"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." ~Oscar Wilde
Summer break is just days away, and many educators have made plans to catch up on the pleasures that had to be postponed during the school year—joys such as sleeping, traveling, and reading.
Here are some suggestions for books to add to your summer reading list. These suggestions were generated by newly trained CFG coaches and experienced facilitators who were responding to the prompt "Name a book that has changed your practice."
Sent to the Principal by Kathleen Cushman
"I sent a copy to my principal because it got me to listen to what the students think about school and how to make it a better experience. Perspective."
Other People's Children by Lisa Delpit
"A cultural approach to learning/living and adapting to new cultures—with the added reflection on one’s own practice."
Getting Started: Reculturing Schools to Become Professional Learning Communities by Robert Eaker, Richard Dufour and Rebecca Dufour
"Though it was speaking of reform, the behaviors, attitudes and conditions are what my foundational practice was built [on]. I’ve been to the mountain top."
For more suggestions, see these entries on the blog Donna's Reflections:
"Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled 'This could change your life.'" ~Helen Exley
"To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting." ~Edmund Burke
Sometimes a faculty will agree to all read the same book over the summer break to build up shared experiences and shared vocabulary. The "Three Levels of Text" protocol works well with short articles as well as longer books. It helps readers "digest" the text and make connections with their own practice. You can use it by itself or as a prelude to a more in depth text-based discussion when you return in the fall.
"The wise man reads both books and life itself." ~Lin Yutang
Dear Donna: My CFG really likes the protocols Descriptive Review and Collaborative Assessment Conference. Even though we use these protocols several times a year, some members still can't resist jumping to evaluations of the work instead of sticking with the purely descriptive comments. Will they ever learn? I am getting irritated with them, and they are getting irritated with me for saying "What do you see in the work that makes you say that?" over and over again.
--DAUNTED BY THE DESCRIPTIONS
Dear Coach: Learning to withhold judgment is certainly one of the more difficult skills for protocol participants to learn. For this response, I consulted with The Facilitator's Book of Questions: Tools for Looking Together at Student and Teacher Work by David Allen and Tina Blythe. This is the "blue book" that you probably received at your new coach training if you were trained by the Houston A+ Challenge after 2004.
Allen and Blythe remind us that we facilitators can preempt such problems by addressing the issue before the protocol begins. Take a couple of minutes to model and review the distinctions among observation, description, interpretation, and evaluation. You can also warn the participants that judgments are likely to creep in and agree on a facilitator comment that will steer the conversation back to description. Perhaps your group can come up with a variety of comments to replace the irritating "What do you see in the work that makes you say that?"
Finally, perhaps these words will give you some more confidence: "Of course, the goal of a protocol isn't to have participants reading off a script or biting their tongues rather than risk a comment or question that isn't precisely what the protocol calls for. The point is to have a productive discussion, not a perfectly executed protocol. . . . Fortunately, all protocols have a certain amount of give built in, and a small number of off-topic comments are unlikely to derail the whole process" (Allen & Blythe, 2004, p. 104).
If you have questions for Dear Donna, send them to CFGCoach@houstonaplus.org. Donna Reid is a Houston-based National CFG Facilitator and a consultant with Houston A+ Challenge.