Monday, June 14, 2010

A chance to grow...

Last year I approached my building principal about starting a book club. The main goal of the book club was to help teachers grow both personally and professionally. To my astonishment, not only was my building principal supportive of my idea, he also provided the book club with the financial backing to purchase almost one thousand dollars worth of books.

As I am sure everyone is aware, many Americans and businesses are currently facing financial hardships. Unfortunately, this also includes the school districts in our local communities. To my delight, I received a phone call from my building principal last week to talk about if I had any ideas for new books to read for this year's book club. When asked if there would be professional development funding available for books this year, my building principal responded with a confident "yes." In fact, he was hoping I had some ideas about books we could read so we could get the books ordered before the school year started. This immediately got me thinking about ways to improve upon last year's book club, as well as different types of books that would keep teachers informed about new theories and practices that would ultimately help to make our classroom instruction more effective.

Last year's book club books included: The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, Winning with People by John Maxwell, How Full is your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton, and What Great Teachers do Differently by Todd Whitaker.

I have already begun thinking about next school year's books and so far here is my list: Drive by Daniel Pink, Tribes by Seth Godin, The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon, You don’t Need a Title to be a Leader by Mark Sanborn, and possibly (because I am still reading) Brain Rules by John Medina. I have a few other books in mind which I still need to read, but I would ultimately like to add at least one additional book to next year's list.

After reading these two lists people might say what do some of these books have to do with education? I have been asked this question several times, and my response always centers around what do we expect of teachers, and what do teachers need to know in order to be effective in the classroom? Yes, without doubt some of these books are tailored for the business world and people in leadership positions, but wouldn't we say every single teacher spends every single day in the classroom in a leadership position? Wouldn't we say there are some very real similarities to the business world and the world of education? Granted, there are of course some very big differences, but don't we all have basically the same goal of producing a product that is able to function and meet the demands of our society? Of course I do not agree with referring to students as "products," but in order for educators to be able to do their jobs efficiently and effectively, they need to be well-versed in more than just their content area.

It is my hope that through this book club teachers can grow and develop their own set of skills to provide students the educational foundation from which America has for so long prospered. America's youth deserves a new and improved educational system that embraces change in the pursuit of creating a flexible and visionary workforce prepared to address the needs of a 21st century global economy. In order for this to happen, America needs a flexible and visionary group of teachers to help lead our students toward a future only they can write.