Can principals "require" all teachers to read a certain book over the summer?Our new principal, who just began in March of this year, bought all 135 teachers in our high school a copy of "The...

Can principals "require" all teachers to read a certain book over the summer?

Our new principal, who just began in March of this year, bought all 135 teachers in our high school a copy of "The Global Achievement Gap" by Tony Wagner for the summer and told us we'd be discussing it next fall.  It's turning out to be a pretty good read, but I was just wondering if anyone else ever had "encouraged" reading over the summer.

Expert Answers
crmhaske eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I love the political correctness in your use of the term "encouraged" ;)

The question in your discussion title, and the question in your discussion content are different - I'll answer them both.

To my knowledge, and in Canada (I can't attest to the United States), the principal could ask, but coudln't tell.  If someone didn't read it over the summer, there would be nothing the principal could legally do about it - i.e. you couldn't be fired for not reading a book on your own time.  That said, there's lots employers can get away with doing when you don't do what they want you to even if it has nothing to do with your job.  That said, I wouldn't want to work for someone like that anyway, and would very quickly start my job search.

As far as your second question, I have been asked to do things that were beyond the scope of my job description.  After a year and a half I said forget it, and quit.  Though, if it had just been a book, I would have read the book ;)

hadley818 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We have had a few required readings throughout the seven years I have been at my school. They were great books and relevant to needs in our school, but I agree with the two other posters. I don't think that the principal could legally make us read the book since we had to read it on our own time and it would therefore be "work" that we weren't getting paid for. In these types of situations, if the teacher chooses not to read the book, it's the teacher's loss when it comes time to discuss it and be accountable for it. It's a great question and I think that this type of "required" reading  and other things we are expected to do on our own time happen all the time. I don't think it's really right for a principal to assign extra work with all the grading, clubs, coaching, etc. that we have on our plates.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It depends on where you teach.  Private and Charter schools can mandate whatever they want--especially if they do not foster or allow Unions into their schools--since most private and Charter schools can fire employees without giving any specific reason for doing so.

Public schools are different since the admin has to go through certain steps to get rid of an employee, especially if the employee is in the Union.

That having been said, I imply that employees of a private or charter school would feel more pressure to do the summer reading than public school teachers.  However, as previous posts have mentioned, even public school teachers would feel the pinch of not following the directive.

Did they provide the books for you, or were you expected to pick up your own copy? 


brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If I was looking at this issue simply as a Union representative, then I would say requiring summer reading of teachers is probably a breach of contract.  Aside from requiring that teachers keep their certification current, school administrators cannot require you to spend your days off, be they weekends or vacations, in any way that's not voluntary.  I suppose they could include such wording about required readings specifically in your contract, but I've never heard of a district actually doing that.

There may be some social pressure from colleagues, or you might be viewed as unprofessional by the Principal or others if you didn't do the reading, but legally, I can't see a way they can force you to.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In reality, the answer is no, of course.  In practice, it's quite common to be asked to do things not specifically outlined in a contract anywhere.  My dad used to sell cars in the Midwest.  It was never in any official job description that he had to help clear snow off the cars in the lot; however, it was practical for him to do so.  LA Lakers coach Phil Jackson asked his basketball teams to read a specific book (can't remember which one, off the top of my head), and I'm certain that wasn't part of their player contracts.  I guess if it's within the scope of reasonableness--in other words, a book which is about team-building or inspirational in some way--I'd see it as a chore which must be done and read. 

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We never had a book to read over the summer, however, as a staff one year we all had to read (copies were provided) Whatever it Takes: How Professional Learning Communities Respond... and spent the scheduled professional development days (over about a quarter) responding to this book.

While many of us scoffed initially at the idea of required reading and "homework" assignments in the form of discussion questions, we were given CEU credit and actually I think many of us ended up really enjoying having a specific and common direction.

teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As Post #3 states, it's likely not required because it would not be a tenet in your teaching contract (unless you work in a private school--they suck blood regularly).  But there might be social pressure to have done the reading.  At my school last year, the superintendent brought a motivational speaker in to talk to the staff on the first day of school.  All the teachers got copies of his book The Art of Possibility.  This ended up being the mantra for the entire year (but most of us used our books as dust collectors).

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do not think that it would be required but if my boss "highly suggested" we read a particular book I would read it. Our superintendent does suggest that we pick out a book over the summer (the school pays for the book), read it, write out names in it, and then drop it off at the school library for students to read. This way, if a student reads this book, he or she can discuss the book with you.

lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Legally, it probably couldn't be required, but you would certainly feel the negative effects of ignoring the directive. So in effect, it would be "required", whether that word was used or not. Someone needs to let him know the nasty effect such a thing has on the staff, but good luck with that.

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At least your new principal is trying to establish some commonality and cohesiveness, I suppose. I have to say I preferred the directive highlighhted in #8 - I would see this as vaulable reading time. In fact I'm going to suggest it to our school librarian!