stack of books on table

*This post was originally written by Toni Riester-Wood, one of our previous colleagues at Stetson & Associates. 

Just in time for Holiday Shopping!

While I love to get lost in the drama of an intricate and finely written crime novel, nothing invigorates me more than researching a professional question. My daughter thinks that I need to get a life, but what I’ve come to realize is that this IS my life! For me, professional literature- journals, books and blogs, etc. hold the key to learning, solving, making connections and progress with just about anything- even raising teenagers! So, you can imagine my delight that I have the opportunity to share what I think educators MUST read!

In preparation, I studied the stack of books on my bedside table. My stack is easily captured in three categories: Anchor (timeless, philosophical), Themed (focused, targeted topics) and Tactical (specific strategies, ideas). Interestingly, many books and articles are not specific to K-12 education, yet are perfectly applicable to our context, and vice versa.  Learning and leading – with a moral purpose, it seems are not reserved for public education; it is our human condition.  Thus, in education we have powerful prospect, opportunity and responsibility.

Anchor Stack:

1. Parker J. Palmer’s Stories of The Courage to Teach, Honoring the Teacher’s Heart, (2002). Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.

I have read this book, but not cover to cover. Rather, I look to it for timeless spirit, grace, strength and courage to face some of the most difficult challenges in public education. The work of teaching can deplete your soul; this book beautifully features teachers as cultural heroes, highlighting – through educators’ stories, the integrity and importance of our work. Organized by themes, this book should be read by anyone worried about the future and potential role (or missed opportunity?) of public education.
courage to teach book cover

Themed Stack:

2. Michael Fullan’s Leadership and Sustainability, System Thinkers in Action, (2005). Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, CA.

This is one of my favorites – in fact, I am currently reading it for the second time. One of the best features is that it’s relatively small – only 104 pages, yet it is packed with research, observations, stories from current practitioners and crisp insights.  He is spot-on with the knotty issues of developing and sustaining big-picture, system-thinkers, to work in concert toward what he calls “cyclical energizing”.  His writing is clear, honest and practical; comprehensive and human.  Take for example Fullan’s definition of systems sustainability: “the capacity of a system to engage in the complexities of continuous improvement consistent with deep values of human purpose.” Perhaps now you understand why I am reading it for the second time!  The book dives into his “eight elements of sustainability” and the adaptive challenges inherent in transforming real systems, while also being transformed by the system.
leadership and sustainability book cover
3. Michael Fullan’s Motion Leadership; The Skinny on Becoming change Savvy, (2010). Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Obviously, I am a Fullan Fan!  This is his most recent “booklet” and again, it’s a small gem (78 pages) that packs a punch! This book is about reaching more at deeper levels because, “you can’t workshop the world”! Fullan’s notion of “the skinny” is completely captured in his term: “simplexity”– finding the smallest number of high-leverage, easy-to-understand actions that unleash stunningly powerful consequences. To master “the skinny” is to   accelerate the speed and quality of change, for large scale reform.
motion leadership book cover

Tactical Stack:

4.  The Overpressured Student, Richard Weissbourd, Educational Leadership, May 2011, Volume 68, Number 8, pages 22-27. Adapted from his book: The Parents We Mean to Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children’s Moral and Emotional Development (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009).

In a culture of immense pressure from parents for their children to get into elite colleges this article explores the emotional and moral toll of cultivating “performance machines”. Schools that are able to balance social, emotional, ethical and academic priorities- with parents as partners, have the best chance of avoiding this trap.
the parents we mean to be book cover
5.  Service for Learning, Rahima Wade, Educational Leadership, May 2011, Volume 68, Number 8, pages 28-31.

This article looks at service learning as a way to help the community while at the same time-build community, in ever-increasing diverse U.S. neighborhoods and schools.  Not only does this article feature the benefits of service (boosting student self-esteem, teaching social responsibility, developing empathy, for example), and lists a number of project ideas that directly support literacy and math learning for our youngest to most sophisticated students.

rahima wade

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