Inspiring Students to Read with Joshua Parker




Josh Parker

English teacher — Baltimore, Maryland

2012 Maryland Teacher of the Year


 Segment I – Background and Inspiration


Tell your story. Where are you from and how long have you been teaching? What classes have you taught? 

obama-and-i– Joshua initially wanted to be a professional basketball player despite coming from a family of teachers. He worked in sports but did not find it fulfilling. He ended up substitute teaching and then decided to go back to school to obtain his teaching certification. He has been teaching in various capacities in Baltimore since and was named the 2012 Maryland Teacher of the Year.


 Who has helped you in your journey to become a master teacher? 

– 3 people

1. His department chair — Mandy Shanks

2. his principal 

3. Dr Alfred Tatum who writes a lot of books about teaching African-American males how to read. 

It is important for other teachers to know that we all have had setbacks in the classroom. Identify an instance in which you struggled as a teacher and explain what you learned from that experience.

– He taught Accelerated English and it was for students that failed the test and needed remediation. It was a class that had a scripted program. He went against his instincts and trusted the book and the script. Along the way he learned to not to trust the script so much as to trust his knowledge of students.  He also learned how to match real-time data with real-time metrics. 

How do we develop a love of reading?

– 6 things:

1. relevancy — don’t throw out Shakespeare but add Walter Dean Myers Langston Hughes

2. We need to understand the differences in boys and teach that way. Sometimes boys don’t have great attention spans so we have to chunk the reading.

3. Make the case — sometimes students don’t know how important reading is until they hear the statistics of illiterate or disfunctional readers

4. Allow time for expression –the students have to be able to speak what they read, speak their ideas, speak their stories.

5. Embrace their out of school reading styles — some students will read comic books or sports stories. Celebrate that and share it in your classroom.

6. Model reading yourself — Carry books wherever you go.


What is one thing that you love about the classroom? 

 – The energy, the synergy, the anything-can-possible-happen. Having the rapt attention of 25 adolescents is one of the best feelings that you can have.

Segment II — Digging into the Teacher Bag of Goodies

What book do you recommend to a teacher striving to improve his or her craft?

— Two books: The English Teacher’s Companion by Jim Burke and Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males by Dr. Alfred Tatum.

What is one thing a teacher can do outside the classroom that can pay off inside the classroom?

— A teacher has to discover themselves and pouring that energy into that and then bring it into the classroom. Joshua loves to play basketball and enjoys bringing that passion into the classroom. 

What sites are valuable on the internet?

Teaching Channel and the English Companion are the tried and true sources for Joshua.

Provide a writing practice that is effective?

 – Shorten and simplify the rubric. 

Update the cannon. What book, written in the last 10-15 years, belongs in the classroom?

— The Other Wes Moore. Fist, Stick. Knife. Gun. by Geoffery Canada. is another. 


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