I’ve always loved a good challenge. As an English teacher, one of my favorites was the “I don’t like to read” student. I loved that challenge because it demanded that I get to know my students in a way that would let me understand what they liked, disliked, and might consider reading.
In my role as assistant principal, I often find myself considering the same sort of question: What book would each teacher on campus love to read? Happily, I don’t have an audience of self declared book haters, but the challenge is a fun one for me to play out in the back of my mind. As it turns out, my significant nerdiness about all making school awesome combined with my need to keep a healthy selection of books on my to be read pile adds up to a lot of potential choices for folks to consider. If I’m honest with myself, the to be read pile has shifted into something more aptly described as a small to be read mountain. What a great problem to have, am I right, book nerds?
I often run across people on social media who are looking for that next title to push their thinking, and I thought I would take the opportunity to share some of the books on the shelves in my office. I went back and forth about how to organize them, but I’m leaving them as just one big list. Browse through them. Search out reviews for one or two before you make the jump. Download a sample to your e-reader to see if it fits your tastes. But, more than anything, take time to get yourself heading in the right direction as we approach the biggest break and change of pace that educators get all year.
If you’re interested, feel free to check out last year’s post: 41 Books Worth Reading to double down on your reading fun for the summer!
I’m always happy to talk about books, so reach out to me on Twitter (@aaron_hogan) or Voxer (@aaron_hogan) if you have any questions. Finally, I’m always looking to add to my shelves (even though I’m on a shelf “cap” at home–no more room along the walls). What should I add to the list and why?
Without further ado, welcome to my bookshelves.
The Hyperdoc Handbook by Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis is a fantastic introduction to HyperDocs (SO much more than just pretty documents with links). They’ll take you from ground zero through the creation process after sharing why these tools can be so effective for students at all levels. It’s something different, something new, and something you need to know about. Check it out!
School Culture Recharged is Todd Whitaker and Steve Gruenert’s follow up to School Culture Rewired. In Rechanrged, Whitaker and Gruenert give practical ideas for reinvigorating your campus with positive energy and momentum. Don’t let this book fool you–it’s not only for titled leaders. Anyone (You — yes YOU) can benefit from the ideas within this book. Use your power to make you school a more positive place to be!
Kids Deserve It! is one of my favorite books from the past year. Filled with inspiring stories from authors Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome, Kids Deserve It! will challenge you and encourage you on every page. You cannot read this book and come out with less faith in your ability to create meaningful change for the students and teachers you work alongside. Buy it, read it, and challenge yourself to do all that kids deserve on your campus!
Launch is another book that I picked up last summer that challenges me to rethink my assumptions about the way we’ve always done school. A.J. Juliani and John Spencer walk readers through the steps of implementing a design thinking process in your classroom in a way that supports beginners and challenges veterans all at once. Launch is the book to pick up if you’re considering Genius Hour, 20% time, student choice projects, or giving students more choice in any aspect of their learning. Their plan isn’t prescriptive, but it’s a helpful framework for guiding students to take ownership of their learning.
Start. Right. Now. is the latest book by Todd Whitaker, Jeffrey Zoul, and Jimmy Casas. Like their previous work, Start. Right. Now. does not disappoint. From the title, you can imagine what it’s about–getting out there and making change happen now instead of waiting until the stars align to choose to strive for excellence. This book is ultra practical including inspiring stories of educators leading well, educators to follow on social media to continue to challenge you in your growth, and tips for professional growth and reflection.
Instant Relevance by Denis Sheeran is a quick read that will push you to rethink the ways you’ve previously responded to the question: “When are we going to ever need to know this in real life?” Most educators have heard that question, but Sheeran’s book will fill you with ideas about how to do more than provide a witty response to that genuine wonder that students sometimes share. He helps connect meaning to learning, and there are no wasted words in his slim volume. Take an afternoon and read this book. Your students will thank you!
Design Your Day is a little book that makes a huge impact. I started the year reading this book and considering how Claire Diaz-Ortiz’s message might impact my work as a school administrator. The subtitle–be more productive, set better goals, and live life on purpose–definitely caught my attention. The book does a great job of providing sensible suggestions without oversimplifying the real complications we all face as we balance the things that are urgent and important in our days. The book doesn’t take long to read, but ti will leave you with plenty to think about after you finish.
