With my time these days as husband, father, and high school teacher becoming increasingly precious, I am working to write a book that will be useful and true not just when it first comes out, but also useful and true in five years, ten years, twenty years, and so on. That's a lofty goal, to write a timeless thing, but that is what I'm aiming for. I want to write a book that you can gladly recommend to people for the rest of your career.
Lately, on the recommendation of the great, prolific, and generous teacher-author Jim Burke, I've been reading Ryan Holiday's Perennial Seller.* What I appreciate about Holiday's book is that he obsesses over what goes into creating timeless, helpful things. In the book, Holiday describes an exercise he calls “One Sentence, One Paragraph, One Page.”
From Holiday's Perennial Seller:
Put the… manuscript aside and grab a piece of paper or open a blank Word document. Then, with fresh eyes, attempt to write out exactly what your project is supposed to be and to do in… One sentence. One paragraph. One page.
One sentence: I'm writing a book that helps overwhelmed teachers to focus and, thereby, to flourish, using what I call the Everest Framework.
One paragraph: Teachers are abandoning the profession at unsustainable rates. This is bad for kids, and bad for people who are called to teaching. Teachers would not leave as rapidly if they operated with clarity of purpose and permission to focus. Professional development efforts and policy initiatives do not tend toward either of these things. They obscure our purpose and imply that focus is for morons. This book seeks to put forward one way of remedying that. Specifically, I explain how the Everest Framework can help us increase our effectiveness, lower our stress, and sharpen our awareness of the inherent nobility of the teaching profession.
One page (500 words or so): Teachers in the United States are suffering beneath the weight of a thousand expectations, and this creates a toxic environment for them and their students. Thankfully, there is some simple internal work that teachers can do to keep themselves focused on the ultimate aim of their work. In Chapter 1, I walk teachers through this work, and I introduce the peak toward which all of us work: the long-term flourishing of all of our students.
Out of the manifold expectations for a teacher's work come an increasingly incoherent array of professional development experiences and materials. I argue that schools and PD providers and teacher-authors must do better. I put forth the Everest Framework not as an exemplar of what a focused approach to professional development, curriculum, and instruction looks like, but as one example.
The rest of the book walks through each component of the Everest Framework, dividing this treatment into three parts, or layers. This bottom-up approach to literacy is unique in a field where books tend to focus on writing, or on reading, or on singular aspects of those two things (e.g., choice reading, or close reading, or essay writing), and as a result this book tries to be just as much an invitation to think deeply about a holistic approach to teaching as it is a collection of simple and robust takeaway strategies (e.g., pop-up debate, paraphrase plus, nine moves for teaching with texts, and so on). In other words, I strive toward synthesizing research and practice, philosophy and strategy. And the result, I hope, is a book that's uniquely helpful to the kind of teachers who want more than just one more worksheet from Teachers Pay Teachers or one more over-hyped treatment of a here-today-gone-tomorrow fad.
As always, I welcome your comments, questions, and feedback — on this post specifically, on the book I'm writing, or on writing a book in general.
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