Great books for teachers on mindset and positive thinking
I’ve done a ton of research about how to be positive and keep a good attitude and wanted to share some books that have shaped my thinking about the importance of healthy mental habits. I reference many of them in my own book, Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching. Though I don’t necessarily agree with and endorse every word in each of the books below, they have all had a positive impact on my progress, and I consider them all worthwhile reads.
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Breaking Free From Myths About Teaching and Learning is a powerful new book by Allison Zmuda. The author shares some revolutionary ideas that individual teachers can use to transform the way they educate students despite dysfunctional school systems. Zmuda clearly understands the stressful situations that teachers face and makes a solid connection between the way we teach and the level of enjoyment we get from it. This is a great book for teachers, administrators, and parents.
Why We Teach: Learning, Laughter, Love, and the Power to Transform Lives is an inspirational read by Linda Alston. It’s written from the perspective of one teacher and the way she creates joy and enthusiasm in her early childhood classroom. If you want to regain your lost positive sentiments about teaching, this book will help.
The Teachable Moment: Seizing the Instants When Children Learn is a collection of teacher’s stories compiled by Rebecca Branstetter. There’s a heavy dose of humor throughout the book, and I love that each contributor shares not just his or her successes, but the learning curve along the way–that’s what makes the book inspirational without being preachy or condescending. Some of the stories feature undeniable and sudden break-throughs, while others aren’t fully realized until after the fact. And that’s exactly how teachable moments work–unexpected, bordering on the miraculous, and waiting to be seized as a learning opportunity for both the student and teacher. These essays capture the beauty in that. Check out my review of this book and interview with the author.
Why Great Teachers Quit: And How We Might Stop the Exodus is written by Katy Farber, a classroom teacher currently grappling with this subject on a daily basis. She interviewed dozens of teachers and includes their experiences as she explains the various issues faced in the classroom. This book does an excellent job summarizing the main challenges of the job and the type of solutions that are needed. It’s my hope, as well as Farber’s, that this book will make a difference in teacher retention and help great teachers maintain their efficacy and enthusiasm. You can also read a more in-depth review I posted on my blog.
The Passion-Driven Classroom: A Framework for Teaching and Learning is written by two of the most exuberant educators on the planet. Angela Maiers and Amy Sandvold have a positivity and enthusiasm that is downright contagious. This book explains how to help students discover their passions, and how teachers can use student interests to drive authentic instruction. The tone is so encouraging and inspirational that it always left me feeling anxious to get into the classroom as soon as possible; I couldn’t read it at night because I’d stay awake thinking up all kinds of new things I could do the next day! Yeah, it’s THAT kind of book.
The Well-Balanced Teacher: How to Work Smarter and Stay Sane Inside the Classroom and Out is a new book by Mike Anderson. I heard his presentation at an ASCD conference and really enjoyed his perspective. He explains the reasons why teachers need to feel positive connections with other people, both in school and outside of school, and why it’s important to strive for significance (knowing that we’re making a positive difference through our work), while giving tips to help teachers reach those goals. He also stresses the importance of positive engagement (when teachers enjoy their work, they have great energy and passion for their teaching) and balance (setting boundaries.)
How to Enjoy Your Life and Your Job is a compilation of Dale’s books “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” It has some solid tips for becoming more easy going and personable. If you’re not sure which of Carnegie’s many books to get, this is a good choice.
The Worry Cure: Seven Steps to Stop Worry From Worrying You by Robert L. Leahy is a must read for chronic worriers. Leahy understands the underlying reasons why people worry and will help you understand, too. He explains how you can talk yourself into a more realistic perspective and stop the habit of worry in the clearest, easiest to understand set of steps I’ve ever read. No matter what you worry about or why, this book will have the solution!
You Can Be Happy No Matter What: Five Principles for Keeping Life in Perspective might be one of my favorite books on this topic. The late Richard Carlson is the guy who wrote the “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” series, so I was familiar with his style before coming across this title, but had no idea how much it would change my life. Carlson uses no psychological jargon, putting everything into simple terms that really resonate. I would recommend this book to anyone, but especially to those who want to learn more about dealing with low and high moods and the principle of seperate realities. There are dozens of other books by Carlson: you might also like You Can Feel Good Again: Common-Sense Strategies for Releasing Unhappiness and Changing Your Life.
Things Might Go Terribly, Horribly Wrong: A Guide to Life Liberated From Anxiety by Kelly Wilson and Troy Dufrene is a very practical book for people who tend to worst-case things. The book has lots of exercises to help you overcome patterns of anxiety and become more mindful.
Cognitive therapy books (CBT and REBT)
A Guide to Rational Living is perhaps the late Albert Ellis’ most well-known book for the layperson. Albert was an atheist who did not believe in absolute truth, which is the only major philosophical difference I have with him. Some have criticized his tone as being a bit sarcastic and cold-hearted, but I actually enjoy this tendency–it strikes me as very real and no-nonsense, and badly needed for people (like me) who tend to feel sorry for themselves and make excuses for their bad mental habits. Ellis will snap you right out of whatever self-delusions you tend toward! This book is realistic, practical, and highly recommended.
How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Anything, Yes, Anything! is another great book by Albert Ellis. If you’re intrigued by the idea that all stress comes from the way you perceive your circumstances, this book will help you make changes. You might also want to read Ellis’ out of print book called “How to Conquer Your Frustrations”: it’s available for free download on his organization’s website.
Three Minute Therapy by Dr. Michael Edelstein will give you more information on separating practical and emotional problems. Edelstein calls these “primary and secondary disturbances.” This is a highly readable book that gives examples of how to talk yourself out of being upset and feeling other needless emotional disturbances. You can read the text of the book for free on Edelstein’s website to get an idea if it’s something you’d like to purchase. This was a life-changing read for me.
