currents: listens & reads

Listens:

Estimation 180 podcast: A fresh new podcast from Andrew Stadel of the Estimation 180 fame. While this focuses on curiosity and mirroring in the mathematics classroom, some of the key strategies are easily transferred across the curricular spectrum.

Reads:

I’ve had a blast with some middle grades literature lately. It is so fun to read what the kids read and to have video book clubs with the children of my friends.

Wish: A dear, sweet story of a girl placed with her unknown relatives who finds love, family, and herself through the love of a sweet pup.

The Breadwinner: Read by our kids in Fourth Grade as part of Historical Fiction book clubs, I found this story compelling with beautiful word painting.

Summer Read Starting Early

The Art of Coaching Teams by Elena Aguilar: I have started this one and am about halfway through in considering how to teach others to lead teams, as well as leading my own. I am so impressed with the readability of this work. It is told through vignettes while offering practical protocols for working to build and coach strong teaching teams.

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor: I’m looking forward to digging into this one, which I’ve started on audible already, as part of our Trinity Summer Reading list. I adored Big Potential and have savored everything put out by Shawn Achor this year.

Sidebar: I have been deeply moved by the beautiful tributes and community that have emerged in the wake of the death of modern-day theologian, Rachel Held Evans. As an early follower of her work, I find her example of civil and challenging discourse in an age of rage to be inspiring, motivating, and the epitome of grace. If you are a person of faith or a questioner of faith, I highly commend to you her work, Searching for Sunday, of which I had the honor of serving on the publication launch team.

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show them how.

*PS-this was started on Palm Sunday, but life gets in the way….*

Today is Palm Sunday. Across the globe, folks walk the way to Jesus in his triumphal entry to Jerusalem before entering into Holy Week and arriving on Sunday at Easter. In my tradition, The Episcopal Church, we begin with the blessing of palms and then enter our sanctuaries with joyful hymns. My favorite piece of this service is one of my family traditions, and one I bet is shared by many across the blog who are handed a long frond of palm; we make palm crosses. Not officially as part of the liturgy, but something we do with our idle hands as we hear the stories and celebrate this beginning of the holiest week of the church year.

I take great joy in shaping these palms into crosses which I share with friends or keep in the sun until they are dried for the year ahead. Part of the reason I love it so much is that I learned this skill from my mom. Who I assume learned from someone in her church at some point, somewhere. I didn’t learn through a workshop. I didn’t learn through a video or textbook or lecture. I learned by watching my mom, right next to me in the pew, year after year. She might gently guide my hand from time to time, but I learned by watching and mimicking. Now, I sit quietly each Palm Sunday and build three or four pieces of art while I hear the sermon and reflect after communion. Perhaps someone watches me and learns?

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This is a metaphor for our learning environments for me. How are we modeling learning, not only with our words and materials but our actions? How are we considering the role of apprenticeship and guest experts within our context of learning? In an age of self-directed learning and tinkering, which I wholeheartedly appreciate and support, how might we not forget the valuable role of modeling?

And not only for contexts of academic work but also learning to be whole-hearted humans. “The students are watching” so say Theodore and Nancy Sizer and remind us of the moral imperative as educators to support the integration of modeling character throughout our educational settings. Character education in a silo is yet just another drill and practice act but rather the appropriate modeling of our expectations for treating one another and ourselves is critical.

The careful and meticulous handling as a long, thin palm is crafted into a short, slightly sideways cross in the silence around others remains a symbol not only of the religious event for Christians but also as a symbol of the need for careful and meticulous shaping of our children. May we model it well.

Disrupting Thinking, a book review

*cross post with SAIS Book Review*

With apologies to Lin-Manuel Miranda, the newest work by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst comes at the perfect time for a “World Turned Upside Down.” In an era of partisan news and standardized, high-stakes assessments, the authors suggest that our best chance of turning the tide is to build a generation of critical readers who not only probe text for accuracy but also make personal connections. We disrupt thinking when we encourage our readers to read text not only with fluency but also a heart bent toward personal reflection.

The book is laid out in three sections: The Readers We Want, The Framework We Use, and The Changes We Must Embrace. Each section provides a review of concepts found in their previous works, Notice and Note and Reading Non-Fiction, to consider how we might disrupt the way we think about the teaching of reading and guide our students think critically about a text. While much of the book targets schools facing state mandates for testing and ratings, there are takeaways for our independent school universe.

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“When a right answer is most important, students come to believe their thoughts don’t matter.” (p. 19) This hits to the heart of exploring a text for meaning beyond comprehension and recall. In a world that requires flexible thinkers who can reach across a spectrum of perspectives, empowering learners with an array of strategies to build these skills is crucial. The authors suggest that opening student awareness of their own responses as well as the responses of others, based on individual life experience, is a learned skill. Responsible readers, who approach the text critically and beyond recall, are responsive readers.

