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Resources

Here are some resources that I'm involved in writing, co-authoring, or creating a chapter. Let me be clear. If you click on and then buy these items, 8.5% of the profit goes toward my hot pebble massages. 

About Dinkytown Braves - A hilarious and poignant teaching memoir set in 1986, Dinkytown Braves dramatizes the racial and economic tensions that a white middle class English instructor (me) faces in an institution for Native Americans near the University of Minnesota.

The school administration, composed of A.I.M. radicals and veterans of Wounded Knee, is too busy to offer support. Todd learns about Ojibwe traditions, the Rez, literacy acquisition, and the Myth of the Seven Fires in order to align his curriculum with native values. Allies emerge: his wise-cracking identical twin, his college girlfriend, and a battered female senior who aspires to be a classroom professional. They all teach him about literacy, community, and the secret of being a teacher: learning fast.

Available on Amazon

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Dinkytown Braves by Todd Finley
K-SizzleUnsolicited Anonymous Amazon Reviewer

Super-Dinky. Lot's of Fun to Read.

I'm not normally into memoirs and I don't care about teaching, but I'm willing to try pretty much anything in Amazon's free prime/kindle program. So when this popped up as a new release I figured why not. I'm glad I gave it a chance.

It's centered around the (white) author and his time teaching native americans. Hilarious cultural clashes occur, along with insightful moments of introspection (the guy is a teacher after all). It's usually in chronological order (with some time jumps to speed things up) and the occasional flashback to college or growing up. I've watched enough movies to be familiar with the "white teacher teaches minority inner-city kids and changes their lives forever while being changed himself" trope. They usually end with one of the more promising kids getting shot just after he opens his college acceptance letter. Thankfully this book avoids most of that. Yeah the kids are tough and smart-mouthed and the author slowly earns their respect (partially, at least), but it never comes across as patronizing. There is no Robin Williams, ripping pages out of textbooks moment because this is a public school and he would get fired. He doesn't "save" the students, because they don't need saving and he's a poor teacher. Instead he presents the native americans as people, rather than stereotypes. The book reads truer for it.

My favorite thing about the book is how it's presented. It's listed as a memoir, but it's really more a collection of short stories. It's divided into many small chapters, ranging from 1 to several pages, each a little vignette that moves the story along. This makes it super easy to read. If, like me, you don't have time to devote to sitting down and reading for hours, this lets you read as little as you want and still feel satisfied. It's easy to get absorbed, and I often found myself reading many chapters at a time. But I appreciated that it was pre-chopped up for subway rides or bathroom breaks or wherever you do your reading.

So as you can tell, I really liked it. If you have prime/kindle you have no reason not to try it since it's free. I'm even considering buying a print copy as a gift for a friend who refuses to e-read, since it's only ten bucks. I liked it even as a non-fan of teachers and memoirs, so if you're into either of those you'll probably enjoy it even more.

 About Rethinking Classroom Design -Despite the many resources discussing how to decorate and design elementary school classrooms, few resources on middle and secondary level classroom design are available. This book fills that gap. Moreover, the purpose of this guide is to enhance learning spaces, boost student performances, and positively extend teachers’ influence. Every instance where you make well-considered decisions about your classroom helps students lead self-actualized lives. This book will help you make those decisions by providing information about everything from students’ favorite seating arrangements to what temperature is ideal for learning. And learners will feel that effort every time they step foot in your room. Available on Amazon

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Rethinking Classroom Design: Create Student-Centered Learning Spaces for 6-12th Graders - by Todd Finley and Blake Wiggs.
Sonja McKayM.Ed., NBCT, Teacher at the Exploris School

"This is now my go-to guide for classroom design and organization. Thank you Finley and Wiggs for providing an accessible research-based tool that empowers educators to rethink student learning environments.” - 

Terry HeickDirector of TeachThought 

"By reading a book about classroom design--this book about classroom design--you have a chance to organize your teaching in a way that supports all of the other professional development and reading and twittering and reflection you do.”

Patricia L. Hilliard, PhDDirector of STEM Accelerator, NC New Schools / Breakthrough Learning

"This book provides teachers and administrators with the fundamental tools to immediately change the learning paradigm for all students."

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The Best Lesson Series: Literature by Brian Sztabnik. 

Veteran instructors, inspirational teacher-authors, and national award winners have picked their favorite literature activities that you can bring to your classroom. Edited by Brian Sztabnik of Talks with Teachers, I wrote a chapter connecting students' print and visual literacies. Learn more here.

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Todd's Brain Newsletter by Todd Finley. 

The FREE monthly newsletter that updates you about new resources, brain hacks, strategies, research, and ideas in education Be all you can brain!  Subscribe here