Our Annual Summer Reading List


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You're listening to School Leadership Reimagined episode number 159.

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Hey, builders, welcome to another episode of the school leadership reimagined podcast. I'm your host, Robyn Jackson.

And today is one of our most popular episodes that we do every single year. That's right, we're going to be doing the 2022 summer reading list. And this list is a good one. And I was worried because last year is less, you know slim pickins. But this year, I've read some really incredible books that have have have shifted my thinking and and broaden my horizons and have really given me some good insight to what we need to be doing right now as educators.

So for those of you who are new to the summer reading list, every single year, I pick five books or so that are not related to education. So they're not education books, they're outside of education, sometimes their business books or sociology books or you know other things, but they're outside of education, but that I think have real implications for us as educators. You see, if we just stayed inside of our kind of education bubble, we miss a lot of the really innovative and interesting ideas that are outside of education that really could inform our work. So I read a whole bunch and I picked five of my favorite five that I really think have have have some really interesting things to say about who we are as builders and who we are as educators and can really inform our work and I share those with you and to give you my take on those books so that we're going to be doing that on today's episode.

But before we do that a couple of announcements first announcement is that the door for ticket sales to builders lab has now been closed at this point. We are closing off ticket sales for builders lab we are full and builders lab will be happening at the end of the month. Ah but if you want to come to builders lab and you missed your chat this time don't worry because we're our next builders lab is happening at the end of January 2023 And you can go to mind steps inc.com/builders-lab To get your tickets or to get on the waitlist for when those tickets open up for our January builders lab. So all is not lost another builder slab is coming but if you don't want to wait till January then I would encourage you to join builder ship university.

Because if I have if I can say so myself builder ship University is in credible it is builder slab is great if you are trying to you know quickly get to the root cause of a challenge and kind of get immersed and take a deep dive into the builder Ship Model and think about understanding and applying it to your school. Builders should be University is further The implementation of that model and and build a ship university. When you join a cohort, we walk you through step by step and help you actually implement that model in your school. So when you go to your school and you start out, you don't have a vision build district University, we're going to help you create that vision, we're going to help you facilitate the mission and core values conversation in your school. And then we're going to show you how to align everything that you're currently doing in your school, to your vision, mission and core values. So you the first step in the cohort is for you to get that clarity and that focus and to achieve that for your entire school. From there, we're going to help you start building systems. And the four key systems we're going to start out with are developing a feedback system that helps you get into more classrooms and helps you give people the feedback that actually helps move their practice, we're going to show you how to provide support for individual teachers and for your teachers as a whole, so that you see them growing at least one level in one domain and one year or less, we're going to show you how to set up a an accountability system that doesn't require you to run around and chase check and correct people. But it still ensures that everyone is doing the right work the right way. And we're going to show you how to set up a culture of system where you're constantly auditing your culture, looking for signs of toxicity, and removing that toxicity before it has a chance to infect your culture. And if your culture is already infected, we're going to show you how you can deliberately re engineer your school culture and make it a healthy thriving school culture, you're going to accomplish that within the first six months of being inside a builder ship University.

Now we are doing our last beta cohort in June and you'll see signs you'll hear me talking about next couple of weeks when doors open. Or if you want you can get on the waitlist for our last beta cohort by going to build your ship university.com. Now here's the reason why the beta cohort may be interesting to you. It's the over the last 18 months we've been building builders ship University we've been creating it we we've been very intentional about turning it into some the the best online space for builders ever. And it's a place where you can get support and community. I'm in there every single week doing live coaching, we have a thriving online community. You know, I've been in a lot of Facebook groups lately for principals. And I gotta tell you, it's mean out there. It's so snarky, and I'm so shocked by how mean people are to each other in these free Facebook groups. Inside of build a ship university, you have a safe and curated space, it's not a Facebook, it's not public, you're not vulnerable to being attacked that way. Instead, you have a group where you can bring real challenges, you can get feedback, you can get support we cheer you on, we have a space where we share our wins. And so you can become a part of this thriving community of a builders who are some of the kindest, smartest, most supportive people you will ever be a part of. So build your ship University is amazing. 

