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9 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers: A Practical Guide to Personal Development

reviewed by Lynnette Mawhinney - July 17, 2014

coverTitle: 9 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers: A Practical Guide to Personal Development
Author(s): Jacquie Turnbull
Publisher: Bloomsbury, London
ISBN: 1441169040, Pages: 256, Year: 2013
Search for book at Amazon.com

When looking at the professional development courses offered to teachers in the United States, most of them revolve around current curriculum trends. These professional development courses focus on instructing teachers on how to teach these curricula. The scripted instructions run counter to pre-service teacher training, where reflection on teaching practice is often emphasized. But all of that seems to fade away during the transition from pre-service teacher to in-service teacher.

In an era where professional development courses focus on instructing teachers on how to teach these curricula, Jacquie Turnbull’s book 9 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers: A Practical Guide to Personal Development (2nd Edition) is a welcome and timely reminder that professional development and ongoing reflecting on teaching practice is just as, if not more, important than the plethora of scripted professional development courses offered to teachers. This book, suited for novice and veteran teachers, grounds the professional back into the importance of reflective work on teaching practice.

As a teacher trainer and coach in the United Kingdom, Turnbull uses this book to bring her experience and coaching ability to the masses. In the Introduction chapter, Turnbull speaks to the current pressures of teachers, which have changed since the first edition of this book. Turnbull rightfully highlights the spreading demands of standardized testing—an issue that is plaguing schools in many different countries. She frames the development of the “knowledge society” with the information age and the constant pressures for teachers to continue learning at higher rates than before. All this is coupled with the constant directives given to teachers about how to teach.

This is why in the 9 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers, Turnbull decided to write a book not on how to teach, but on “how to develop the thinking and behaviors that will enable you to achieve the required professional standards . . . [as] you can’t separate your personal development completely from your teaching practice” (p. xii).

In the book, each habit is highlighted in its own chapter. Each habit is designed around the idea of personal development, or for some, personal awakening. Of the nine chapters, each is sectioned off into three parts: (1) Managing Yourself; (2) Engaging with Others; and (3) Spreading the Influence. In Part One (Managing Yourself), the author jumps right into the active, reflective work. The first chapter, Thinking for Yourself, helps teachers to (re)define their professional identities and roles, while also exploring their ways of thinking, as to how their thoughts influence what they do in the classroom. Three reflective activities on teaching beliefs, values, and thinking are sporadically placed within the text to help teachers pause and actively learn through the moment.

Chapter Two explores the idea of Learning for Life. It is designed to have teachers think holistically about how they learn from the world around them. This chapter is not a lesson about how teachers need to constantly attend professional development courses.  Specifically, it explores people’s intuition and emotional intelligence and its influence on teaching practice. In short, Turnbull focuses on non-verbal communication and the adaptability of one’s intelligence.

The following two chapters, Taking Action on Stress and Taking Your Time, cover the most important habits for current teachers. Turnbull recognizes the stressors and heavy workloads for teachers and provides points on how to manage the job effectively. Part of this management is how to have a “change of thought” about the stressors and techniques to calm teachers’ minds. Most of the activities and tips in these chapters are practical, hands-on, and easy for teachers to incorporate.

Chapters Five through Seven focus on engaging with others through the habits of creating rapport, attentive listening, and influencing behavior—all of which involve developing interpersonal and communication skills. Creating rapport and active listening are skills that readers may have discussed before, but Turnbull provides activities that are a nice refresher. The chapter on influencing behavior really dives into the idea that teachers have voice. Since teachers are often thought of as taking direction, this chapter focuses on how teachers can recognize their professional abilities and use that knowledge toward being an active change agent while keeping relationships intact.

The remaining two chapters on spreading influence focus on the habits of influencing leadership behaviors and extending influence. Explicitly, the chapters discuss the roles of teacher leaders and recognize teachers’ influence outside of the four walls of the classroom. Turnbull encourages readers to be “activists” for teaching on local and national levels. Some may argue that Turnbull’s approach in the book is very much like a “self-help” book for teachers, and in some ways, this is a valid argument. Given the self-help nature of the text, academics may or may not find this book interesting because of its lack of theoretical or empirical constructs. But, Turnbull’s insight is in helping to put the personal back into the teaching practice—an important and sometimes forgotten concept in the profession. Readers should know that this book comes with hands-on reflective activities to do the hard work of looking at him or her. Turnbull even acknowledges this by stating that, “I believe the approach I am advocating is challenging and will demand an investment of time and effort. But it is an investment in personal development that will result in a ‘professionalism’ appropriate for the complex and fast-moving times we live in” (p. xvi). Concisely, this book is designed as a “working guide” that gets to the heart of the relationship building that occurs in between teachers, students, and colleagues in order to be agents of change.

Her approach to reflection and activism is refreshing, as these aspects are often lost in the teaching profession. Given her extensive coaching experiences, the text would have been strengthened if readers were provided examples of how teachers she has coached have grown in their practice from following these habits. What are their stories, voices, and perspectives? These voices would have been a nice way to round out the practicality of these habits and personal development.

Since the book requires much intrapersonal development, readers should note that it is a read that will take time. This is not a sit-down-with-a-cup-of-coffee-lounge-book for reading pleasure and brain candy. This is a book that should be read in parts over time to pace the reflective work that comes out of Turnbull’s active learning experiences throughout the book. This is why this book is a must-have for current teachers and teacher educators to develop these habits and (re)enforce their internal and activist voices on the profession.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: July 17, 2014
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17609, Date Accessed: 5/19/2022 7:41:19 AM

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About the Author
  • Lynnette Mawhinney
    The College of New Jersey
    E-mail Author
    LYNNETTE MAWHINNEY is associate professor of Urban Education in the Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education at The College of New Jersey. Her research explores the professional lives of urban teachers and pre-service teachers, urban youth schooling experiences, and autoethnographic approaches in educational settings.
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