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129 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A couple of these reviews are inaccurate and misleading
This is the first review I've ever written on Amazon, and I'm moved to write it because I am so astounded at the lack of truth in a couple of reviews for this book. I'm not sure what happened in some of the negative reviewers' lives that led them to write such bitter and inaccurate reviews, but I want to assure everyone thinking about Whitakers' books that they are worth...
Published on May 17, 2007 by R. Wormeli

versus
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Positive Three-Star Review
Oxymoron time: WHAT GREAT TEACHERS DO DIFFERENTLY is a good, 3-star book. I like Whitaker's "14 Things That Matter Most" and even agree with them. It's just that most of what he says is familiar territory to any teacher who has been in the business for awhile and reading the occasional book about pedagogy.

At 128 pp., this is a thin book. As each of the 16...
Published on August 20, 2009 by Ken C.


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129 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A couple of these reviews are inaccurate and misleading, May 17, 2007
This review is from: What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most (Paperback)
This is the first review I've ever written on Amazon, and I'm moved to write it because I am so astounded at the lack of truth in a couple of reviews for this book. I'm not sure what happened in some of the negative reviewers' lives that led them to write such bitter and inaccurate reviews, but I want to assure everyone thinking about Whitakers' books that they are worth reading, and What Great Teachers Do Differently is one of his best.

On almost every page, there are practical ideas, different ways of perceiving issues and their solutions, and fodder for continued discussion. For example, Whitaker reminds principals that the key to successful schools is not so much its newly added programs as it is the people running the school itself -- faculty and staff. For a lot of school leaders who are so mired in finding the next big fix for their problems and keep looking at new programs and configurations, this section of his book is the catalyst they need to start focusing on the development and experiences of teachers and staff -- if they truly want to affect positive change. Sure, it's common sense and, if we've been in education long enough we've seen some of the ideas before (which we can say about every single education book out there!), but many of us in education are overloaded with burdens and anxiety and sometimes we can't see as clearly as Whitaker enables us to see. Heck, if books only contained ideas outside of common sense, there wouldn't be many books. That's often what speaks to readers. We need a reminder of common sense seen through fresh and insightful eyes, which is exactly what Whitaker provides throughout this book.

Not everything in Whitaker's book is based on just common sense. He provides uncommon wisdom born of many years as a building administrator, a teacher, and as a teacher coach. Whitaker helps teachers take a candid look at what they do. Anyone who has gone through National Board Certification will find many similar themes in this book -- particuarly about being a reflective practitioner and analyzing our own performance when our students fail. He writes very accessibly for teachers at all points of career development; neophytes and seasoned veterans will find something significant in this book.

Whitaker is a serious danger to complacency. In several sections of this book he helps us generate a powerful commitment to students' well being, not just getting through the curriculum, and he makes useful connections between students' overlapping worlds of the affect and the academic. Todd is the embodiment of the great teachers he describes: he makes it cool to care.

I've been in education for 28 years and I'm an education book "junkie," reading and applying everything I can get my hands on, and What Great Teachers Do Differently ranks among the most useful. I'm a teacher coach as well, working with schools around the nation, and I see this book on almost all professional library and principal's shelves. I've been in over 500 schools in the past few years alone and not one of them in which Whitaker's books are used has ever mentioned what a waste of time they were. On the contrary, they found his books very helpful. These are thoughtful, dedicated educators reading Whitakers books; there must be something to them.

What a loss to education to think that someone reading the negative reviews would pass up a chance to really explore great teaching and potentially make changes in themselves and classrooms that will ultimately improve student learning. Without hesitation, I recommend What Great Teachers Do Differently for highly accomplished and on-the-way-to-becoming highly accomplished teachers.

-- Rick Wormeli, Herndon, VA, USA
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Several Good Ideas, April 6, 2007
This review is from: What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most (Paperback)
This book is somewhat repetitive (hence 4 stars). At times I feel like it lacks specifics. However, there are several good ideas in it that have really stuck with me.

The first is to focus on our best students. That is to say, consider how we treat them and then treat all students the same way. This works in several ways that I'd never considered before.

The author gave the anecdote of students in that hallway during class. How do we treat our best students? How do we treat the others? If I greet my troublemakers with suspicion, this does not help them become better students. It simply reaffirms their status.

Similarly, if a student complains that I shouldn't give homework assignments at the end of class because she isn't paying attention, is this a complaint to take seriously? On the other hand, if a student who is really trying is having trouble with something, doesn't that mean I need to evaluate my practice?

As I said, this single idea was very eye opening.

