Summer is here and it is always a time for reflection and renewal. Although this summer is especially busy for me this year, I still plan to take time to read for my own professional growth and development. Here are a few books I return to over and over again:
The Skeptical Visionary: A Seymour Sarason Education Reader. (2003). Edited by Robert L. Fried. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
This book was recommended to me by Debbie Meyer back in the winter and I ordered it online. When it arrived, I was a little intimidated. It looked like one of those books you were assigned to read in graduate school but never did. Still, when I opened the first chapter and read Sarason’s ideas about school reform and the dynamics of power that get in the way both in the classroom between teacher and student, and between teachers and administrators, I was hooked. Sarason’s clear insights and passion for children have helped me rethink classroom dynamics and school culture. His work has great implications for school reform efforts.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. (2006). Carol S. Dweck. New York: Random House.
Dweck describes two mindsets. The fixed mindset believes that intelligence is fixed and cannot change. The growth mindset believes that you can get smarter through effective effort. She outlines the theory and shows you how to change your own mindset to a growth mindset and how to help your students do the same. This is a vital book for helping raise expectations of yourself and your students and was crucial to helping me develop the idea that good teaching can be taught and that any teacher can achieve mastery at the craft with the right kind of effort. I learn something new each time I read it.
Outliers: The Story of Success. (2009). Malcolm Gladwell. New York: Little Brown.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a giant crush on Malcolm Gladwell. I just love the way his mind works. His first two books The Tipping Point and Blink occupy sacred space on my bookshelf but his latest book Outliers has direct implications for educators. A masterful storyteller, Gladwell attempts to explode the mythology surrounding our ideas about success and shows that success is at least as much about context, circumstances, and access to resources as it is about individual talent and ambition. I couldn’t put this book down and can’t wait to read it again.
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. (2007). Chip Heath and Dan Heath. New York: Random House.
Why do some ideas stick and other equally good ideas go forgotten? That is the question that Chip and Dan Heath attempt to answer in Made to Stick. They outline seven principles for creating a sticky message and show you step-by-step how to craft a message that people will not only remember but will act on. After you read their book, check out their website at www.madetostick.com for a free resource for teachers called Teaching that Sticks.
The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. (1998). Parker J. Palmer. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Whenever I need to be inspired and reminded about why it is that we teach, I turn to Palmer’s book. He reminds me that I need to be fully present, that my role is to facilitate rather than dictate, and that good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher. Although Palmer is a college professor, his classroom examples resonate and help me recall my own experiences with students.
In addition to these old favorites, here are some new books I plan to check out this summer:
The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking. (2007). Roger Martin. New York: Random House.
Martin shows that the best leaders don’t make “either-or” decisions. Instead they look at the situation as a whole and create a solution that is “both-and.”
Proust Was a Neuroscientist. (2007). Jonah Lehrer. Boston: Mariner Books.
Lehrer shows how certain 19th and 20th century artists ad novelists discovered an essential truth about the mind long before it was “discovered” by neuroscience. It’s a great way to look at how the brain works and I plan to pair it with Pat Wolfe’s Brain Matters: Translating research into Classroom Practice as a comprehensive way of getting my head around brain research. Sounds heavy but Lehrer’s easy writing style makes for a gripping and engaging read and Wolfe’s comprehensive look at brain research will help me think of the educational applications.
What will you be reading this summer?
Note: All citations are in RRJ format.