And because we are still testing out one or two things, we're offering one more beta cohort and the beta cohort means you can join builder ship University at a reduced rate. And we consider that our pardon our dust rate, right. So you can come in at a reduced rate, and you lock in on that reduced rate for the rest of your membership for as long as your member builders ship University, you'll will never raise the rate on you. And that's our way of saying thank you for coming in early being an early adopter, we're doing one last beta cohort, and that's opening up at the end of June. And if you want to be a part of that beta cohort, then you need to go to builder ship university.com and get your name on the waitlist. I'll also announce here when the tickets go on sale, it's not really tickets when memberships open up for this cohort. And then when you join a cohort, I'll be walking you step by step through the entire process of implementing builder ship in your school. Anyway. So that's coming up, I want you to be aware of that. 

Now let's get to this juicy list. 

So the first book on our list is a book called free to focus a total productivity system to achieve more by doing less. And by Michael Hyatt. Now we actually read this book as a part of what we do in build a ship University. So we build ship University, we read books together from time to time, we do something called Book Club. And then we read the book. And then we get together and talk about the book. And again, we're trying to read books outside of education that we think might inform our work. So we're broadening kind of our horizons. And this is one of the books we read last year and build a ship University. And it's one of the books where I've seen the most implementation with our bu members. And so that's why it's made the list.

This book is pretty straightforward. It talks about how you can be more productive and everybody wants to be more productive. But what I love about this book is that it's not your typical productivity system. So it's not just you know, here's a calendar me as a planner, don't get me wrong, you know, you fell in the planner, as well as this book, but it's not about right Get your to do list down and get the top three things done before noon. And you know, kind of the typical productivity advice. What I love is that he starts out not by talking about specific strategies for being productive, but by helping you create a vision for why you want to be productive. And that's totally in line with what we teach inside of buildings university, you have a vision for your workforce, and the vision drives your work. So you create a productivity vision, why do I want to be so productive, and then he talks about these four different zones of activity that typically kind of look at our day. And they're very similar to kind of the zones of genius idea that you've heard me talk about before. And he talks about that, when you're working. There are things at which you are very proficient, and there are things about what you're very passionate. And so what he does is he says, if you look at the intersection of your own proficiency at something, and you're passionate about it, the four kinds of work you can do, there's work that gets in that what we call the disinterest zone. And that's where you're highly proficient at that work, but you're not passionate about it at all. That's work you do every single day that you're good at, you can do it, but you're not interested in it, the disinterest zone. Then he talks about the drudgery zone. And that's work about what you have no passion, and for which have no productivity. So that feels like drudgery.

Then he talks about work that's in a distraction zone. And I'll be honest, I live, I live in the distraction zone, think about what you're very passionate, but you don't necessarily have the proficiency at. And we spend a lot of time tinkering in the distraction zone. But the zone that he says we need to be trying to spend most of our time in is something he calls the desire zone. And the desire zone is work at what you are both proficient and you're passionate about. And so his productivity system is not about helping you be more productive at everything. But it's really about how do you spend more and more and more of your day in the desire zone. And that's why I like this book over other productivity books. Because it's not about you know, you can be super busy and super productive and efficient at work that really doesn't matter work that isn't important to you or important to your school. And what Michael Hyatt does in this book is he really talks about how do you start spending more and more and more of your time in your desire zone? How do you how do you get efficient at some of the other things or remove yourself from some of the other zones and stop doing that work altogether, so that you can spend more and more time in that desire zone. And so I think that's why the book is really resonated for us inside of building up University. And I think if you are struggling to find time to do work you really want to do this book might help you do that. So again, it is free to focus by Michael Hyatt. 

Alright, the next book that I want to talk about is a book called Compassionate Leadership, how to do hard things in a human way. And it's by Rasmus Hogarth and Jacqueline Carter, Rasmus Hogarth. I hope I'm pronouncing your name correctly. The what attracted me to this book was this title, this idea about compassion and leadership. Now, we're builders here, we're not leaders, so but they don't know yet they have not met me. So they don't know that it should be compassionate build a ship yet. But what I really liked about this book is that it talks about what compassion is, and it talks about it in a very concrete way, not in Oh, you just have to be more compassionate. I don't know what that means. And so what this book does is it helps kind of break down, what does it really mean to be compassionate? And in particular, what does it really mean to be compassionate with people who you supervise or you are, you are leading or building, and they talk about something called wise compassion. And I love this concept of wise compassion, because it's really about four things.

