A Division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Heinemann

Holding On to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones

Six Literacy Principles Worth Fighting For

Thomas Newkirk, University of New Hampshire

ISBN 978-0-325-02123-2 / 0-325-02123-6 / 2009 / 208pp / Paperback
Imprint: Heinemann
Availability: In Stock
Grade Level: K - College
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"Holding On to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones is my new favorite book about how to live as a teacher. Finishing it, I experienced what I can only describe as a state of grace—moved, renewed, and grateful that a mind like Tom Newkirk’s has been intrigued by classroom matters for almost forty years now."

—Nancie Atwell

Author of In the Middle, Second Edition

 

"Classic Newkirk: direct, incisive, and brimming with wisdom."

—Harvey “Smokey” Daniels

Coauthor of Comprehension & Collaboration

 

This book is one of the best teacher books ever. I'll be giving copies of it to lots of teacher friends as we find our way back to trusting what we know about kids, about learning, and about teaching writing.

—Gretchen Bernabei

Author of Reviving the Essay

 

Holding On to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones is for every teacher who has struggled under top-down mandates, who ever had to slavishly follow the script of a reading lesson, who ever felt that tests were driving instruction. It is for those whose good, humane, and sensitive ways of teaching literacy are threatened by rigid, mechanical programs. It is for teachers who feel they are losing control of their daily work.

 

Book study groups and professional learning communities, click here to save 15% when you order 15 copies of Holding On to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones: A $292.50 value for $248.50.

 

Hear a podcast, where Tom Newkirk and Nancie Atwell discuss teaching principles worth fighthing for.

 

In Holding On to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones, Tom Newkirk eloquently defends teaching against the “cult of efficiency” that turns classrooms into assembly lines of knowledge. Newkirk goes beyond diagnosing the problem to present six ideas worth fighting for. These transformative practices gently but firmly return instructional decisions to where they belong: with you, our teachers. Newkirk shows how to:

  • increase your instructional emphasis on writing to reflect the reality that producing text is more important than ever
  • help students access deep knowledge and expand their thinking through time to write freely
  • build strong connections between school learning and the real world by teaching with popular culture
  • propel the development of reading skills by helping students discover the pleasure of reading
  • provide the time and space for meaningful, long-lasting teaching and learning by uncluttering the curriculum
  • spark professional growth and avoid stagnation by discussing failure and uncertainty with colleagues.

Holding On to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones is affirming, not argumentative. It celebrates the humanity and unpredictability of teaching with Newkirk’s blend of humor, passion, and warmth. Let it inspire a search for the things in your teaching that are most worth holding on to.

I. The Mechanization of Teaching

  • The Curse of Graphite
  • The Teacher as Schmidt

II. Six Principles

  • Balance the Basics: An Argument for Parity Between Reading and Writing
  • Expressive Writing: Maybe the Best Idea of All
  • Popular Culture as a Literacy Tool
  • Literacy and Pleasure: Why We Read and Write in the First Place
  • Uncluttering the Curriculum
  • Finding a Language for Difficulty: Silences in Our Teaching Stories

III. Isn’t Freedom an American Value Too?

  • Free Reading

IV. Speaking Back to the Common Core

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"Buy this book...then purhcase an extra copy or two to give to adminstartors, parents or anybody whose voice might be productive rasise for saner literacy instruction."Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy

"Tom Newkirk is a masterful writer. . . . Through the many examples from his own life and years of teaching, he shows how important it is to bring relevance and choice into students’ lives so they will want to read, write, and learn." Voices from the Middle

"Holding On to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones is my new favorite book about how to live as a teacher. Finishing it, I experienced what I can only describe as a state of grace—moved, renewed, and grateful that a mind like Tom Newkirk’s has been intrigued by classroom matters for almost forty years now. In this new book Tom invites teachers to decide and lay claim to what’s worth fighting for, and he offers us substantive ammunition. His eclectic scholarship, spanning ages and disciplines, pierces the dogma and cant that can cloud our professional vision. He reminds us that we are professionals, not technicians, and he illuminates teaching as an intellectual endeavor: a continuous process of observations, small experiments, and reflections that inform and change what we do in the classroom. His realistic, humane argument for “the wisdom of practice” dignifies the work of a teacher. Both the classroom veteran and the novice will be heartened and braced by this brilliant book."

—Nancie Atwell
Author of In the Middle, Second Edition
 
"Lately, we teachers have been suffering through some truly bad times. But as Tom Newkirk observes in this brilliant and stirring book, we and our educational forbears have been fighting this battle for centuries. There is always a struggle to put children first, to honor knowledge over compliance, and to place humanity above the aims of the state. Newkirk’s good news: today we have an extraordinary opportunity to get things right. Always one of the most distinctive and thoughtful voices in education, Newkirk asserts that no curriculum can ever work unless it fits on the back of an envelope. And then he offers his own envelope-sized curriculum for teaching writing, four questions and sixteen focal points. That’s it. Classic Newkirk: direct, incisive, and brimming with wisdom."
—Harvey “Smokey” Daniels
Coauthor of Comprehension & Collaboration
 
"Rich with pedagogy and human enough to make you burst out laughing, Thomas Newkirk's thoughts made me feel both heartened and head-slapping awakened. This book is one of the best teacher books ever. I'll be giving copies of it to lots of teacher friends as we find our way back to trusting what we know about kids, about learning, and about teaching writing. The book is written for anyone who grapples with the modern quagmire: the chasm between why we became teachers and what schools have become. The discussions have already begun, and Thomas Newkirk's book will shed light and warmth where they're so sorely needed."
—Gretchen Bernabei
Author of Crunchtime
 

This is the first review I've ever written…. I'm moved to do it because I teach high school English, and this book spoke to me on a level that few other literacy guides have. I don't know Mr. Newkirk, although a colleague of mine had him for a teacher at UNH. I borrowed the book from our local college library and marked it up in pencil so extensively it was almost unreturnable. I then ordered three copies on Amazon—for me and my two closest teaching colleagues. Clearly, this book was forged from a lifetime of being in the trenches with student writers—on the good days and the not-so-good ones. It is painstakingly honest, and it doesn't kowtow to the "experts"—no matter what their agendas. If you want straight talk about how to teach writing and reading, at the high school or college level, with a wonderful mixture of common sense, practical guidance, laugh out loud humor, and overarching wisdom—do not miss this one.

—SnowDog, March 7, 2010

 
"This is a wise, insightful, and thought-provoking book that offers important and useful perspectives on many of the central issues in literacy education. What I like best about Holding On to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones is (1) it’s a BIG book, not in word count but in range, scope, and ambitiousness, and (2) it practices exactly what it preaches. In other words, the goals that Tom argues for--such as, suggesting that literacy educators should de-clutter our curricula by identifying and focusing on just a few key goals, that we should connect and balance reading and writing, that we should accept and encourage the role of pleasure and personal connection in learning--are supported by evidence and research but are also modeled by the way this book is written."
—Lad Tobin
Author of Reading Student Writing

Email planningservices@heinemann.com if you would like to contact Thomas Newkirk directly about professional development support.

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