The second idea that opened my eyes was that "perception is reality." In other words, I am in control of my day. I can perceive that I have no control over my problems in the classroom and that I can't change things. On the other hand, I could decide that if I work at it enough I can make a change and have a good classroom. The latter is more likely to achieve success.

Similarly, I can spread productivity and hope or I can drag my colleagues (and students) down into despair.

"How is your day?" "Rotten. The kids are horrible"

or

"How is your day?" "It's going well. I think I have some new ideas to try with my Physics class."

One of these leads to solutions, the other just spreads the unpleasantness.

Though repetitive, this is a good book. It is not filled with pearls from the Ivory Tower. Rather, it is filled with practical thinking and ideas from people who have been teachers.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Have Book, September 29, 2004
This review is from: What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most (Paperback)
Outstanding! This is a must have book for educators. Principals and teachers should have this book as part of their professional development library. Dr. Whitaker's book is insightful yet practical. Our Executive State Director asked principals for suggested books to use with faculty. It was one of the most suggested books to use in a book study. My superintendent read the book and loved it. In fact she offered to buy it for every teacher in our school district of over 1,500 teachers. We bought the book for every one of our teachers and assistants at our school. The entire faculty thought the book was excellent. We were able to have meaningful discussions using this book. Our school has noticed a change in our staff since school started this year. Discipline problems are down. Positive teacher relationships with parents and students are better. Todd Whitaker's book made us think how to improve our relationships with parents and students. I am currently a principal and adjunct professor in educational leadership. What Great Teachers Do Differently is a great source. We refer to this book frequently. Beginning teachers, veteran teachers, beginning principals, and veteran principals will find this book as an excellent source. I highly recommend it.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Positive Three-Star Review, August 20, 2009
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This review is from: What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most (Paperback)
Oxymoron time: WHAT GREAT TEACHERS DO DIFFERENTLY is a good, 3-star book. I like Whitaker's "14 Things That Matter Most" and even agree with them. It's just that most of what he says is familiar territory to any teacher who has been in the business for awhile and reading the occasional book about pedagogy.

At 128 pp., this is a thin book. As each of the 16 chapters is separated by two or three blank pages (well, one of these pages includes the title of the chapter), then it's really well below 100 pp. This is one reason I deduct from the book's value as a purchase. I think teachers can read much of the same material, for instance, in Robyn Jackson's NEVER WORK HARDER THAN YOUR STUDENTS. Jackson distills her principles to seven (half the number of Whitaker's), but provides much more background, anecdotal material, and concrete ideas to accompany the abstract ideas forwarded.

What's more, a lot of material in this book is targeted toward principals (Whitaker was one himself). This is not inherently bad, as principals and teachers must work closely together, but because Whitaker has also written WHAT GREAT PRINCIPALS DO DIFFERENTLY and also travels the country for speaking engagements (contact info is provided at book's end), it begins to smack a bit of commercialism and reheated goods.

