What I’ve read & learned | January 2019

I recently read a post by my friend, Jen Orr. She posted links to and summarized the things she’s read in the last month that impacted here.

I made a goal to read more in 2019 (2018 was taken over by reading/writing for graduate school, but now I’m back to reading what I choose!) and to pay attention and read works from diverse authors and perspectives. I’ve read so many books and articles and stories that come from a perspective just like mine – how does that grow and stretch me!? So I’m going to hold myself accountable, share what I read and post about it at the end of each month here. My hope is that you find value in it, that you (like I did with Jen’s post) take time to check out the authors and stories that I share and that the perspectives you are inviting into your learning expand as well.

We Got This by Cornelius Minor provides clear explanations and examples about the structures that exclude students from learning and success in our schools. But he doesn’t stop there – he provides concrete strategies to examine our practices, plan our lessons and take action like the super heroes our students need us to be. This book feels like a handbook with exercises to examine your own mindsets, activities and practices to start right now to make a change. No longer is this about what our students are faced with. This is about what can we influence and change to make the change our students need.

The #ClearTheAir chats organized by Valeria Brown have been transformative for me. She selects a book and facilitates a conversation about the topic to push the thinking of all who participate. This fall our book was White Rage by Dr. Carol Anderson. This book has caused me to re-examine that history that I learned (that I was taught) and look more closely for motives and reasons. I couldn’t recommend this book more!

Brene Brown writes so beautifully and provide statements that guide our actions as we work to lead other people in Dare to Lead. This book resonated with me in so many ways. I’ve just finished a degree in Educational Leadership and there are so many lessons to take away. Two that really got to me and that I’ve been sitting with are the importance of clarity – “Clear is Kind. Unclear is unkind. Most of us avoid being clear because we feel like it’s the kind thing to do. But really it’s quite unkind, unproductive and unfair.” Also, “We can’t do our jobs when we own other people emotions or try to take responsibility for them as a way to control behaviors.” YES.

Creating Cultures of Thinking by Ron Ritchart is the book that my professional learning cohort chose to read. Our goal is to plan, teach and assess Portrait of a Graduate skills in our classroom. What’s different about how I read this book is that each member of our cohort took one chapter, read it deeply and explained with examples to the rest of the group. What felt so powerful is that after hearing what my colleagues valued from this book, I wanted to make the time read and re-read each section to find those areas that impact my own professional practice. What Ritchart does so effortlessly is weave the explanation with real examples from classrooms, which makes transfer for educators possible.

I have a couple of bonus items for you.

First, I read White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo this summer as part of Valeria Brown’s #ClearTheAir chat. This book is sooo important. As we begin speaking out (and it’s about time we are ALL speaking out) about injustice, inequality and the need for action and awareness, this book gives reasons and language to do just that. What are people thinking that causes them to not see what you see? What perspectives are you missing? How do you approach these conversations and more.

White Rage started me down the path of questioning what I didn’t learn in history… what other stories did I learn only the stories “of the victor” or not at all. I’ve been listening to some podcasts that brought more of the full story to light. I was stunned by the stories from Nixon’s campaign and the parallels to 2016 and today. I listened first to Bag Man, a podcast from Rachel Maddow telling the story of Spiro Agnew and the case of corruption that was overshadowed by the bigger case of corruption. Wow. Which led me to Slow Burn – in the first season Leon Neyfahk tells the story about the Nixon Watergate scandal and in the second season the Clinton Lewinsky affair. I want to find more of these real stories of history – not the textbook or media versions. Do you have suggestions for additional podcasts for me?

Right now I’m listening to Scene On Radio: Seeing White. This is the second season from John Biewen. He and regular commentator Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika examine historical context for race (it’s a social construct), what science has to say, stories of race being used to shape and change neighborhoods and more. I’m currently halfway through this series and I look forward to my commute to and from work (and meetings and schools) so I can continue to listen to this thoughtful and thought provoking series about race.

Up next for me…. finishing the Seeing White series and listening to the other two series from Scene On Radio.

My next book (that I’ve just only started) is Not Light, But Fire by Matthew R. Kay which comes highly recommended from several friends. I’ll be sure to report back in February.

I’m also digging in to Me and White Supremacy Workbook by Layla F Saad. I have a group of friends who push me to read and discuss and I’m so thankful for them!


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