Beers and Probst reiterate their Book, Head, Heart (BHH) framework as the centerpiece of disrupting thinking around reading. This strategy teaches readers to consider not only the context and contents of the text but also the intellectual and emotional responses to it. This strategy can be widely applied beyond the English/language arts classrooms as a way to engage critical thinking and self-reflection. This second section of the book also offers a quick rundown of highly-regarded strategies that open readers hearts and minds to explore deeply into text beyond the Lexile.

“To encourage and expect nothing more of students than unexamined statements of feelings is to encourage intellectual laziness.” (p. 32) It is apparent that these authors are on a mission to promote a wise, and critical thinking democracy. With a publishing date of 2017, it seems clear that much of the mission here is in response to the current state of dialogue and division that has risen around the country. Regardless of party or clique, this book does offer practical and theoretical applications to open students to perspectives other than their own while at the same time building a solid foundation.

Part of this strategy is to disrupt the status quo of instruction and embrace educational change. They make no bones about it: disruptions are necessary to drive change. While this particular book’s primary audience is teachers of reading, it has applicable lessons for all teacher-leaders who seek strategies and ideas to jumpstart critical thinking in their classrooms and schools.

Currents: Listens and Reads

Listens

Educated by Tara Westover: Holy Cow. I finally go on board with the Educated train and found myself mesmerized by Dr. Westover’s brutiful story of her life. I purchased the hardback but am so glad that I listened instead as the voice of the narrator created this almost unreal world of her family trauma and her rebirth. I found myself having visceral reactions to certain scenes and left the book with more questions than answers. It is a must-read for all grown humans.

Atomic Habits by James Clear: I’ll be going back through the hard copy of this one, too. Primarily to access the graphics and tools that were difficult to discern via the audiobook. I did enjoy this one and its simple approach to considering gentle formational change via small habits rather than unattainable transformations. It echos to Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit in its articulation of the habit/feedback loop. Almost two months into a new year with new resolutions, consideration of a new set of changes can’t hurt!

Work/Life podcast with Adam Grant (season 2): I’m so so so excited that Season 2 is about to start dropping. @AdamMGrant posted today that it was Season 2 was coming out and I was bummed it was only a teaser! If anyone wants to join me in a listening-discussion group, I’d be game.

Reads

A few gems from the NYTimes recently:

Students Learn from People They Love by David Brooks: I think this is a no-brainer for those of us who believe that relationships are the most important element of our classrooms and schools. Who can’t name their most beloved teacher and their impact? (Mrs. Berko, Mr. Bruce, Mrs. Eimerbrink, Mrs. Sobel, Mr. Brekhus, MMe. Stauffer, Mr. Miller, Dr. Weymuth, Dr. Schultz, Dr. Howard, Dr. Covington McBride.)

Why Girls Beat Boys at School and Lose to Them at the Office by Lisa Damour: Based on her newest book, Under Pressure, this article looks at the childhood roots of self-imposed and societal perfectionism instilled in girls that helps them achieve in our school systems but bogs them and breaks them in the professional world. The roots of gender bias in the office begin in the classroom.

The Bad News about Helicopter Parenting: It Works by Pamela Druckerman: I’m tempted to leave this without comment but I just can’t. I understand the premise of this article but I still wish to push against the tide of do-for and me-me culture. I can’t see it helping us as a society in the long-run.

pause. reflect. grace. grateful.

I suddenly find myself with an extra 15 minutes in the day today and decided to take it to just do a blog check-in. I realized I haven’t put up a Currents: Listens & Reads since August. I’ve read a TON and listened a TON, just haven’t codified it. This new school adventure has been a whirlwind since stepping onto campus in early July. Here are the bullet points of reflection thus far:

  • Being the new kid on the block is tough–I have been given the umbrella of mercy over and over again from everyone–but perhaps, not given it to myself as I want to learn all the things right away and expect myself to. (#perfectionist)
  • 357 kid names is a lot, but I offer thanks for my flashcards and our class photos to help me. Also, thanks to the older kids who say, “I’m so-and-so, in case you forgot.”
  • Outdoor ed trips are the BEST.
  • Having a team that works at a high level, all the time is simultaneously intellectually stimulating and exhausting. I’m so grateful for both.
  • My game is upped. And only going uppier. (Yes, I made up that word.)
  • All of these teams amaze me on a daily basis. They are kid and learning centered. They want to grow.
  • Crafting how to BE in the work rather than how to DO the work (thanks Mom for the challenging words) is going to take the whole year.
  • Never underestimate the power of a walk around campus, a dance break, a hug from an 8-year-old, an affirming tweet, an aha moment in math, and READING to children.
  • Making time to pause and reflect, even in a frenetic day/week/month/year where everything is new, MATTERS. So I’ll try to do better.

