Wisdom of Heads XI

“The more that you READ, the more things you will KNOW. The more that you LEARN, the more places you’ll GO. “ Dr. Seuss

The article below is an extract from ‘Wisdom of Heads: short advice for school leaders’ available in paperback and ebook form here (Amazon US), here (Amazon UK) or here (iBooks). More details here.

We encourage children to do it, but how often do we do it ourselves?

As teachers and school leaders we read. We read a lot. But, how often do we read for ourselves? How often do we read for pleasure?

Fiction or non-fiction, what was the last book you read? More to the point, what was the last book you read with purpose? A book you deliberately chose, actively sought out and devoured.

We know reading is important, but do we devote enough time to it? Many of us do, but not all. And we should.

Mark Manson, an author and prolific reader, quotes his high school English teacher as saying “We read books because we can never know enough people.” It’s one of those pithy truths that you don’t appreciate at the time. We tend to self-select the people in our lives; our friendship groups reflect our shared interests, our views and our experiences. We tend to prefer the company of people who confirm our previously-held beliefs.

Reading breaks us out of this circle.

Reading takes us outside of our own narrow experience and frame of reference.

Books expand our experiences far beyond their natural reach; they transport us into the brains of the author. It’s through books that we glimpse the experiences of others. Reading exercises our empathic muscles — it teaches us to see the world as others do, to understand their views and perspectives, even if we don’t necessarily agree with them or like them.

But the cognitive benefits of reading go far beyond empathy. It increases our ability to communicate, our ability to reason, our creativity, and our ability to see connections between events.

Watching TV makes you passive, social media makes you susceptible to suggestion. You are simply an empty vessel receiving noise. Music, while engaging, is abstract and formless and often occupies the background of our mind, not the contents of it.

Reading, in contrast, is like doing bench presses for the mind.

To help you put in some reading reps, I asked for book recommendations. Review the list below, choose a book that interests you and let it lead you to another…and another. And then when you come to a dead end, come back to the list and start again.

Education-specific books:

Creative Schools (Ken Robinson*)

“Any of his books make worthwhile reading and his TED Talks are pretty much compulsory viewing for any educationalist

Out of our minds; Visible Learning (John Hattie*)

“Or anything else John Hattie has written; his website has plenty of useful information.”

The New Meaning of Educational Change (Michael Fullan)

“The number of editions and reprints is testimony to its influence”

Making Good Progress; Creating the Schools our Children Needs; Inside the Black Box (Dylan William*)

“Seminal. Dylan William changed the way we think about assessment”

A Desolation of Learning (Chris Woodhead)

“Love him or loathe him.”

Teach Like a Champion 2.0 (Doug Lemov)

Transforming Schools (John M Anderson and Miranda Jeffers)

The Courage to Teach (Parker Palmer)

To Know as We are Known; Democracy and Education/Experience and Education (John Dewey)

World Class: tackling the ten biggest challenges facing schools today (David James and Ian Warwick)

Qualities of Effective Principals (James Stronge, Holly Richard, and Nancy Catano)

Culture Counts: changing power relations in education (Russell Bishop and Ted Glynn)

The Challenges of Educational Leadership (Mike Bottery)

“Heavy on the theory, but very useful for anyone doing Doctoral level study”

Clever Lands (Lucy Crehan)

“One women’s tale of a round the world educational adventure. She visited schools, and lived with teachers, in five countries. Essential reading for international school teachers.”

* John Hattie, Ken Robinson and Dylan William were mentioned by numerous contributors. These books are worthy of reading if only to be able to join the conversation.

General Comments/Recommendations:

‘The ‘First 90 Days’ by Michael D. Watkins has an excellent chapter about the different leadership challenges we face. It reinforced to me how important it is to identify what the specific needs of a leadership role are and how adaptive you may need to be as a result, rather than acting in the same way as in previous roles.”

“Anything by John Tomsett and also his blog. John West Burnman’s books are also very good.”

“Too many to mention but Andy Hargreaves ‘Sustainable leadership’ I particularly enjoyed, especially the first chapter.”

“No one book; educational leadership has so many areas to cover.”

“I would recommend a broad list encompassing many different views of leadership. Alex Ferguson’s autobiography has stood out, of late.”

Switch Off

Watching TV makes you passive, social media makes you susceptible to suggestion. You are simply an empty vessel receiving noise. Music, while engaging, is abstract and formless and often occupies the background of our mind, not the contents of it.

Reading, in contrast, is like doing bench presses for the mind.

To help you put in some reading reps, review the list below, choose a book that interests you and let it lead you to another…and another. And then when you come to a dead end, come back to the list and start again.

Wise Words from Wise Heads

The full ‘Wisdom of Heads’ book can be purchased here (Amazon US), here (Amazon UK) or here (iBooks).

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Educationalist. Writer. Sharing (hopefully wise) words on school leadership and management.

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Dr Denry Machin

Educationalist. Writer. Sharing (hopefully wise) words on school leadership and management.