First of all, they say, if you're going to be really compassionate, you have to be fully present. It's hard to be compassionate when you are distracted. So I think a lot of us want to be more compassionate. But wait, you know, when our teachers are stressing out, and we're trying to, you know, kind of keep everything going. A lot of times we don't take time to be fully present, and sit with people in and understand where they're coming from. And so the first step is how can I become more fully present?

The second step is what they call caring courage. And it's about choosing courage over comfort, that being compassionate is not about not doing the hard things. being compassionate is about being fully present understanding where people are, but then having the courage to do the right thing, even if it makes you uncomfortable, even if it makes other people uncomfortable.

The third thing is related to that and it's really about being having candor, but doing it with care. So nowadays people equate Do people who just kind of spat at the mouth and say mean things as as candor, candor does not have to be mean. And what this book talks about is how you can say things and speak the truth, and have candor. But do it in a way that is truly compassionate that that truly shows you care for people, and how you can still be direct. But you can do that in a way that doesn't sacrifice the caring part that doesn't sacrifice the compassion.

And then the last one they talk about is how to be more transparent, we talk a lot about, we gotta be transparent, transparent, you need to be transparent. But all transparency isn't good transparency, like I don't need to know everything about your life. So what they talk about is how can you be transparent in a way that that is also compassionate. And it's really about about being being clear. So this one is not a transparency like, you know, last night, you know, like, I'm not going to tell you all my business, that's not what it means. It's about how can you be clear in a way that shows care for other people. And so the book goes through and talks about that I love the the distinction they make between empathy and compassion in the book, because I think as educators, we suffer from empathy overload, we are so busy, you know, kind of empathizing with our staff, with our students, with our families. And then we take all of that on, and it gets suffocating sometimes, because we're so empathic that we absorb other people's pain, and that renders us incompetent to do anything about solving it.

So they talk about compassion is empathy plus action. 

And I love that because I, it's not enough for me to just absorb your pain, I should be doing something about it. And that's what what truly being a compassionate builders really all about. They they also in this book, talk a lot. And this is one of the things that kind of resonated with me, as he talked about silencing your inner critic, and embracing self compassion, we, if you're a builder, you're not satisfied with the status quo, which means you can be very hard on yourself. And this book talks about self compassion that goes beyond, you know, pouring yourself a bubble bath and a glass of wine at the end of a tough day. But really talking about how you can start not just showing compassion to other people, but how you can show yourself compassion when you make mistakes, when you stumble, when you don't know what it what to do, and how you can leverage that so that you can show up and be more fully present, to continue to have that, that candor and transparency, and continue to have that courage to be able to go out and do hard things. And then they talk about how busyness can can kill your heart, that when we're too busy, it's hard for us to stay compassionate. And I love that part too, because so many of us are busy that we're losing our grip on being compassionate to others anyway, it's a great book, if you're struggling with that, trying to balance how to show compassion for your staff. Without getting empathy overload, how do you balance, being compassionate with still being able to do the hard things that you often have to do? This book can give you a roadmap to help you do that.

All right, related to this book, and this book, I love this. I'm actually going to be rereading it this summer. It's called the four stages of psychological safety defining the path to inclusion, and innovation. And it's by Timothy R. Clarke. And one of the reasons why I love this is that there's just so many quotables in this book. So here's one quote I wrote down the leaders task is to simultaneously increase intellectual friction, while decreasing social friction. But when I first read that I wrote that down, and I just had to stop reading and think about that, how do I increase intellectual friction and decreased social friction. And what I see happening in a lot of schools is the opposite. The more that we try to decrease intellectual friction, the more we're increasing social friction, right? The more we try to say, you can't teach this, you can't teach that you can't do the other thing. Instead of teaching kids how to grapple with these real challenges, the more we're increasing this divisive pneus that we're having in schools right now over these issues. And so I don't know that one quote alone. I'm just it's just in my head. I keep thinking about it. Because I feel like that is that's part of our problem.

