Teaching is hard. Low wages, limited school resources, managing lesson plans, grading homework, and dealing with difficult parents–on top of a rigorous school week schedule–all add up to dissatisfaction, resentment, and exhaustion.
Before you know it, especially if you’re new to teaching, you can find yourself emotionally and physically drained, asking why you ever began to teach in the first place.
What we’ve done here is provide a list of the 20 best books for teachers on the edge of burnout. There’s something for everyone, from teachers kvetching about classroom nightmares (and how to survive), to educational theory, how to’s for dealing with learning disabilities, and some fiction mixed in if you just need an escape.
Whether you’re a first-year teacher or a seasoned vet, it can always help to reignite your faith in education. If you’re looking for some inspiration, keep reading and comment on your favorite books below.
According to research completed by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, 44 percent of teachers quit within the first five years.
So, how can you learn to love teaching again and mold your students’ minds for the better? A good read never hurts, so let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- 1. Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit
- 2. The Element by Sir Ken Robinson
- 3. Not Quite Burned Out, but Crispy Around the Edges by Sharon M. Draper
- 4. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
- 5. Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner
- 6. See Me After Class by Roxanna Elden
- 7. Ain’t I A Woman by bell hooks
- 8. The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
- 9. The Burnout Cure: Learning to Love Teaching Again by Chase Mielke
- 10. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
- 11. Today I Made a Difference by Joseph W. Underwood
- 12. Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel T. Willingham
- 13. The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha
- 14. Teaching With Your Mouth Shut by Donald Finkel
- 15. Drive by Daniel Pink
- 16. Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
- 17. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzi
- 18. Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman
- 19. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
- 20. A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
Winner of an American Educational Studies Association Critics’ Choice Award and Choice Magazine’s Outstanding Academic Book Award, and voted one of Teacher Magazine’s “great books,” Other People’s Children takes a radical approach in breaking down the classroom environment.
Delpit makes a convincing argument that the power dynamics in modern schools are anything but one-dimensional. The prejudice, experience, and family dynamics students and teachers both bring to the table are active players in every educational interaction.
New tools are needed to help make classroom environments conducive to teaching a diverse student body.
Told from a first-person perspective bolstered by anecdotes to help clarify and ground the text, Other People’s Children is an instant classic and must-read for educators on the verge of burnout.
If you’re looking to find ways to better address the role of prejudice and stereotypes in your classroom, this is the book for you.
The Element takes a look at the lives of several prominent cultural figures in hopes of offering guidance to people hoping to find their passion in the workplace.
Robinson’s book is incredibly useful, both as an employee and as a teacher, as he presents actionable ways to help your students thrive in their environment.
Written by one of the world’s formative thinkers on creativity, The Element can help you better understand passion, determination, and how to foster them in the classroom.
If you’re looking for some solidarity and frank conversation about the challenges of teaching, check out Not Quite Burned Out, but Crispy Around the Edges.
This collection does a fantastic job of taking a 360-degree view of education and tackles moments of hilarity, struggle, loss, and adversity in schools.
By the end of this book, you’ll feel less alone and have a slew of survival techniques and coping mechanisms from seasoned teachers at the ready. An uplifting, honest read–you’ll get to see the full range of the struggles and joys of this profession unlike any other.
In this groundbreaking work, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., breaks down the power of the human mindset.
Backed by years of peer-reviewed research, Dweck has found that success in almost any human endeavor correlates to whether or not someone has a “fixed mindset” (believing their abilities are fixed at whatever level they begin) or a “growth mindset” (believing their abilities can grow through effort).
Dweck provides a framework for teachers, coaches, parents, or anyone in charge of others to foster their students’ “growth mindset.”
“An essential read for parents, teachers [and] coaches . . . as well as for those who would like to increase their own feelings of success and fulfillment.”—Library Journal
In the more than thirty years since this seminal text was published, Frames of Mind has changed how thousands of teachers and schools around the world view education.
Gardner, the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, goes in-depth, illustrating his theory of “eight intelligences” that make up each of our cognitive profiles.
Teachers love this book for both its practical and theoretical models of meeting each student’s needs to help them best succeed. The book takes a comprehensive look across neuroscience, cultural studies, and human development to provide a new way of thinking about your students’ capabilities.
See Me After Class is meant to fill in the gaps your teacher training missed. Compiling the often hilarious (and occasionally shocking) stories of teachers from around the country, Elden uses these anecdotes to offer some advice, strategies, and tips to survive the hardest parts of teaching.
An honest look into the frontlines of teaching, See Me After Class is the ideal read for teachers who need some real-talk, a little empathy, and a lot of support from their fellow educators.
While not expressly about teaching, Ain’t I a Woman by bell hooks is an eye-opening read sure to expand your ideas of what’s possible through education. This stunning book has become a mainstay on intersectional feminist reading lists, and for good reason.
Taking a deep dive into the legacies of racism and systemic violence against black women, hooks attempts to offer ways forward. If you’ve been feeling disheartened about the radical possibilities of education (and educators) to change lives and make our world a better, more equal place–this is the book for you.
There are so many benefits to being a teacher, but working in a mostly undervalued job can often lead to low self-esteem over time. If you’ve become less sure of your abilities or are overcome with uncertainty, check out The Confidence Code.
Written by best-selling authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, this book looks to inspire reads to boost their confidence in the workplace. With some simple everyday tweaks, you can begin to foster your self-esteem and feel more capable in the classroom and your personal life.
Based on the research, lesson plans, and classroom experience of award-winning teacher Chase Mielke, The Burnout Cure provides a path for teachers to get back on their feet and loving their jobs again. Mielke takes the approach of working from the inside out, suggesting teachers first change themselves, and in doing so, change their classrooms.
