Yah! 52 books! It feels like just yesterday that I was reading Steve Harvey’s dating advice and now, so many moons later, I’ve completed my goal! Woot! I fully intend on continuing on to at least a full 100 this year, but things are going to start getting a little busy for me so I wanted to at least get the CBR in the bag by the end of May to be safe. I’m thinking I’ll likely start a blog for those future reviews.
Teaching as Leadership: The Highly Effective Guide to Closing the Achievement Gap by Steven Farr (352p.)
Spoiler and/or disclosure: I’m joining Teach for America and in the process of moving right now, so that’s the thing that is going to be keeping me busy for a while. Teaching as Leadership is associated with TFA.
Teaching as Leadership is basically one long pep talk. Perhaps I’ve drunk the kool-aid here, but it’s perfectly serviceable as a motivation book for new teachers. So it makes sense that it is required reading for the pre-orientation phase of TFA. Every other page is filled with personal anecdotes and analogies from teachers that made exceptional progress in tough schools. It is definitely a motivational read.
However, it is really basic. It gives you a framework, but that’s about it. You need to involve parents, plan, be efficient, continuously look for ways to improve, and be dedicated to your job. Okay, sounds good! But isn’t that common sense? Not being new to the teaching profession myself, it’s not something that I haven’t picked up on the ground already.
I think it is rather telling that, in addition to TaL, TFA requires new members to also read a 500+ page book of supplemental readings. Many of these are more specific to problems faced in urban/rural underachieving classrooms and strategies for overcoming those challenges. These additional readings are useful, going more into topics of say, literacy issues in the classroom. The strategies of those readings are spot-on, but don’t expect any actual lesson plans (that’s not meant as a critique, I’m of two minds on it). Most of this supplemental material appears to be available for free download on TaL’s website.
If you happen to know a new teacher, particularly one that is looking to teach at a challenging school, this may be a great book for them. If you’re already experienced in the field of education and are interested in explicit strategies to follow in the classroom or want more information on the achievement gap specifically, then I’d look into something else.
If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor by Bruce Campbell (272 p.)
If I had to sum up this “biography” in one word, it’d be chutzpah. Campbell displays enough courage, uniqueness, nerve, and talent to make Ru Paul proud. His bravado oozes from the pages. I’m not saying the man has or hasn’t been typecast, but it’s typical of his many wise-cracking characters from his career in film. If you like Bruce Campbell or his movies and TV shows, then you’ll probably like this book because he essentially represents himself as an archetype of them.
The book actually reads more like a narration, as if Bruce were recording bits and segments about his life. He starts with amusing childhood stories, which naturally lead into his teenage friendships that became so fundamental to his professional life. So auto-biography is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, Campbell talks about his life, but it is in shallow detail. He might mention the bad things that happen in his life, but they aren’t discussed in any sort of detail. His career is definitely the highlight of the story, with the pains and difficulties of creating independent films and trying to make a living as a blue-collar actor described in glorious detail.
Despite the constant assault of jokes, Campbell describes the process of finding out what professional film was like. He touches upon the successes along with the more common failures. He talks about come into acting from and with a non-Hollywood focus; essentially, making it on your own terms and the prices it costs you financially and emotionally.
It’s a quick, diverting read by an engaging author. If you like his acting, are obsessed with Evil Dead, or are interested in the back-stories of film and television acting (the profession, rather than a bunch of dirt on this or that celebrity) then this is the book for you.