Friday, December 7, 2012

What I've been Reading

Over the course of a year, in addition to articles and blogs that I read and follow, I try to get in as much book reading as I can. Here are some of the books that I've enjoyed this year:

I was curious about the book, Leaders Make the Future, after hearing speakers reference it at the last Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS) conference. In this book, Bob Johanson, from the Institute for the Future, looks at what his institute believes are the five external forces that will make us rethink how we lead our organizations. Because we used a similar way to look at our strategic planning process at Greensboro Day School, I was engaged right from the start. Whether we acknowledge them or not, the external forces Johanson shares are causing schools to rethink how they teach, what they teach, and how they help students to become tomorrow’s leaders. You can learn more about the work of the IFTF at:

I was immediately attracted to The Connected Educator, Learning and Leading in a Digital Age, because we are a 1:1 laptop school, and being connected is a critical part of our 6-12 program. Helping our teachers learn how to safely utilize the internet and use personal learning networks and blogs to expand their professional learning communities parallels the kind of networks we expect our students to develop. The authors, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall go into great detail about the power of diverse learning environments, connected learning communities, and how to improve teacher professional growth and development.

If you are an independent school educator and you’ve not yet read the NAIS Trendbook, you’re missing out on building a context for the challenges independent schools are facing today and will be facing in the very near future. We used it as a platform for our last administrative retreat when we looked at the potential threats and opportunities we face in the attraction and retention of students.

The Vendee Globe race comes around every four years and challenges solo sailors to sail 60-foot boats non-stop and unaided around the world. While 3,000 mountaineers have climbed Mt. Everest, only 50 sailors have ever completed this race, and the dropout rate averages 50% due primarily to equipment failure from the skippers pushing the boats too hard. The race is currently underway and you can see how the sailors are doing here.  Note that seven have already had to drop out.
Rich Wilson, a competitor in the 2008 Vendee Globe recounts his harrowing experience in his book, Race, France to France, Leave Antarctica to Starboard. His story is one of true courage and heroism as he rounds both major capes, and sails the southern ocean where the International Space Station houses the next closest human. I have a particular love for this book, as I raced competitively on San Francisco Bay and have a deep respect for the extreme difficulty of accomplishing what these sailors attempt.

Our school is taking on a three year ethical development program with the Institute for Global Ethics and we are reading How Good People Make Tough Choices and Moral Courage by Rushworth Kidder. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading both of these books because they eloquently outline why it’s so frequently difficult to make choices about the right thing to do. Kidder points out that very few of the choices we make are right vs. wrong decisions, which are rather easy to make. The tough ones are the right vs. right choices we have to make almost daily. These choices include those that bring into conflict loyalty and truth, the rights and needs of the individual and the community, short-term and long-term consequences, justice and mercy. Both of these books make us examine our values and offer a method that we can learn and teach our students for making good choices. The writing is deep and thorough providing terrific guidance in decision making for all of us.

Michelle Bostian, our LS counselor, is heading up our work, and you can learn more about what we are doing by visiting our Bengal Talk blog.

As you can imagine, my bed stand is stacked high with more books to read!

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