I get to cherish childhood, empower students and teachers, deepen educational experience, build foundations, and exhibit my own curiosity and creativity every day here. For this, I am thankful beyond measure.

PS-In case you’re wondering….here are some Currents.

READ: Dare to Lead by Brene Brown. (stop everything and read this book.)

READ: the books of Christopher Paul Curtis (to keep up with 5th and 6th) as well as The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley

LISTEN: Aspen Ideas To Go: How to Lead a More Meaningful Life at Work,  featuring my intellectual guru, Adam Grant

 

 

Currents: Listens & Reads

Listens/Reads

The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham: Anyone who knows my twitter knows I have a huge intellectual crush on Professor Meacham. He is regularly on my preferred morning show and he offers insight and anecdotes to connect our past to our present. This book was a balm in turbulent times. It acknowledges some of the darker parts of our Nation’s history and how we have come through with the guidance of leadership, faith, and risk. I chose to listen to it, despite owning the hardback, and was so glad I did as Dr. Meacham was the narrator for both the introduction and conclusion. I recommend this not only to teachers and students of history, but to all who believe that an informed citizenry is what moves a country forward.

Those Who Can Do Can’t Teach, New York Times, Adam Grant: This article is specifically focused on higher education but I believe it’s message is applicable to k-12 education. It honors the fact that the best teachers aren’t always those for whom things came easy. Those who are so highly successful in their fields cannot necessarily translate their content knowledge to students. This reiterated the need for educators to be life long students of educational practice in addition to our content. Flexibility in learning and growing is a key trait to teaching others to learn and grow.

Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast-Creating a Culture of Continual Improvement, Part I: Strong leaders focus on building strong culture. As a leader, we must evaluate strong cultural practices and incorporate good ideas from across the board. A strong leader knows the best ideas for culture do not have to be there own. Andy offers a template for shaping strong culture and once I listen to Part II, I’ll let you know more about strategies for implementing the template.

  1. Name It–“Continuous Improvement”
  2. Brand It–Phrase, idea, sentence, slogan that labels your goal of continuous improvement that becomes of the organizational vernacular. (“Be Together, Not the Same”)
  3. Wear It–Model the characterization of culture. The leader must be seen living the culture. It is what a leader does that makes all the difference.
  4. Teach It–You have to intentionally and consistently teach what you want within the culture of an organization.
  5. Institutionalize It–Make it a regular part of your organization. Make habits for continual improvement
  6. Recognize It-When you see it, reward it.

Kid Reads

Part of my new role includes the bonus of getting to read to kiddos every week. I’ve had a blast sharing great books with kids. Here are a few I’ve shared to start the year.

Have a great day in your world! No matter what you do or where you go, remember to be kind.

Currents: Listens & Reads

Listens

I have been a fan of the Indigo Girls since the 90’s and their new album with the University of Colorado Symphony is simply delicious. If you need a good car jam or a soul revival…check it out. (PS-so excited to see them live at Chastain Park for my birthday present to myself.)

the hate u give (audiobook): I tried this book when it first came out and could not connect to the writing style. My former school is reading this as their faculty read and multiple colleagues suggested I try again. This time, I thought I would go the audiobook route and I’m so glad I did. This book is relevant, challenging, with richly written characters. It is a very good provocation for important and hard conversations. I think it would be an excellent family listen for households with 13+ children. (It has explicit language but nothing an 8th grader hasn’t heard before.)

Reads

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H Pink: One of the selections for Trinity Summer Reads, I read this book using the practice I started recently of reading and listening. I’ve found that this has helped me truly stay connected to non-fiction. I enjoyed some of the anecdotes from this research-rich book. What I found most beneficial was the “Time Hackers Handbook” found at the end of each chapter. I was most drawn to the chapter on Endings as it made both personal and professional connections. I had a lovely moment of convergence in reading this book as he addressed elevation moments. This parallels the themes found in the Heath Bros. The Power of Moments. I can’t wait to see how our faculty draw these types of correlations as they explore what they’ve read this summer.

I finally finished Boundaries for Leaders by Dr. Henry Cloud and I can’t offer enough gratitude for this book. I recommend this book to anyone who is in either formal or informal leadership roles. It offers really practical advice for leading with empathy, self-care, and clear boundaries. As I move into my second division headship, this book is providing a lot of sources of both reflection and inspiration. “Leaders get what they create and what they allow.” This is going to be on the forefront of my mind in the weeks ahead. Thanks to my friend, Kay Sasser Jacoby–it will literally be in front of my eyes.

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This weekend, I’m going to tackle finishing Big Potential by Shawn Achor and also finish a little fiction.