Schools should be about that increasing intellectual friction, decreasing social friction. 

All right, I'm fangirling. Let me tell you about the book. It's really a book that I think does a really good job of breaking down what psychological safety really is, and how to create it. And schools need that now more than ever, we always talk about I want to be a place where kids can be physically and socially, emotionally and psychologically safe. And we don't I don't know how to do that we talk about all of our SEL efforts. But at the end of the day, if kids are not psychologically safe in our schools, then they can access all the other things that we want to give to them. It's that that is the starting point. And so this book has answered for me a lot of questions that I had about what does it really mean to create a safe space for students? Right?

So he talks about, you know, that our social contexts has a profound influence on the way that people behave. And as a builder, our job is to create the kind of social context that that makes people feel safe enough to achieve the things that we're dreaming for them to achieve. And so he also talks about how the presence of fear in an organization is the first sign of weak leadership. Oh, think about that. If there is fear in your organization, if the if the if your teachers are afraid to speak up, if if if your your students are afraid to to challenge the status quo, that's a sign that we're not doing our jobs as builders. But he talks about this, and I love this.

Okay, so he says that in order to be psychologically safe, you need four things. The first thing is all human beings want to be included. And they live included means that they need to be that that that you need to know that people accept you into the group, right. And he says that the need to be accepted precedes the need to be heard. Again, stop and think about that. You got to I got to know you accept me before I even want you to hear me, if you don't accept me, then I don't even need to be heard by you. Think about how many of our students and our teachers don't ever get even that they don't feel included. Think about how vicious we can often be when there's a teacher who's struggling. And we've been working with that teacher for a while and we're frustrated, and maybe that teachers are troublemaker on our staff. And so what we do is we ostracize that person. And the moment we do that, we cut off our ability to be able to reach that person, and help them choose to be better. So first thing, we have to be included, if people don't feel included, they don't have psychological safety. The second thing is human beings want to learn. And if I don't feel like I am learning in the situation, or that I have that I'm capable of learning, I don't have psychological safety.

Think about what that means for all of our struggling students. Think about what that means for our struggling teachers who may want to get better, but they've been written off. Because we think there's no hope for that person, I just have to get rid of that person. The third thing is they want to contribute. Again, think about all the missed opportunities, we have to let everyone be able to contribute to the conversation. One of the things I love about being a builder versus being a leader is that when you are a builder, the ultimate act of builder ship is to build other builders, that when you say to people instead of go, or let's go like bosses and leaders do instead, you say come you're inviting people to join you in building something better, and you're giving people the opportunity to contribute. I love this, okay.

And then the last one is human beings want to challenge the status quo, when they believe things are wrong. Schools almost never create those kinds of opportunity in the safety for people to be able to challenge the status quo. That's why I love being a builder. When you're a builder, you're stubborn on the vision, but you're flexible in the details. And so that creates a space where other people can contribute and challenge assumptions and ideas that we may have about how we need to do things that can challenge the status quo. And in doing so you can build something better. And so what he argues is that psychological safety is a condition in which you feel want included, to safe to learn three, safe to contribute, and for safe to challenge the status quo.

And here's the most important part, all without the fear of being embarrassed or marginalized or punished. What if we built schools like that? What if we built schools where everybody in the school felt safe in that way? What could our schools become? And so I love about this is, is that there is this roadmap to how to create that in your organization. And I really believe that every builder should be reading this book, and thinking about ways that they can do that in your school because here's the thing. If you don't provide people with psychological safety, then this author argues, you are either exploiting them, or you are punishing them, or you're being paternalistic towards them and controlling every outcome, that that pathway to psychological safety protects you from exploiting and taking advantage of people either by being perna paternalistic or being exploitative. And so this protects you from unintentionally doing things that cause harm to others. people. And so again, love this book, I think everybody should be reading it.

Now on the same lines about, you know, kind of giving people the room to challenge the status quo. 

