Must-Reads, Professional Development, School Design

BOMish: July 2018 {“The New School Rules”}

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How’s that personal professional development going, friends?

In the midst of my final days of graduate school, in which I want nothing more than to sleep and eat an unsafe amount of chocolate truffles, I’m still keeping the practice of reading.

I’ll admit– I’m cheating a bit this month.

This month’s BOMish was one of my choice-books for my final class. Nevertheless, it’s a book! A compelling one, at that, rife with lessons I’ll take with me, and another chance to walk my walk and keep reading for my own sake.

The NEW School Rules: 6 Vital Practices for Thriving and Responsive Schools (Anthony Kim & Alexis Gonzalez-Black)

Photo from
  • The Stats: 216 Pages, published February 2018
  • Who Should Read It: School administrators, school designers
  • My Rating (out of 5 ♥): ♥♥♥.5
  • My Thoughts: If you’ve ever found yourself checking the clock during a faculty meeting, willing the seconds to propel forward as you listen to an unproductive argument rooted in excuses and unnecessary power dynamics, this book is a breath of hope. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a strategic plan that seems impractical, patronizing, and woefully inappropriate, this book shows the light! 

The New School Rules offers six practices that help improve school structure, design, and overall effectiveness from an administrative perspective. The practices (Planning, Teaming, Managing Roles, Decision-Making, Sharing Information, and Learning Organization) are research-based strategies and are presented alongside realistic case studies, which include the problems, the learning, and helpful resources. The website is the perfect companion to the book and offers a rich supply of tools, workouts, and exercises for applying the rules in real-time.

I found myself nodding along several times in this book and having a few “aha!” moments, such as when planning, start small and plan for pivot-points. Or reinventing meeting structures, whereby most of the preparation is done by individuals before the meeting, rather than spending time listening to the moderator review the entire schedule.

Along with some aggressive head-nodding, I also left the book wondering how well certain ideas would work in a school, as they smelled more of a non-profit or start-up flavor, than that of an education setting. In a school setting, the majority of roles are already pre-assigned at the time of hiring. For instance, if I’m hired to be a middle school teacher, the bulk of my job will be… teaching middle school. The additional roles will generally be ancillary, and I’m curious how the Managing Roles and Teaming strategies will be received and/or adapted by school leaders as this book finds itself in schools. 

Ultimately, I’m curious about the reception of this book and its practicality and application to schools. I left it abuzz with ideas but also with equal measure of questions of its depth of relevancy to a school. The rules and simplification found on the website are dangerously tempting to be used as quickie (easily forgotten) professional development sessions and not for grander structural overhauls– which the book suggests are necessary for a school to be more responsive. 

Certainly worth a read, and I look forward to seeing further versions, adaptations, and ideas as schools take it on.

Have you read The New School Rules? 

Are these rules appropriate for your school setting? 

What rule do you think is most important for your school? Least? 

Must-Reads, Professional Development

BOMish: March 2018 {“The Reason I Jump”}

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Here we are- another month and another reason to take charge of our own professional development!

New here? Check out how I find the time to read, and more importantly, why I make time read.

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old-Boy with Autism (Naoki Higashida)

Photo from Penguin House Publishing
  • The Stats: 208 Pages, March 2016
  • Who Should Read It: All teachers, administrators, parents, and kids
  • My Rating (out of 5 ♥): ♥♥♥♥♥
  • My Thoughts: I can’t rave enough about this book and the profound effect it had on my understanding of autism. This book is a collaboration of a teenage boy with severe autism who struggled to communicate verbally and in written word until his mother developed an inventive way for Naoki in a handmade alphabet. Like a blind person who can see for the first time, Naoki’s ability to communicate is powerful. The book is written in a Q&A format with enrapturing short stories written by Naoki woven throughout. The text is a candid narrative of a boy who earnestly sees the disconnect in his autism-driven behavior cotnrasting the way he wants to be in a moment-to-moment basis. Naoki’s creativity, poignant honesty on his daily struggles, analysis on his behavior and vivid descriptions of beauty make me want to wrap him in a hug. Naoki is so insightful, humorous, and exceptionally reflective on his behavior. He provides tips and advice on how people with autism may be enveloped with empathy, gentleness, and an unequivocal sense of belonging. Naoki’s next book “Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight” is already on my to-read list. 

Have you read “The Reason I Jump”?

What’s next on your list?

What are other must-reads for autism?

