On My Nightstand: Books Prizmah Staff Are Reading
The Mystics of Mile End
by Sigal Samuel
This novel brings us siblings Lev and Samara Mayer in Montreal’s old Jewish neighborhood, Mile End. Covering a span of 15 years, this engrossing story is told from the viewpoints of the siblings, their father and their Holocaust survivor neighbor Chaim Glassman. These alternate viewpoints enable the reader to appreciate different aspects of each character’s struggle and growth. The compelling narrative brings together these different vantage points, giving the reader a complete picture of each situation by the end of the novel. With the exploration of the Tree of Life at the center of the tale, the story weaves through the themes of secrets, silence, faith and reason as the characters deal with life’s challenges and a major tragedy. The characters find their own journey through these challenges, while ultimately working to break the bonds of silence and finding their way back to each other.
Curriculum 21: Essential Education in a Changing World
edited by Heidi Hayes Jacobs
Every once in a while, a book comes along that changes your (professional) world. Curriculum 21 was that book for me. It verbalized and connected many of the ideas around 21st century teaching and learning that I was investigating in my school. Hayes Jacobs’ words resonated deeply with me: “A school does not need reform—it needs new forms.” The book takes a closer look at what it means to be educated in the 21st century and acknowledges, “New essential curriculum will need revision—actual replacements of dated content, skills, and assessments with more timely choices.” With practical ideas around upgrading content, assessment types and skills, global, media, network and information literacies as well as digital portfolios, sustainability and rethinking curriculum, the book is just as relevant today as when I first read it in 2010. Heidi and her co-authors’ approach, with a distinction between a “growth model” and a “change model” for school culture, continues to encourage me to keep researching, designing, prototyping, testing, refining and finding new forms of teaching and learning that will prepare our students for their future and not our past.
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
by Angela Duckworth
I wish I had a dime for every time a parent told me what great potential their child had, and if only the teacher could make them reach it. In Grit, Duckworth shows what all educators know, that aptitude does not always equal achievement. The book gives many examples of how effort surpasses talent, how being the brightest does not always make you the best and how grit enhances character. As educators we understand the power of failure, but how do we show others that value? Grit celebrates the challenge to take a risk, to keep going after failure and show your passion. Reading Duckworth’s stories will give us the courage to help students pursue their passions, embrace the act of learning, and know they have a partner in being held to the highest of standards.
Lost at School
by Ross Greene
My first year of teaching was an epic failure. I had been hired, I believe, because the kids really liked me during my model lesson. After my initial charm wore off and the sheen of my “edutainment” began to tarnish, it became harder and harder for me to control my students. Granted, I had a class that was populated by some of the more “difficult” boys in the school. Every day I wondered what was wrong with those kids. Years later, I realized that there was nothing “wrong” with those kids; the deficit was mine. And it wasn’t primarily a lack of training in classroom management or lesson design (both of which were true, as well). It was a mistake of disposition.
Dr. Greene lays out a novel conceptual framework for understanding kids who misbehave. His notion is simple: Kids do well if they can. Kids who exhibit “maladaptive” behavior in school are not seeking attention, unmotivated, or “testing limits.” Rather, they simply lack the skills to behave adaptively. Drawing on research, Greene offers suggestions for how to help our students learn to behave adaptively in school and beyond. A critical read for all teachers and school leaders who work with teachers, Lost at School will help you develop a different approach to that boy who just threw his chair and flipped over his desk in class (which happened to me).