Good Mood: New Psychology of Overcoming Depression is another book that had a huge impact on me. Dr. Julian Simon suffered from depression for many years and writes with personal insight as well as professional knowledge. I recomend this book if you are looking for more information on changing the standard (or “benchmark”, as Simon calls it) that you judge your life by. Simon pioneered the idea of “mood ratio” and explains how to change the expectations you have for your life so that your experiences compare more favorably to reality. You can read the unformatted text of the book for free on the author’s website.
Feeling Good: the New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated is a classic book by David Burns. It’s been “prescribed” by countless doctors for people who struggle with depression. Burns teaches you how to counter your pessimistic thoughts in extremely detailed ways. There are all sorts of exercises to help you combat counter-productive thinking and view the world more realistically. If you are looking for a systematic method of changing specific areas of your mindset, this could be the book for you. I learned quite a bit from Burn’s suggestions.
Learned Optimism: How To Change Your Mind and Your Life is the first book I ever read on cognitive-behavioral therapy and really opened my eyes to the importance of this field of thought. Martin Seligman’s book explains step-by-step how to counter your irrational, pessimistic thoughts and explanatory style, and clarifies how to engage in “flexible optimism,” since a pessimistic outlook can be helpful at times. Seligman’s book includes a helpful quiz to help you analyze your personality and explanatory styles. I like that Seligman also touches on how to teach children to be optimistic; if you’re interested in this, check out his book The Optimistic Child: A Proven Program to Safeguard Children Against Depression and Build Life-Long Resilience.
Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment is another popular title by Martin Seligman. He explores a happiness formula which is based on your genetic set point, circumstances, and mindset (which is within your control.) There are several places in which Seligman’s atheistic perspective is evident and colors the way he perceives things such as life purpose; however, for me this did not detract from the usefulness of his overall message. The book also explains how to use your personal strengths to increase your happiness level, and includes self-quizzes and exercises to help. Excellent resource.
The Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind is the ultimate book for Christians on the mindset–an absolute MUST read! Meyer explains the principles of spiritual warfare in a clear, concise, biblically-sound manner. There is also a devotional, DVD, and an excellent version for teens.
Power Thoughts: 12 Strategies to Win the Battle of the Mind is one of Meyer’s newest books. Because I’ve already read so many of her older reads, I did not find that this book provided a lot of new information, but for those just beginning to understand the power of positive thinking, Power Thoughts provides a terrific general overview. There are also tons of good resources on her website, including a free podcast which I watch almost every morning.
Beauty for Ashes: Receiving Emotional Healing is a wonderful book for anyone who struggles with a root of shame or inferiority. Meyer talks in great detail about how she overcame childhood sexual abuse and received emotional healing and restoration. It’s a good read for anyone who wants to develop a better self-image that’s based on God’s unconditional love.
Managing Your Emotions: Instead of Your Emotions Managing You is a classic Joyce Meyer book. She details the emotional ups-and-downs she used to experience (so relatable!) and explains how she overcame them with the power of prayer and scripture meditation, and by forming new emotional habits.
Get Out of That Pit! Straight Talk About God’s Deliverance is a great book by renowned Bible teacher Beth Moore. Like Joyce Meyer, Moore has overcome an extremely difficult and traumatic past through the power of Christ. She has a great perspective and I found her book to be very inspirational and practical.
When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy is a very deep book by John Piper. It’s not a light read because almost every sentence is so incredibly profound that you have to stop and meditate on it. Piper writes about the often-ignored state of when we get stuck in our mess; we feel depressed or unspiritual or just blah but don’t feel like changing anything. If you wish that things in your life (including your mindset) were different but don’t have the energy or motivation to change, this book can have a powerful impact. This was a life-changing book for me during a dark period.
I Really Want to Change, So Help Me God is by one of my favorite preachers, James MacDonald, of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. James is down-to-earth, funny, and straight-up. I also recommend his book Lord, Change My Attitude: Before It’s Too Late. Both of these books emphasize that in order for true and lasting change to be made possible by God’s power, we have to have the right attitudes of the heart. I have not read many of his books but listen faithfully to his podcast, and always learn so much.
Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free is a controversial book. Many Amazon reviewers have felt that Nancy Leigh DeMoss takes a condescending tone toward women; however, I read this as a new Christian and was eager for truth and straight talk. I knew that I had fallen victim to many lies that society tells us and so I was able to understand DeMoss’ points, rather than view them as stereotypical or anti-feminist. I would definitely recommend this book, and encourage you to take the parts that make sense for you and disregard anything that doesn’t resonate. The basic principles that DeMoss is trying to convey are important and worth digging into.
The Lies We Believe is by Dr. Chris Thurman and totally unrelated to DeMoss’ book above. Thurman’s classic book expounds on the deceptions that Christians believe and how to find freedom in telling ourselves the truth and living by it. This is a great read for people who feel confused about their identity and conflicted about the Biblical path to fulfillment.
Health, mind-body connection, and stress management books
Deadly Emotions: Understand the Mind-Body-Spirit Connection That Can Heal or Destroy You
by Don Colbert, M.D., clearly defines “deadly emotions” from a Christian physician’s perspective. He explains the connection between nutrition and our emotions, and the mind-body-spirit relationship. Colbert’s book uses scientific evidence and medical terms to support his views while still ensuring that his message is clear and the concepts are easy to understand.
Stress Less is another great book by Dr. Colbert and provides a nice balance of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual strategies for overcoming stress.
What books have been helpful for YOU?
Share your favorite books on keeping a healthy mindset and positive attitude in the comment section below!
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