If You Aren’t Reading, You Ain’t Really Teaching

It must be a practice of every educator to improve for the next school year.

Each year should serve as game tape for the next year. We must reflect on the highs and lows of our praxis. We should continue with what worked and meet the challenges of what we must improve upon. Teachers and administrators must reflect on their praxis to improve as they plan for the next school year.

To give an example, I turn to basketball. A great example is a fan favorite of the Delaware Valley, Tyrese Maxey.

When he arrived in the NBA, he was a bright spot as a rookie and the league took notice. In the offseason, he improved. He returned for his second season with a few new skills and wrinkles to his game that players hadn’t seen or didn’t know he could do. He did the same thing that offseason, and the next offseason… culminating in his winning NBA Most Improved Player for the current season.

I have no doubt however that he’s back in the lab, tweaking, adding, refining… improving his game for the next season. Tyrese Maxey is a star. Not simply because of his skills, but because he’s constantly working to improve upon them. Educators must behave similarly, teachers especially.

Every year cannot be the same thing.

The Classroom isn’t a television show in syndication. Each year is a new season with a new cast and new stories with lessons that hit differently than the previous year. Teachers should be aware of the developments happening in their content areas. Science teachers should be aware of recent studies and methods that pertain to their specific focus. Literacy teachers should know recent (young adult) novels and kids’ books that strengthen reading abilities and introduce new vocabulary and concepts such as tolerance, justice, and liberation. Gym teachers should be aware of new and updated exercises that build strength, and relieve stress.  

All teachers must be aware of recent studies and data that discuss methods and techniques to support their instructional praxis, to help shape their pedagogy, to direct how to build relationships, and to guide their classroom management.

Classroom teachers must improve their praxis.

I’ve enjoyed teaching AP U.S. history for the last few years. Coincidentally, I began teaching it as the war against Black History reemerged. As a result, I’ve leaned into teaching the hidden matters of American history and Western civilization.

I’ve reached back to resources like those of Dr. Carter Woodson to center African people in the story of America; a story we are richly a part of. I’ve used those same resources to reach back to Africa, to show that Black history starts there. It’s been a mission of mine to bring light to the history of the diaspora: Africans in Latin America and the connections between Black people in America and Black people in places like Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Columbia.

However, as I reflect on the end of the school year, I consider the great work we did all year and if anything was left undone. One of my goals for the current year was to do more reading in class and engage in deep discussion on our close reading of the texts we had throughout the year. We started strong but I shifted some of the weight to the students to read on their own. I desired to help students build a stronger reading practice outside of school.  

What I found was that there’s a benefit to doing both. They would have benefited from more support to pick up on concepts and connect the readings to our course of study and current events. There is beauty in the self-discovery of these connections. However, there’s a beauty in learning how to self-discover. With that said my new wrinkle for the next year is to dedicate two days to reading in class. The extra day will go a long way to support reading and analyzing college-level texts.

One day is reading to equip, where I show students what to underline/highlight, where to ask questions of the text, confirm that they’re writing definitions, and explain what the author is saying. The next is for students to do it themselves out loud. They’ll model for each other how to do this work. They’ll ask each other questions. They’ll work together and learn that liberation happens when the people (the students) co-labor to understand how to move about in the world.

We’ll dedicate ourselves to reading a chapter a week of a book we’ll stick with for a month. We’ll read DuBois, Woodson, Freire, Michelle Alexander, Leslie Alexander, bell hooks, Cedric Robinson, Blair Kelley, Carol Anderson, Francis Cress Welsing, Derrick Bell, and Nell Irvin Painter. All this is to equip young people with the tools to navigate higher education spaces and anti-Black spaces as they mature. This is the work that scholars, activists, and educators must engage with.

Reflecting on my school year provided a renewed focus and dedication to my students and emancipatory praxis. When we (educators) reflect on our work and our purpose, we brainstorm. When we brainstorm, we create and our creations teach, inspire and motivate. That is what education is about. This is a major catalyst for the war against Black history, but I digress.

All educators must reflect to improve and plan for the next year. History teachers, particularly, must READ. Why? Because in order for the students to be free; in order for the world to be free, we must READ to understand. Next year, let’s get back to reading the history… so that our young people can begin to make their own on behalf of the world.


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