A Review of Jamie Sears’ How to Love Teaching Again
How to Love Teaching Again: Work Smarter, Beat Burnout, and Watch Your Students Thrive by Jamie Sears, former elementary teacher and founder of Not So Wimpy Teacher, was, to put it simply, not for me.
My critiques of this book are multifold, but I’d like to start with the positives, much as I do when I grade my student’s papers.
I always appreciate an opportunity to reflect on boundaries and work-life balance, so I liked an early exercise that helps readers define what type of teacher they want to be. A series of fill-in-the-blank exercises culminate with the statement, “Success for me is being a/an _____teacher who_____while working only ____ hours per week so that I can___.”
She reminds us not to compare our “backstage” to someone else’s front stage and to delay, delegate, or delete tasks to reduce guilt and save our sanity.
She also offers several strategies and tools for time management, including logistics for batch lesson planning and classroom centers.
Despite these useful components, overall, the book failed to show me how to love teaching again.
How to Love Teaching Again is Teaching 101
This is not for the veteran teacher and would be unsuccessful at helping teachers fall in love with teaching again, as the title suggests.
Jamie Sears’ advice isn’t bad, but it’s what I was taught in my very first graduate school class or, quite honestly, by being a caring adult in the world.
She suggests connecting with three students daily by asking “non-academic” “open-ended questions” and “actively listening” to “learn more about them as a person.”
“What are you doing after school?” and “What did you have for breakfast?” are included on her insightful list of potential questions. I would consider this section the baseline of effective teaching, and as a veteran teacher sometimes in need of re-inspiration, I was left wanting much more.
It was similarly disheartening to read her tips on student choice because she presents that students pick their writing prompt or free reading book as brand new information (“Choice is amazing!” she exclaims.)
The fact that Sears felt it was important to outline basic examples of human connection and autonomy says a lot about the state of teaching today, and that worries me.
Academically, she says we should differentiate by providing “supports or resources for those who need them.” As opposed to…? Letting students with different needs, abilities, and interests struggle and flounder, lost, and confused?
After differentiating, she reminds us that we can “easily check for understanding using simple informal assessments” like exit tickets and suggests “listening or watching students work in small groups.” Again, as opposed to what? Putting students in groups and watching Netflix until the bell rings? I really hope the veteran educators who are supposedly reading this are not the glorified babysitters that critics of teachers like to assume.
Sears is More of a Salesperson Than a Teacher
Sears left teaching when Not So Wimpy Teacher took off, so she obviously has to make her money somewhere. But her “have I got a solution for you” wink-winks and direct links to her TPT, website, and Facebook groups were grating.
One lead into such promotion states, “My time is valuable. Your time is valuable! Bundles save time” before the not-so-subtle hint that “you can shop for our resource bundles at….”
Her Language is Cringey
I know I talk with surly, sassy, sailor-mouthed teenagers for most of my day, but her language was just too precious, infantile, and cringey for me to handle.
Jamie Sears breaks the fourth wall so often that I don’t think it was ever erected. An instance like “Can I be blunt? I hope you’re giving me a big nod” felt like a manufactured call and response on Dora the Explorer.
She tells us to take a big breath as she suggests something “wackadoodle,” and if my cringe was any indication, I think I was craving an adult-to-adult conversation, which this book did not deliver.
Language like this can also perpetuate the idea that elementary school teachers are not professionals. And, when 89 percent of elementary teachers are women, it’s easy to see how the ways our patriarchal society devalues teaching and women are inextricable.
The book closes with twenty-one days of suggestions, one of which is to celebrate good times. She tells us, “You are a phenomenal teacher. You have so many small and huge wins every single week. It’s time to give yourself permission to celebrate all of those moments.”
That’s solid advice; appreciate the little things, cut yourself some slack, and focus on the positive. The problem?
She doesn’t know I’m a “phenomenal” teacher. And there are bad teachers, some of whom might read this book. Everyone deserves to celebrate their wins, but general affirmations will not cheer someone into loving their career or improving their craft.
Teachers Need More to Love Teaching Again
I expected this book by Jamie Sears to be tailored to veteran teachers, who I certainly hope wouldn’t need reminders to talk to their students. I also hope that in 2023, a book promising to encourage teachers would, at the very least, acknowledge the inequities in our school systems, both in student outcomes and educator treatment, but no such luck.
Burnout is real, and balance is important, but positive affirmations and flair pens are not going to move the needle for tired teachers or their students.
In a recent episode of Abbot Elementary titled “Teacher Appreciation,” the staff lament the well-meaning student gifts of scented lotion, pencils, and bouncy balls when all they really want are $50 Buffalo Wild Wing gift cards or the coveted courtside seats to the 76ers.
That’s how this book felt to me. Sweet but unoriginal, fruitless, destined to collect dust on the shelf, and, ultimately, less effective at helping veteran teachers find energy and passion for teaching again than a gift card or a nap.
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