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What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1930556690
ISBN-10: 1930556691
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

One of the nation’s leading authorities on motivation, teacher leadership, and principal effectiveness, Todd Whitaker is a former middle and high school teacher and principal, now a professor at Indiana State University.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (October 10, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1930556691
  • ISBN-13: 978-1930556690
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.3 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. Wormeli on May 17, 2007
Format: 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.
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Format: 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"


"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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Format: 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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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