There's a great book that I just finished reading by Adam Grant. And it's called think, again, the power of knowing what you don't know. And the reason why I'm recommending this book is because in education, we are so good at orthodoxy, right, it's right answer wrong answer. We know the way to educate children. Everybody is convinced that the conventional wisdom is correct and has been correct all this time. I'll give an example. So most people will tell students when they're taking a standardized test that if you finish the test early, what's the what's the standard advice? You finished a test early? Should you go back? And check your answers? And if you see an answer that you don't like, should you change it? Or should you leave it alone? Well, the conventional wisdom says, Leave it alone, because you'll end up second guessing yourself and you'll turn a right answer into a wrong answer, because you second guessed yourself, what Adam Grant shows in this book is that conventional wisdom is wrong.

In most cases in the studies, the studies show that when students go back and actually change the their answers, they they only change the right answer to the wrong answer about 25% of the time, but the majority of the time they change the wrong answer to the right answer. The second guessing yourself is not wrong. In fact, it helps you make better decisions. And so I love the what this book is challenging me to do, because quite frankly, I'm old. And I have established orthodoxy in my life around what education should look like. And it's challenging me to stay mentally flexible. And I think that if you can stay mentally flexible, if you if you have that agility, if you learn how to second guess yourself, if you learn how to think again, and you promote that kind of thinking and students, that's the thing that's going to help you solve some of the big problems that we're facing right now. And we were really hesitant to do that. Because a lot of times we feel like we should have the answer, you know, you're the leader, you're in front, everybody's like, what should we do. And if you reconsider something you said beforehand, then people are going to think that you are waffling. And what I love about this book is that he talks about ways, not only to help you begin to rethink your own assumptions, but then in the second section of the book, he talks about how to encourage other people to reconsider their assumptions.

And then the third one is about creating a community of life long learners. That's a phrase we say all the time. We don't know what on earth, we mean by lifelong learners. But Adam Grant has really given us a roadmap to what it really means to be a lifelong learner. So if that's in your vision statement, first of all, I think you should reconsider it. But if lifelong learners is part of what you want to do, this is a book you can read and really define what do I mean by a lifelong learner, and creating let your this laboratory community where you're constantly challenging and reconsidering your notions and your assumptions, so you can get to something better? All right. Okay.

The last book that I'm going to talk about today is a book that it's a little cheeky, and it's called Thinking in bet, b e. T. 's bets, making smarter decisions, when you don't have all the facts. Now, what's what's intriguing about this book is that the author Annie Duke, looks at decision making through the lens of of, of what goes in, goes on to the head of a poker player. And she talks about and challenges us to consider our decisions that we make almost in the same way that we would consider placing a bet. But she makes such a compelling case for why we should do that. Right? She said, she talks about that sometimes, decision making is really hard. Because a you you don't have all the information you need. And B, even if you had all the information, things are so uncertain, you can't guarantee that the conditions in which you make the decision are going to be the same conditions in which you have to act on that decision.

So what do you do? 

The many of us have confronted this head on when we were making real time decisions in the midst of the COVID crisis. But I would argue that being a builder is going to require you to do this more and more. The world is becoming more and more uncertain. And there's such a rush of information that's coming past us we may not always have the information we need. So what she does is she says we should look at decisions F bets and that when we do that, it helps us to be more open minded. It helps us to make better decisions and not be so stressed out about the outcome. And she just I mean like when I was reading this book, I just kept having this, ah, you know, I just kept hearing myself, Wow, I find myself now when I'm doing when I'm coaching people individually, you know, kind of going back to a lot of what I learned in this book to help coach people through decisions.

You know, one of the challenges that I have with coaching is that I can tell you know what I believe, and I love the principles of builder ship. But I'm doing that without having all the information, right, I'm not in your school every day, I'm not following you around 24/7. So I don't have all the information. And the world is so uncertain, you know, who predicted COVID, who predicted, you know, all of these other things that are happening, that even if I tell you something that may sound like really great, something had happened tomorrow, and can make what I showed you completely irrelevant. And I struggle with that as a coach.