Still, I maintain Whitaker's advice is sound. This book is best suited for readers who want a "Readers' Digest Abridged" type approach, or to new teachers, or to teachers who have little experience and/or have read few if any books for professional development. If you're not under one of those demographics, you can probably pass on this -- a good book -- and purchase an even better one. Happily, there are many out there!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More Principal "Pep-Rally", July 21, 2008
This review is from: What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most (Paperback)
This is a quick & easy read, but unfortunately, it's just more of the same old "pep-rally" type of advice: be positive, be prepared, always smile, & remember that all your students really want to learn a lot & really look up to you, even when it doesn't seem like it! This type of stuff doesn't do much good when teachers get into the midst of the inevitable problems that come up during the school year. To me, one of the most telling chapters was Chapter 6 "Who is the variable," which is a sort of "everyone should take responsibility" chapter. The author begins the chapter by discussing teacher responsibility, then goes on to tell about his meeting with some business leaders who were concerned about the quality of high school graduates. He ultimately put the responsibility on the business leaders for not having called the school to get specific reports on graduates they hired. In short, the only one he assigns no responsibility to is himself. Some might say he was somewhat responsible for giving the same degree to well performing students & to slackers & trouble-makers--that his signing of the diploma was in fact his recommendation, & that therefore he does bear some responsibility. He complains about teachers who complain about working conditions, but does not seem to feel that it is his responsibility to better those conditions.
I like teaching, & actually like the challenges that keep coming up--but then that's probably because teaching is a second career for me & I know I can quit any time I want. I know there is a shortage of resources & that as teachers, we need to work with that environment (which, to me, is amply rewarded by the long vacations). But it irks me to read these books that try to gloss over all the problems & just provide a superficial, Rah-Rah pep-rally, so-called "motivational" solution. I feel that teachers who get sucked up into this sort of thing are getting set up for a fall.
- JB
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Same as the rest..., February 24, 2006
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This review is from: What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most (Paperback)
This book is pretty much the same as the rest, only more amateurishly done in many ways. The rpint is big, it sort of looks like it was self-printed, and it has little research to back up what it says. It offers idyllic, utopian notions of what teaching "should" be. It doesn't ground itself in the real world, and the only saving grace is that the author admits that many of his ideas are more ideal than realistic. He occasionally uses phrases like "I would be willing to bet...", as if somehow making guesses based on personal preferences counts as quality educational theory. There's nothing new offered by this book; it's the same issues being rehashed by another author. It's not that the ideas are bad, it's just that there's nothing here that will surprise any teacher with more than a week's worth of experience.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Redundant and too idealistic blah blah blah, February 13, 2008
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This review is from: What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most (Paperback)
If you're an education student or already a teacher this book is mildly inspiring, however it does not offer anything you haven't already heard or read. Most advice is practical and common sense i.e. "form relationships with your students" "don't yell or demean them" "make it 'cool to care'"
There are many more books out there with more substance. The bulk of the author's career is as a school principal (he only taught for a couple years) so the text is written from an administrator's point of view, therefore there are idealistic philosophies and it lacks applicable classroom strategies or solid case scenarios. I do not recommend this book. Although a short read, it is mostly fluff.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read for all teachers!!, May 30, 2011
This review is from: What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most (Paperback)
Todd Whitaker's book What Great Teachers Do Differently is a must read for every educator! This is a book that centers on 14 principles that separate more effective teachers from less effective teachers. It is a quick read, the ideas are straightforward, and it makes sense! Whitaker states that it is easy to see what NOT to do as teachers...you can always point out that ineffective teacher out of your group and know that what they DO just isn't what is best. Those teachers are easy to spot....but if you do the exact opposite of what an ineffective teacher does...is that the answer? Is that enough? Will you then be an effective teacher? Probably not. Whitaker has based this book and his 14 principles on research studies, his years working as a consultant, and his own personal experience as a teacher and principal. Whitaker uses examples throughout the book to help us see his point more clearly. For example, he argues that teachers make up students' and parents' opinions of the school as a whole. He example focuses on us as parents and the teacher our children have had throughout the years. If our children have had outstanding teachers, we as parents feel good about the school. If our children have had poor teachers, then we feel negative toward the school even if our children are excelling in their studies. For this reason, Whitaker says it is about the teachers and not about the school. The teachers make or break the school...so they all need to be great to help a school succeed. Whitaker also focuses on expectations, discipline, praise, dealing with parents, making decisions, standardized tests and improving yourself as a teacher from your core. This book is a must read for teachers in your school. I have also had the opportunity to see Mr. Whitaker speak at a conference, and his speaking engagements are just as moving as his books. He just makes sense. Great read!!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Treasure for ANY Teacher, October 3, 2004
This review is from: What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most (Paperback)
This is an amazing book loaded with useful techniques from which ANY teacher will benefit. Teachers want PRACTICAL, and this book is definitely practical. Easy to read and easy to implement. Well done!

A. Breaux
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye opener, February 11, 2008
This review is from: What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most (Paperback)
I have a new found respect for teachers. I read this book for research purposes. I grew up with undiagnosed ADD and I made it all the way to the tenth grade rarely passing a class. To this day I do not know why or how I made it so far with such low grades. I have often wondered why teachers didn't care and how I got by. I have inattentive ADD, meaning I am not hyperactive in the physical sense. Therefore, in order to help others, I am researching the other side of the story and I must say, for my needs, Dr. Whitaker has given me a new found respect for the teacher profession. I had no idea what teachers go through and reading this lets me know, as a former 'bad' student, that teachers have a lot to overcome too.

I thought he was right on when saying that teachers should think about how they treat their very best students and teach all of their students the same way. As an observer, who was ignored, and trust me, I wanted to be ignored, I always found it fascinating how two or three students would take up 80% of the teacher's time.

I went ten grades before dropping out without ever a teacher taking any real concern for me (with the exception of second grade), some of the reviewers have said here that his ideas are common sense... if that's so, let me assure you from the perspective of a kid, with a very high IQ, who got by nearly all of his teachers with barely any consideration, that I don't see how these ideas are common sense. I think they are very valuable and if they had been followed by my teachers, I wouldn't have gotten away with it and would have been helped.

That's just what I believe. It's a great book and I am impressed!

I am the author of:

One Boy's Struggle: A Memoir: Surviving Life with Undiagnosed ADD
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What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most
What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most by Todd Whitaker (Paperback - October 10, 2003)
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