Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Book Review: Thrive: Five Ways to Reinvigorate Your Teaching by Menoo Rami

Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching by Meenoo Rami

When I first heard who our NDCTE (North Dakota Council of Teachers of English) keynote speaker for the Summer 2016 conference was going to be, I had never heard the name. “You know, the book Thrive?” a friend of mine questioned. I didn’t have a clue, and I am a voraciously nerdy reader of educational teaching books. I sat back and waited for conference time to see what the hype was all about.

I remember listening to Meenoo Rami in Bismarck that summer, and I enjoyed what she had to say, but I didn’t feel the urge to pick up and buy the book. Fast forward a few months, I decided to take a continuing ed credit from my Red River Valley Writing Project. On the list of books to read for the year, Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching. I smiled to myself thinking, someone wants me to read this book. I opened it a couple weeks ago to begin reading, and to be honest I couldn’t put it down. I know that sounds like what someone would say who reads a novel with an actual plot, but I really enjoyed this book.

It was short, easy to read, and gave practical advice that many teachers already know, but it was nice to be reminded. Rami was direct, to the point, candid, and truly gave good insight into freshening up the teaching profession when many of us are guilty of feeling bogged down every school year. She chose a few ways to keep the fire lit within all of us; if one method doesn’t work for you, she has a few others to try without feeling overwhelmed.

The book is divided into 5 chapters: Turn to Mentors, Join and Build Networks, Keep Your Work Intellectually Challenging, Listening to Yourself, and Empowering your Students. What I enjoyed reading was that she incorporated other teacher’s ideas into each chapter. Those teachers gave different perspectives on the thoughts Meenoo already shared within the chapter. They were of varying teaching subjects, ages, and locations which gave validity to Meenoo’s belief that this book can benefit any teaching regardless of years under your belt, content area, and geographic location.

Chapter 1 discusses the importance of mentors, and how teachers need support to find confidence and success in their teaching. Meenoo reminds us that “what we do every day is tremendously important and difficult, but we also have the power to create a network of support as we continue to move ahead in this digital age which offers us so many possibilities” (Rami 16). Mentors are those teachers you visit with to bounce ideas off of and who encourage you to pursue your dreams. Every teacher needs a mentor to help keep them grounded and to push them to greatness.

Chapter 2 explains the value of joining or building a network for added support. North Dakota has a great network of English teachers in NDCTE. When I think about networks, I think about my core teacher friends at my school, but then I also think about all of my friends around the state that I am able to discuss curriculum ideas with whenever I want via the internet. Rami emphasizes the importance of having a network every where, so you are constantly learning from others to bring ideas back to your students and local school.

Her third chapter reminds us that our work needs to be intellectually challenging. She references three things that every teacher needs to feel motivated: autonomy, mastery, and purpose (46). I liked this section because she advocated for personal curriculum design; she pushed the need to create your own curriculum because it has the greatest benefit for students and teacher alike.

Chapter 4 was about listening to yourself. Having confidence in our teaching is difficult, it comes with time and years of practice, but Meenoo reminds us to be real with our students. When you are having a bad day, it is ok for the students to see that; it shows that you are real. Rami stresses the importance of focusing on you and giving yourself time to relax, focus, and jump back into the lion’s den.

The final chapter referenced empowering your students. Let’s face it, we don’t teach for the paycheck. I know when I am in a state of frustration and complete exhaustion, I think about why I do this job. Every time I come back to the kids. I do it for the kids. How come they have that much power over us? They control my day with their witty, zany personalities, but I woudn’t have it any other way. It is our job to teach them, light fires within them, and prepare them for this constantly changing world. What better way than to begin in the classroom?

What I found refreshing is Meenoo hadn’t taught for too long before she dove into writing this book. I haven’t taught long myself, and I enjoyed reading her beliefs on how to enliven teaching when it can take so much out of you, even if you have only taught a few years. She truly writes from the heart and has great lessons and ideas that all teachers should try to practice to keep this draining, exhausting, yet humbling job in perspective. Thanks Meenoo for reinvigorating my teaching with your practical ideas! I highly recommend this short read, especially when you need a teacher-pick-me-up!

The RRVWP Book Discussion Group will be discussing this book on Saturday, April 22nd at Dunn Brothers Coffee on the corner of 13th Ave S and 25th Street S in Fargo at 10am, immediately following the Writing Group at 9am. Join Kaylie and organizer Kim Rensch and other TCs at this event.