Two “business” books that have something to say that teachers need to hear

Soapbox moment: The term “business book” troubles me because the category unnecessarily creates a degree of separation from industries (such as education) that sorely need to learn what some of the world’s great thinkers are thinking. What if we called them “insight books.” Perhaps they would wind up in teachers’ stockings around the holidays. End of moment.

Now to the books.

The brain is a thinking tool, not a storage device. -David Allen

David Allen, Getting Things Done.

Reason why teachers should read it:

  1. Teachers fill a number of positions for which they receive no formal training (budget forecasting, project management, etc.). Aside from the obvious learning gaps this presents, teachers need superb organizational skills which are largely “solved” with a visit to the Container Store. David Allen’s productivity methodology, if part of the common PD profile for teachers, would allow teachers to free up their psychic RAM (the words of the author) so that they may do the “real work”–realizing the best educational outcomes for their kids.
  2. The premise itself behind the need for GTD productivity methodology (and recently reiterated by the author during his interview on the Simplify podcast). If we took this axiom with us to planning meetings, parent meetings, PLC meetings, I suspect the decisions we make around curriculum and assessment design would see significant changes.

Kerry Patterson, et al., Crucial Conversations

Reasons why teachers should read it:

  1. Two truths about schools: they are hierarchical and they are siloed. This combination makes change difficult. The change that most impacts schools is not of the technical or mechanical sort; it is deeply linked to individual teacher philosophy and identity. (“I’m a traditional/progressive/strict/caring teacher.”)
  2. Although a hierarchy exists in schools, real change happens laterally–between teachers. In order to grow and to grow others, we need to learn the currency of communication. Crucial Conversations equips the reader with the mindset and the tactical skills to enter into a conversation with respect and purpose. Respect keeps the conversation going, but purpose will lead to actual change.

“Are we there yet?” : Dealing with Organizational Change

I remember countless times sitting in the back of my parents’ mid-70’s Audi Fox enduring the many discomforts of long-distance travel.

  • hot leather seats with no A/C – Dad’s solution to everything was “open the window.”
  • sitting on “the hump” – I was the youngest of three, so I took the cards I was dealt
  • The only person with knowledge about our destination had his hands on the steering wheel. And odds are, he was fuming.

The first two are probably vestiges of a by-gone era, but the third item on this list is something most of us feeling when our employer is embroiled in long-term change.

Your organization may not be fuming, but their attention is somewhere other than, “How can I communicate this change initiative to this guy?” More likely, they are considering the appeal to all constituencies, knowing that they won’t please everybody, they are calculating the likelihood of success or what partial success might look like (and how to spin partial success as overwhelming success), and how this change might affect the culture of the organization as a whole.

They are not considering your personal opinion.

“But wait, I’m a trusted thought leader in my…”

Stop, they are not considering your personal opinion.

“Yeah, but I’m a veteran of this organization with 43 years of…”

Eh-eh-eh. Stop. They are not considering your personal opinion.

“Ok, hot shot. I’ve got my whole department under my thumb. So if they don’t listen to me I’m gonna…”

No, no, no. Sorry. They are not considering your personal opinion.

Nor should they.

For the life of me, I cannot remember who offered up this idea, but it came from a conversation about organizational change, and I’m going to botch the quote, but here goes:

An organization is a not a collection of individuals. It is a third thing, a combination of the self, of individuals, which creates a third entity out of the emergence of the same. It is one plus one equaling three. And that’s why organizations are so complex.

Should vocational education be a part of plain, old education?

I was reading an interesting New York Times article by Christina Hoff Sommers about how grading practices create a bias that affects male academic success.  Interesting stuff, but what causes me to write today is the mention of a word that I haven’t heard since my days in Rappahannock County, VA: vocational education.

Since I was young the term “Vo-Tech” or vocational education has been synonymous with “remedial”–trade-oriented learning for the kids for whom traditional education is not a good fit.  But the increased attention toward “work-readiness” and project-based learning makes me wonder if vocational education can point us in a slightly different direction.  Can science students learn about volume and pressure by learning about how an engine functions (and comes to not function, as my 1980 Datsun 510 once taught me)?

What can we learn from vocational education as we prepare the classrooms of the next 50 years?

Just how hard is “integrated studies” anyway?

As Co-director of PLCs in the Junior High, I have the exciting privilege (and obligation) to participate in each of the school’s PLCs: English, Math/Science, History, and Language.  Thursday was my first opportunity to observe another PLC in this capacity, and my very first visit to the History PLC.  Within the first few minutes I experienced what I had assumed I would have to wait weeks for: a common thread. Continue reading “Just how hard is “integrated studies” anyway?”

Experiment: Wordclouding our institutions

Whoops.  I wrote this a while ago and it sat in the Drafts folder until now.  This little activity was a lot of fun.  I recommend it to anyone:

A few days ago I sat in a session at the Lausanne Laptop Institute and learned about Tagxedo, an entertaining gadget that allows one to create word clouds using any shape imaginable.  The presenter encouraged us to tinker, so tinker I did.  I pulled up my school’s Mission and Philosophy Statement and our recently penned Learning for Life Vision Statement.  I was delighted by what I found: Continue reading “Experiment: Wordclouding our institutions”