It will soon be time for the students and faculty to head off on their respective summer vacations. And while most school leaders continue working through the summer, the focus changes and the pace tends to let up a bit. And then there are those few precious weeks of summer vacation where even school leaders are able to rest and renew. For me, those vacation periods are times of reflection, learning, and growth… just having some physical distance and time away from the day-to-day work often leads to reflection and new ideas. As such, I love spending this time doing some reading, and so I thought I’d share four good reads for you to consider perusing this summer.
Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our kids for the Innovation Era by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith
Tony Wagner has become somewhat of a fixture in the field of educational theory, having published numerous books about education. This time around, he partners with Ted Dintersmith, a venture capitalist who has deep experience in the tech sector to author a book that challenges the traditional paradigm of “success” for America’s school children. Rather than relying upon traditional measures like GPA and test scores, they contend that exposure to hands-on, project-based learning that develops essential skills is what will truly set our students apart. Some would say that Wagner and Dintersmith go too far in their call for a complete turning over of the educational system, and others would say that they are just toe-dipping into the pool “what might be” if we had the courage to engage in wholesale change. Regardless of which camp you fall into, you will find a great deal of “food for thought” for educators and a lot of ideas that could significantly improve the way in which we take on teaching and learning.
Some reviews of Most Likely to Succeed can be found HERE and HERE. There is also a documentary film by the same name that is an interesting examination of some alternative approaches to learning happening in schools today.
The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery by Sarah Lewis
To sum it up: I absolutely loved this book. The story vignettes combined with the sincerely lovely sentiments of some of the featured people created a narrative that was inspirational, interesting, and thought-provoking. Many educators are making the transition from implicit to explicit instruction of a “fail-forward” mindset with their students, and this book provides some real-world experiences that demonstrate the value of faith, perseverance, individualism, and learner’s mindset. Lewis explores the myriad traits that led different personalities down their individualized path of success (and success is defined very differently from person to person, which to me only enhances the worth of the tales told). This book is beautifully written, is multi-dimensional, and has many take-aways for all educators. Failure is indeed a gift – and Lewis reminds us of this important lesson as we contemplate our own definition of what it means to be successful.
Open: How We’ll Work, Live and Learn in the Future by David Price
The rapidly changing world around us cannot help but impact the way in which we communicate, work, and function in our daily lives. This is especially true in the field of education, where new online platforms and services are dictating a new approach to teaching and learning at all levels. Rather than seeing the incessant changes around us as a disruptive force, Price contends that these forces can radically level the playing field for teachers and learners alike and open the door to new opportunities. From the genesis of MOOCs to gaining greater accessibility to individualized, personalized learning experiences, these early trends will play an ever greater role in education moving forward. This engaging and thought-provoking book is a must-read for any 21st century teacher!
Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen
As educational leaders, feedback comes at us from 360 degrees on a daily basis. How we perceive, interpret, and react to that feedback is enormously important to our ability to relate with others in our community and “do the work” that needs doing. How we deliver feedback to others is equally important. This book encourages everyone to take a few steps back from interactions, reflect on intent versus impact, and re-think how we approach the giving and receiving of feedback. Stone and Heen discuss what can cause feedback go sideways, how we can address feedback that we feel is off base, how we can engage with challenging personalities in feedback loops, and how we can improve feedback systems both in formal and in informal systems. If you either give or receive feedback, this book is full of gems to help you process the feedback you receive as well as shape the feedback you give. Stone and Heen are the authors of Difficult Conversations, which is another worthwhile read.
Happy summer, and happy reading!