But when I read this book, it, it helped me see that we have a false sense of certainty to this, we really don't know, half the time, we are flying blind. And that's okay. That's what real life is. But how can you make good decisions in those conditions. So a lot of decision making books are like, Oh, you do this, you do that. And they assume that the conditions are the same. But what she talks about is like, we don't have all the facts, things are uncertain, we still have to make decisions every day. And so I love this book, because it gives you a way to think about decision making. And it's backed by science. And she tells great stories, too. But it gives you a way of making decisions, that that helps you feel more confident in the decisions. And at the same time how to not put too much faith in the decision making process. Or bad faith may not be the right word, it keeps you from from putting too much stock in your decision so that you get so tied to your decisions that you beat yourself up when things don't turn out the way that you wanted them to. You have to recognize that you're doing the best you can. And she shows you how to do the best you can so that even if the decision doesn't turn out, it doesn't mean that it was a bad decision.

So if you're struggling with with making decisions, if you've been getting beat up about your decisions, if you're if you're beating yourself up about your decisions, this is a book that can help you see decision making differently. Also, if you are paralyzed a lot of times if you find yourself having to make decisions and just terrified and making the wrong decision, this can help you get unstuck, so that you feel more freedom to make decisions, and that you can trust your decision making process. So love this book, like I said, you can tell from just hearing me talk, these are five really strong books this year. And I would encourage you to spend your time with at least one of them. You know, one of the things that distinguishes builders from others is that builders are always open to new ideas and, and nuance. And I find that the more widely I read, the better I am at education because I have all these different perspectives that I can weigh.

So I would encourage you to read these five books, and if you've lost them, or you want to go back, if you want to go to our website, school leadership reimagined.com/episode 159. And on that episode, we have a brief kind of summary of each book. And we have a link to each book on the show notes. So you can take a look and order these books. I would encourage you to get these books and listen to them or read them over the summer. I think he can have a huge impact. So people always asking me, okay, so what am I going to be reading next? So, this summer, I've got a lot of other stuff I'm doing. We're doing several builders, labs, a summer public one private, doing a lot of traveling, somebody spent a lot of time on planes. And frankly, I want to read a couple of things for pleasure. So I have a couple of things, you know, some novels that I'm probably going to read for pleasure from some of my favorite writers, I'm probably going to reread a couple of novels. But there are two books that I have on the on like my just like nonfiction summer reading list, that kind of seem weird. One of them is not so weird. It's a 1619 project. I am going to really spend some time thinking about that and take my way through slowly through that book. Right.

I'm going to read a couple of you know, I've been rereading I love Toni Morrison. So I'm going to be rereading in the middle of rereading her canon, a love a guy, an author named Ed Jones. And so he's a collection of short stories. I'm gonna probably read that. There's another book almost made this summer reading list this year. It may make it next year. I don't know it's kind of racy a little bit. But it's a book called relentless. And it's written by the guy who is a coach for you know, players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. And it's a little Broly Do you know what I mean by that, you know, it's like, you know, you To be relentless, you know, it's kind of like this bro culture relentless. So I'm not sure if, like, I have to finish reading, I just started it. And, you know, I put it down to do this summer reading list, I'm not sure. But I'm going to work my way through it because one of the things that I like about what he's talks about this book is about how to become more mentally tough. If you're going to be a builder, you're gonna have to be mentally tough. And how do you how can you become relentless? How can you keep going and never stop until you reach your goal? And how do you deal with the loneliness that comes from being that focused on your goals when everybody else is telling you it's not possible? So I'm going to see what he has to say. And then if I like it, this may make some reading list. 2023. Who knows. So that's a little bit of what I'm going to be reading over the summer. I'm also going to, you know, I don't know if you all know this about me. But one of the things I do, especially when I have a really stressful time ahead, is I read cookbooks like novels. So I am And lately, I've been getting into food memoirs. So I just got finished reading Alice Waters daughter, her name is Fanny singer. And she did a great food memoir, called always home, and it has recipes and stories about growing up, you know, as the daughter of one of America's most famous chefs, and a kind of like food memoirs, very, you know, it's like you can have this vicarious eating experience. So probably reading a couple of those, I'd love to hear what you are going to be reading. And if you're not a member of the school leadership, reimagined Facebook group, you can go to facebook and join that group. Or you can shoot me a message on Facebook, send out something on LinkedIn. Or if you are a member of builder ship University, we'll be having this conversation in greater detail inside of you comments. Alright, so there's our summer reading list. Go out and grab one of these books so that you can broaden your horizons like a builder. I'll talk to you soon. 

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