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Teachers, Remember to Breathe: 4 Books Worth Reading as School Begins

The following post is the next installment of our “starting the school year well” series. Listen to our podcast here, and read about going beyond the best of intentions here.

Teacher “work weeks”, stuffed to the gills with meetings, orientations, classroom organization, and lesson plans, threaten to drive many teachers batty before school even begins. Meanwhile, homeschooling parents fly to curriculum sales to order books, and check and re-check their supplies. I do not mean to add to the fray.

As another school year begins, teachers once again begin spending themselves, pouring themselves out to nurture the souls of their students. But it is an oft-forgotten truth that we breathe out what we breathe in, and far too many teachers spend the school year in a state of constant exhale, an unfortunate reality that is just as problematic for students as it is for their teachers. Teachers, parents: don’t forget to breathe deeply.

To help you properly prepare for the new school year, we’ve come up with a list of four books worth inhaling:

Tending the Heart of Virtue
by Vigen Guroian

The Rationale: When grammar school teachers find they are pressed for time, too many cut out or shorten the time they spend reading to their students. In Tending the Heart of Virtue, Vigen Guroian reminds us that fairy tales and classic stories feed and strengthen the moral imagination of students.

A Sample: “Fairy tales lead us toward a belief in something that if it were not also so veiled in a mystery, common sense alone would affirm: if there is a story, there must surely also be a storyeller.”

The Abolition of Man
by C.S. Lewis

The Rationale: This C.S. Lewis classic powerfully decries the modern educational system that, while ignoring and even flatly denying the existence of universal truth, honor, and virtue, remains astonished at the troubling results.

A Sample: “And all the time – such is the tragi-comedy of our situation – we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of tehm virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child
by Anthony Esolen

The Rationale: With his typical wit, Anthony Esolen reminds us of the importance of a vibrant imagination in children, and scolds us (parents and educators) for the common ways we squash them. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’s the feel-good book of the year.

A Sample: “If we loved children, we would have a few. If we had them, we would want them as children, and we would love the wonder with which they behold the world, and would hope that some of it might open our own eyes a little. We would love their games, and would want to play them once in a while, stirring in ourselves those little memories of play that no one regrets, and that are almost the only things an old man can look back on with complete satisfaction. We would want children tagging along after us, or if not, then only because we would understand that they had better things to do.”

Beauty for Truth’s Sake
by Stratford Caldecott

The Rationale: An inspiring invitation to the liberal arts, Caldecott reminds us of the need to remain lifelong learners, not for “practical” benefit, but for our essential humanity.

A Sample: “To be alive is to be a learner.”

Another Sample: “Education begins in the family and ends in the Trinity. Praise (of beauty), service (of goodness), and contemplation (of truth) are essential to the full expression of our humanity. The cosmos is liturgical by its very nature.”

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