The Influence of Teachers: Reflections on Teaching and Leadership


Influence of Teachers coverA compilation of interviews, op-eds, blog posts, and
stories drawn from journalist/educator John Merrow’s own experience, this self-published
book frames the debate around teacher quality in a spunky, fun-to-read way.
Writing in a style that blends journalism with story-telling, Merrow deploys
his material to discuss tenure, charter schooling, the leadership shortage, and
more. At its core, the book tackles two big questions: “Are mediocre teachers
the heart of education’s problems? Or is it the job itself, with its low pay
and even lower prestige?” He skillfully walks the reader through each facet of
this slippery topic. After what seems to be much internal strife, Merrow
settles the debate (for himself, anyway) in the book’s final chapter. To him,
it is the job that is the problem; teaching must be professionalized. To that
end, he recommends five tactics to making teaching a “better job,” including: Have
teacher evaluations of students count at least as much as one-time standardized
test scores; give principals autonomy to hire their staffs; and recognize that
the job of teaching is to help young people learn the skills needed to inquire,
not regurgitate answers. Whether you agree with Merrow’s conclusions or not, he
provides an enjoyable, highly readable text, and a useful framing of an
ever-important debate.

Click to play

Click to listen to an interview between Mike Petrilli and author John Merrow from the Education Next Book Club podcast


John Merrow, The
Influence of Teachers: Reflections on Teaching and Leadership
, (New York, NY: LM Books, A Division of Learning Matters,
Inc., 2011).