Must-Reads, Professional Development

BOMish: January 2018 {“Work It”}

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I promise you have time to read. Heck, you’re doing it right now! 

I get it. Reading takes time, yet, I assure you, busy educator: it can be done!

I’m an avid reader, which really means I’m an avid time manager. How do I find the time to read? It’s a combination of planning and taking the opportunity.

How do you find the time?

I keep a book in my bag at all times, ensure my OverDrive always has at least one audiobook in the queue, and then… I just read. I admit, it took a minute to re-train my brain to not immediately go to my phone and mindlessly scroll the news and other’s (generally inaccurate) interpretations of the news. But there’s truly only so much saturation and rage one can take in regards to current events and corrupt leadership, and at a certain point, an unproductive threshold is crossed.

Enter: books! A fantastic, old-fashioned way to inform yourself, stay current, subconsciously improve your lexicon, and even (dare I say) relax.

The better question is: WHY do you find the time? 

Even though we know reading is good for us, we find many reasons to fill our time doing other stuff because as educators, our jobs require so much.

I treated reading as a luxury (my me-time-in-a-bubble-bath kind of luxury) until a wise graduate school instructor, Dan Kerr, said something that radically shifted my perspective to the utter necessity of reading. In class, one hot July afternoon in Madrid, he dropped a truth bomb on us young, eager educators:

“You are responsible for your professional development.”

My immediate internal reaction was that knee-jerk, millennial-flavored entitlement I’ve been steeped in since finishing my undergraduate degree in the U.S. 2009 economic recession. I thought some not-so-kind thoughts about how, “well, actually, I am entitled to this type of training and this kind of workshop because I’m supposed to be doing this at my job, but how would I ever know how to do that without proper training, and it’s not  f a i r …” (sometimes my subconsciousness is a total brat, especially when guarding my insecurities).

But, after a minute, I conceded that Dan had a brilliant point. If I want to learn more about fill-in-the-blank, what was stopping me from actually learning it? Do I truly need a schmoozy conference with an already-cold buffet dinner at a flashy school to tell me something effective that’s happening in the education world and how I might uniquely apply it? Not necessarily.

While I do love a good conference, I argue that it’s necessary as an educator to inspire myself beyond these opportunities and keep current on my own. Frankly, I need to bring myself to the learning, rather than passively being informed about best practices via conferences and workshops. If I want to be a good teacher, colleague, and mentor, it’s essential I’m doing my due diligence, daily which, granted, take a bit more digging and a bit more time. And if it’s true for me, it’s likely true for a lot of educators.

I feel so strongly about this, in fact, that I believe time spent reading is something that should unquestionably be budgeted into your to-do list as an educator. Reading for professional development is not a luxury– it’s an essential part of showing up as the best version of yourself as a professional.

Now, let’s get to the books!

What takes me the most time is actually deciding what I want to read, and I often turn to educator blogs and cursory Google searches to find out what I need to be reading. This series, the Book-of-the-Month(ish) or BOMish for short, is returning the favor and hopefully helping another educator sift through an intimidating sea of literature. The reviews are to-the-point and honest, like most feedback is not (jokes!).

My first book has quickly become one of my go-to resources manuals and major inspiration on how to push myself professionally, especially as a woman.

Work It: Secrets for Success From the Boldest Women in Business (Carrie Kerpen)

[Photo from Penguin Random House Publishing]
  • The Stats: 256 Pages, published January 2018
  • Who Should Read It: Women feeling overwhelmed by a male-dominated workplace; new professionals
  • My Rating (out of 5 ♥): ♥♥♥♥
  • My Thoughts: Work It combines practical advice on how to navigate the professional world as a young woman. Kerpin provides a wide range of perspectives from women who have seen success as a result of their own boldness, risk-taking, intuition, and experimentation in a wide range of careers, principally in corporate and entrepreneurial ventures. Yet while the subject matter itself is decidedly absent of any educational theory or practical teaching skills, it’s an invaluable guidebook for young women to learn how to leverage their strengths, confidently contribute in their workplace, network, identify and improve areas of growth, and navigate sticky topics, such as promotions, wages, and moving on from a position. My only critical feedback for this book is that it’s targeted for large corporations and operates on the assumption that a job’s wages, perks, and position are always highly negotiable (less so in education world)… and that it wasn’t published when I was 23 and entering my career. I finished this book feeling inspired and full of ideas on how to work it in my own way.