The Burnout Cure hopes to make every reader a stronger teacher through internal practices like shifting outlook, awareness, and attitude. Alongside these behavioral shifts, Mielke offers clear steps on how to increase empathy, kindness, mindfulness, and altruism in the classroom.
When you’re at your best, you teach the best–The Burnout Cure can get you there.
A feeling of disconnection with your students can be a significant contributing factor when it comes to burnout. For teachers who’ve struggled to reach quiet students, this book can help. In Quiet, Susan Cain argues for the Introvert, and against the ways our society can undervalue this population.
Not only will you learn to see introverts in a new light, but you’ll gain the tools to help them thrive in your classroom.
One of the best ways to remember why you started teaching is to hear what kept other teachers going. That’s precisely what you’ll find in Today I Made a Difference, a collection of stories, advice, and insight from 28 “Teacher of the Year” Nominees.
It’s not all inspirational quotes and rose-colored glasses, either. Each story focuses on a challenge the teacher faced and how they overcame it. This book is sure to provide some heartwarming motivation and thought-provoking ideas from some of the best teachers in the nation.
Written by a cognitive scientist, Why Don’t Students Like School? takes a neurological dive into the brain’s process of learning in a classroom environment. Packed with tips to try out, Willingham’s book strives to make lasting learning experiences a reality for every student you encounter.
Broken down into nine easy-to-learn principles, teachers are sure to gain plenty of skills and ideas from this authoritative text.
“Dan Willingham, rare among cognitive scientists for also being a wonderful writer, has produced a book about learning in school that reads like a trip through a wild and thrilling new country. For teachers and parents, even students, there are surprises on every page. Did you know, for instance, that our brains are not really made for thinking?”
―Jay Mathews, education columnist, The Washington Post
If you’ve been stuck in a rut recently, The Book of Awesome is waiting to help you back up onto your feet and remember some of life’s simple pleasures. Teachers need time to enjoy just being themselves and reconnect to the everyday happiness that often gets overlooked.
Based on the award-winning 10-million-plus-hit blog 1000awesomethings.com, this laugh out loud funny international best-seller is chock full of sharp observations. This is a great book to keep around the classroom for those moments you need a chuckle and a little pick me up.
Particularly useful for middle and high school teachers, Teaching With Your Mouth Shut is a reflection on how teachers can help their students become active facilitators of their own learning.
Broken into “case studies,” Finkel uses each specific example to illustrate ways of creating the environment for students to learn significantly.
Written as a conversation rather than a manual, Finkel poses questions to help redefine what teaching means to every reader. Taking a democratic view of education, Teaching With Your Mouth Shut will flip the script on how you model your lessons and student interactions.
New York Times Best-Seller, Drive by Daniel Pink, uses four decades of research on human motivation to reimagine how we can find satisfaction and achieve high-performance. Pink argues that relying on rewards–the carrot and the stick model–to motivate students and workers is a serious mistake.
Instead, he suggests we shift towards providing the tools to self-direct our lives, learn and create new things, and to make ourselves better people. Pink breaks down his formula for “true motivation” into three parts (autonomy, mastery, and purpose), elaborating on each one to help change how you think and transform how you live.
Though this book might not make you feel any better about the current models of indoor play, more and more homework, and lack of access to open outdoor space, it will surely inspire you to make as many changes as you can for your students.
Last Child in the Woods is an in-depth look at the ways our school systems and homelives have restricted children’s time in nature.
Louv argues that this comes with severe costs, but by returning to green space, we can help the next generation thrive. Based on research and anecdotal evidence from children, parents, teachers, child-development researchers, and environmentalists, this book both directly addresses the problem while offering concrete solutions.
Malala Yousafzi’s story is an inspiring and unforgettable reminder of how important the right to education is. Spanning across her early life, Yousafzi beautifully charts her journey from a student in Pakistan to an international figure of educational activism.
Yousafzi writes about why education is worth fighting for and how the power of one person’s voice, no matter how diminished, can change the world.
An instant best-seller with over eight million copies sold, Up the Down Staircase has changed the lives of countless teachers in more than 50 years since its first publication. This inventive, funny, and complex book tells the story of Sylvia Barrett, a new teacher arriving at New York City’s Calvin Coolidge High.
Narrated through a collection of documents and correspondence, Up the Down Staircase masterfully shows what it means to be a teacher, and how they can uniquely better the lives of their students through care and learning. Equal parts poignant and light-hearted, this book is sure to help you remember what teaching can be at its best.
For teachers looking to escape earth for a little while, this award-winning sci-fi juggernaut of a book is the perfect pick. Taking place on a distant socialist planet, The Dispossessed grapples with what life could look like for a society based on ideas of equality and mutual care.
With some of the most beautiful and resonant prose in 20th-century sci-fi, Le Guin goes deep into some of the most pressing questions of social organization, education, and allocation of resources. If you’re looking to take a big step outside of our social norms and explore another solar system, be sure to pick up The Dispossessed.
Howard Zinn’s beloved text, A People’s History of the United States, is packed with primary documents from people whose perspectives have often been omitted from history books.
Taking a uniquely non-top-down version of American history, this award-winning classic will revolutionize how you conceive, remember, and teach about the United States.
Now more than ever, it’s vital to provide students with as wide a range of voices as possible. If you’re hoping to shake up how you’ve been teaching, this book will help.
What’s Your Favorite Book to Help Refuel Your Tank?
While these 20 books are certainly some of the very best when it comes to helping teachers get through burnout, we’ve just scratched the surface.
Whether you’re a seasoned teacher or just figuring out how to become an elementary school teacher, you’ve probably picked up some great tricks, tips, and books along the way.