and how I will find a school for Thomas too!
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is more of a history of the movement to improve teaching than a guide to teaching well. If you're looking to learn how to teach well, go for another book.

That said, I really liked this book. It gave me a great understanding of the current state of American education, and cleared up a bunch of confusion I had about why things were done the way they are. It also offers a glimpse of how things may improve, while pointing out lots of sources to find out more.
Mar 28, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The thesis of this book is that teaching in America overall is ineffective not because of insufficient spending, lack of teacher autonomy, or lack of accountability, but because of inconsistent teacher education infrastructure. While other more educationally successful nations, such as Japan, and some schools in the United States, such as certain charter schools, have a consistent curriculum, testing, and effective teacher education culture, including a emphasis on feedback and improvement, the ...more
Sandy Sopko
I enjoyed reading about the education system in Japan and about the struggles of American teachers to replicate constructivist math lessons in their own classrooms. I still struggle with the disconnect -- somehow American education is all wrong, but we have lead the world in virtually everything. Why are we trying to adopt other systems? Because their students surpass ours on global tests? Why should we care when our education system has driven creativity, innovation, and technology in ways that ...more
Delia Turner
Aug 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A clear, readable history of US teaching reform since the mid-20th century. A candid look at efforts such as charter schools, TFA, accountability, No Child Left Behind, and Common Core. A discussion of the Japanese jugyokenkyu process, and the way that the Japanese made the American reform of NCTM work so well when the Americans couldn't that researchers in the US thought it was an entirely Japanese reform. A biographical tracing of the work of Magdalene Lampert, Deborah Ball, David Cohen, and P ...more
Nov 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally a book about teaching that emphasizes process over product, training over talent and practice over policy. Unfortunately there probably isn't much money to be made by corporate ed reformers if our national policymakers begin pursuing specific methods of teacher training that are based on research. Politicians can't score many points with voters by "holding lazy teachers accountable" if they place the focus on actually training teachers to do their jobs rather than allowing universities t ...more
What impressed me most about Green's treatment of the topic of education was the way she connected the main researchers and movements in the field in terms of who was doing what at what point - where their strengths and limitations fell and most importantly, impressed upon me the challenge of scale. (3.7 million teachers!!) I appreciated her balanced and informative treatment of many educational efforts I support (Lesson Study, Shulman's Pedagogical Content Knowledge, Lab Schools) as well as tho ...more
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The idea that teachers are made rather than born is an extremely important one. Especially in light of teacher evaluations, changing and new policies, and all the other things going in in education right now. This book concentrates on the big names in education that have worked or contributed in some way to showing that you can teach teachers how to teach--like Magdalene Lampert, Deborah Ball, Pam Grossman, Doug Lemov, etc. Some I've heard of and some I haven't, but now am interested in work the ...more
Nov 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You won't agree with everything in this book. You may disagree strongly with some of it (I certainly did) but for anyone who is interested in elementary or secondary education over the last few decades in the US (which includes anyone who is a parent, teacher, or student. So most of you) this book about the strengths -- and serious flaws -- of our educational system is a must read. ...more
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had to read this book for my coaching class & I'm really glad I had to. I'm not sure I would have pushed myself to finish it if I wasn't required to, but it was actually a fantastic book. Sometimes it was daunting to read because she would go on and on to get to a big point. And the chapters were long, but the information was really good & important. I would recommend it to every teacher. ...more
May 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: journalism, education
Outstanding story of some of the most intriguing attempts at education reform in the past 40 years.

Advice: ignore the misleading subtitle. This is not a "how to" book.

Rather, it's an extensively-researched chronology of attempts to improve teaching by improving teacher education.

Thought-provoking and important. Loved it!

Mary Louise Sanchez
I agree that a great teacher is the best indicator of student sucess but would have liked to see a summary of what makes a great teacher instead of stories about some great teachers.
Renata Chilvarquer Citron
Gave me a whole new perspective on the teaching process, the vision of student's learning and models on how to develop the teaching skills. ...more
Let me begin this review with a bit of transparency. I am a new teacher who is certified to teach high school students, and I am always on the lookout for what I can read that will help me become a better teacher. So, when I saw this book, I jumped at the chance to buy it. Then, I saw that it was written by a journalist, and this gave me pause, since I have not had a great experience with their writing on education in the past. Yet, I forged ahead, taking the chance to see what Elizabeth Green h ...more
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"How do you know that?" "What do other people think about that?"
You, Y'all, We:
You: Come up with as many solutions as you can
Y'all: Give the answer and the reason for your answer
We: What did you learn from today's problem, or what new questions do you have, if any?
Who had the same thinking? Anything to add to this way of thinking? Did anybody else use another way?
Check status: Who agrees? Is anyone confused? What kind of __ have we studied so far?

"positive group correction": describing the
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating study of teacher training (and lack thereof) over the ages. A pervasive belief that good teachers are born, not made, combined with a failure to recognize the impact of teachers' skill on student outcomes, has led to massive inconsistencies in the U.S. education system. Green traces the history of this problem. Then she looks at lots of the people -- from innovators in education schools to charter school innovators -- who have tried to improve teacher education. She also ou ...more
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Elizabeth Green has written for the New York Times Magazine and many other publications. The cofounder, CEO, and editor-in-chief of Chalkbeat and former Spencer Fellow at the Columbia School of Journalism, she lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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