Becoming the Teacher Every Student Deserves

The Joyful Teacher: Strategies for Becoming the Teacher Every Student Deserves 
By Berit Gordon
(Heinemann, 2020 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Linda Biondi

Berit Gordon is the author, coach, mentor, friend and colleague every teacher deserves.

I was fortunate enough to work in a district that engaged Berit Gordon as an educational consultant to support our professional development in literacy learning. Although I never had the pleasure of being mentored or coached by Berit, every time she came into the building you knew she was there.

“Berit’s here. You know it’s going to be a great professional development session. I don’t want to be late.”

I wondered just who was this “Berit” person and what in the world made her so great. Several years later, I got up enough nerve to ask her to give a keynote address at the National Writing Project at Rider University. (I say “got up enough nerve” because I asked her if she would do it for free!)

Berit responded immediately with a “yes.” She wanted to share her love for reading (she had just published a book called No More Fake Reading and wanted to offer some strategies that might be helpful to other educators).

When I found out that Berit had written another book, The Joyful Teacher: Strategies for Becoming the Teacher Every Student Deserves, I wondered whether she could write another book as good as that first one.

When the book came in the mail and I opened it, I knew I was holding a treasured document in my hands.

First of all, let me prepare you. This is a hefty book. It is full of ideas, thoughts, experiences, teacher examples, charts, research, ideas to use virtually. It’s full of anecdotes that you probably will relate to.

The great thing is that you don’t have to read the book from cover to cover. Once you read the introduction and the first chapter, “Staying Happy and Healthy in a Demanding Job,” and look through the ensuing chapters, you will begin to get a feel of how you might want to use the book.

Berit’s writing speaks directly to the teacher. She knows exactly the pressures we face, the ups and the downs, the hours spent before and after school, the frustrations about how to fit in “everything” and still try to have a life of our own.

Her first sentence in the introduction speaks to her honesty and candor which you will find throughout the book. “I don’t know if your training was different from mine, but I felt I was expected to know how to teach, from day one.”

She adds, “I wish for more joy and less struggle in a profession where people put in such tremendous effort and do such essential work. What’s the recipe then, for getting to that joy and feeling of ‘I’ve got this?’”(p. xiv)

You’ll find out in The Joyful Teacher.

All of the resources a teacher could want

As I read Berit’s book, I realized that it was like going into a fantastic store that had just about everything you needed. There are anchor charts written by “real teachers,” mini lessons, ideas on how to differentiate, online resources, writing strategies, research-based lessons, and ways to adapt lessons to novice teachers and experienced teachers.

We know how much work it takes to teach, day in and day out, looking for new ideas and ways to engage our students. This book helps to create a student-centered classroom, where the students take ownership of their learning.

Her book is structured in a way that you don’t have to read page by page – you can adapt your reading to meet your needs. The goals and chapters are structured so that each focus area is built on the previous ones.

The Progression of Teaching Goals:

  1. Staying Happy and Healthy in a Demanding Job
  2. Classroom Environment
  3. Management Part 1: Routines and Rituals
  4. Management Part 2: Relationships Building
  5. Independent Practice
  6. Formative Assessment and feedback
  7. Planning Matters
  8. Teacher-Led Instruction
  9. Student Talk and Collaboration
  10. Summative Assessment and Grading
  11. Keep Growing and Giving Back

Packed chapters with adaptations for grades K-12

Each chapter in the book follows a predictable and well-organized pattern beginning with explaining the focus of the chapter, citing research, and noting what you can expect from instituting the practices she shares.

Before sharing the lessons plans, she gives the reader a chance to reflect upon their needs by asking themselves what goals they have, looking at their own teaching practices. After that, she shares workable, well-structured lesson plans that are definitely easy to follow, with hints of what to do if the plan is or isn’t working. She also shares adaptations for grades K-2, grades 3-5, and grades 7-12. No need to think about how to fashion an anchor chart. Several are shared with each lesson.

Berit is no stranger to the teaching world. Prior to becoming an educational consultant, she taught in New York City, Connecticut, and Dominican Republic schools. Being a consultant gives her the opportunity to learn from educators in urban, rural, and suburban school districts in addition to sharing her own expertise.

For teachers, coaches and administrators

So, who is this book aimed at? Who would benefit from reading/owning this book? Teachers, of course, but all content area teachers. Coaches who want to help as they mentor educators to be the “best they can be.” Administrators so they can assist their teachers and coaches to carry out a consistent, well researched, “teacher/student friendly program” that can meet the needs of ALL students.

The Joyful Teacher: Strategies for Becoming the Teacher Every Student Deserves by Berit Gordon is the book that every teacher deserves. Just remember… “Berit’s here. You know it’s going to be a great professional development session. Don’t be late!”

Here is Berit Gordon speaking on Classroom Routines During Uncertain Times for a Heinemann Podcast.

After teaching fourth and fifth graders for many years, Linda Biondi is supervising preservice and student teachers at The College of New Jersey and Rider University. Last summer she co-facilitated a week-long writing institute in conjunction with the National Writing Project at Rider University. She volunteers for two service organizations: Homefront and Dress for Success of Central New Jersey – both have a mission to end poverty and homelessness. The mission of Dress for Success is to empower women to achieve through economic independence.