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Readers: Six resources every teacher should have

“Every classroom in America must have a comprehensive daily communication system made available to parents,” said one reader.

Every carpenter has his tool belt, and every journalist has her AP style guide—but what are the resources that a teacher in the 21st century should have?

We recently turned to our readers for help with this question, asking: “If you could recommend just one teaching resource to your colleagues, what would it be and why?”

Although we assumed many of the suggestions would focus on technology tools and mobile devices of some kind, we received a wide range of ideas. While our readers are certainly tech-savvy, their responses seem to suggest they believe good teaching is about much more than gadgets or websites; it’s about using your own experiences, resources from other peers—and even the great outdoors.

Do you agree with these suggestions? Or, do you have ideas of your own you’d like to share? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section of the story.

(Some responses edited for brevity.)

1. A tablet

“I would recommend an iPad. I purchased one earlier this spring and am amazed at how much I use it. I can use Dropbox to check files, keep track of student meetings, quickly look up pictures and information when my GED students need more info, keep in touch with students by eMail, look up lesson plans and strategies for teaching concepts to my math students, demonstrate something I looked up on my iPad using the [document camera] … I could go on. I initially purchased it just because I wanted one. I never dreamed how very useful it is in a learning environment!” —Rina Hallock

2. Tools for student understanding

“The single resource that I would recommend is some form of Understanding by Design. Although somewhat daunting to tackle on your own, the level of competence in teaching gained when you truly know how to teach for ‘understanding’ is well worth the climb. If you are able to quickly grasp the ‘Why’ of the learning, the What, When, Who, Where, and even the How are infinitely easier to teach. Now that’s only half of the story. Children taught with ‘understanding’ as their goal come to master far more than the lesson at hand. They learn patterns of thinking, they connect things learned much more readily, they ‘know’ rather than just to recall or remember. Yes, they will test better as well, but that is just a collateral benefit! They learn, truly learn!” —Dr. W. Tom Pearce, Ky. District ISS, Ft. Campbell, Kentucky

“Think of your job as helping kids to learn rather than as ‘how to teach’ them.” —M.B. (Barry) Wansbrough, Bracebridge, Ontario

3. Publications from the field

“If I could recommend one teacher resource, it would be the American Educator—A Quarterly Journal of Educational Research and Ideas, published by the [American Federation of Teachers]. It offers very timely, thought-provoking, research-based articles in each issue, and it costs only $10/year for non-members. If I could choose one more to recommend, especially for Language Arts teachers, it would be the National Writing Project (NWP), since it offers so much in the way of reasonably priced/free superb professional development opportunities in many cities/towns, nationwide.” —Carol Martyniuk, middle school Language Arts teacher, Sussex-Wantage Regional School District, New Jersey

4. A daily communication system for connecting schools and parents

“Every school, every classroom in America must have a comprehensive daily communication system made available to parents. In that electronic system, both academic and social skills are evaluated and reported into the home. Schools can no longer … be the primary change-agent of students. Poor student academic performances and disruptive social behaviors are rapidly undermining the educational process. School and home must be united as never before understood. The entire concept can be achieved for pennies per day per student.” —Dave Dickerson

5. The natural world

The outdoors would be the resource I would choose if I were limited to one great resource.” —Bev DeVore-Wedding, Meeker High School, Meeker, Colorado

6. Inner resources

“Yourself: Your attitude, your instinct, your creativity, your dedication, and your common sense. All this other stuff flying around is just marketing and has a short lifespan. Why? It is not your mission to prepare your students for the life you are leading as an adult. It is your mission to prepare your students for the lives they will be leading as adults. No easy task. And no educational theory, gizmo, or site is going to help you.” —Tom Layton

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