Escaping the School Leader’s Dunk Tank is a book that I identified with. Rebecca Coda and Rick Jetter have created a book that helps leaders avoid pitfalls and missteps along their path. Coda and Jetter share real, honest stories about the realities that leaders face, and their work pushes me to get better at handling the stresses and opportunities that come with being a school leader.
Procrastinate on Purpose by Rory Vaden was a book I was sold on as soon as I heard the title. An avid procrastinator (and one who does see some benefits in letting an idea marinate for a bit before moving forward), I was eager to see what Vaden had to say about the skill I’ve been cultivating for so long. He didn’t let me off the hook or give me the green light to always procrastinate, but the book does provide some great ideas about getting more out of your time (which I’m a big fan of). For a change of pace and something outside of education, check out Procrastinate on Purpose.
Hacking Homework is a book that is pushing my thinking. Better than that, Starr Sackstein and Connie Hamilton’s book not on challenges me, but it also helps me facilitate conversations on campus about how we can rethink the practice and purpose of homework. The book is another title that is ultra practical without oversimplifying the complicated nuances of a topic that’s mired in the status quo in most schools. This is a great resource for anyone looking to get into this conversation or bring others into the dialogue.
Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson is a walk through innovation outside of education that you shouldn’t miss. It’s all over the place–not disorganized, but spanning a wide variety of topics and interests that will take you through the power of mistakes in innovation, innovation in politics, technological innovation, and more. If you’re innovating in your role in education, don’t miss out on this helpful perspective from Johnson.
The Growth Mindset Coach by Annie Brock and Heather Hundley takes all the conversation that’s out there happening on the subject and puts it into manageable, regimented questions, topics, and conversations that will help you bring the growth mindset message into your school or classroom in greater depth. It’s structured in a way that promotes great conversation. Time invested into exploring how to create a growth mindset in our students and in educators is always well spent. This book is a great resource for those who are familiar with the subject and those who are just beginning their exploration of growth mindset alike.
Renegade Leadership by Brad Gustafson is a must read for school leaders (titled and otherwise). Gustafson does a great job challenging leaders to push innovation in both technology and pedagogy. Beyond what the book has to offer, the Renegade Leadership website is packed with valuable resources that are sure to keep you challenged and supported. Every school leader knows the value of these conversations. Don’t miss the opportunity to engage with Renegade Leadership.
Hacking Leadership by Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis is another fantastic leadership book filled with stories that compel educational leaders to inspire learning that is contagious on your campus. Like all the books in the Hacking series, this book will challenge you and provide you with the information you need to implement these ideas on your campus.
Redesigning Learning Spaces is a quick read that will leave you with a lot to think about. The combined expertise of Robert Dillon, Ben Gilpin, A.J. Juliani, and Erin Klein will leave you with more ideas that you can implement. I often come across teachers who are excited about introducing flexible seating into their learning environment, but they aren’t sure where or how to start that journey. This book is the answer.
Mathematical Mindsets might be the single book to read about math instruction this year. For this former English teacher, it was fascinating to get to hear about mindset and disrupting the status quo in math instruction. Jo Boaler is a fantastic writer and an even better educational thought leader. If you’ve ever wanted more from math instruction–for yourself, for students in your classroom, or for your own kids–don’t miss this book.
The Art of Coaching Teams is Elena Aguilar’s latest work on coaching. In it she tackles the nuances of coaching teams to become the change agents we know they can be. Like the title suggests, leading effective teams is more or an art than some might see it as. Understanding the necessary framework for groups to function best will allow leaders and team members alike to create meaningful change in their schools.
Steal Like an Artist is a wonderful little book from Austin Kleon about creativity and innovation. Filled with inspiration and challenges, beautifully original in its layout and structure, Steal Like an Artist will build your confidence and expose areas where you need to grow. You can read it in an afternoon and know you will have plenty to digest for years to come. It’s a book to be read and re-read. Don’t miss it.
The Spark and the Grind by Erik Wahl fascinates me. The subtitle, Ignite the Power of Disciplined Creativity, instantly captures my attention. Wahl’s book explores the balance between creativity and discipline and how both work in concert with the other. It’s a refreshing take on an important topic in education today. If you’ve ever felt like you had to choose between discipline or creativity, this book will help you see how they work together.
Creating a Culture of Feedback by William Ferriter and Paul Cancellieri is the first of two books from the Solutions for Creating the Learning Spaces Students Deserve collection . Ferriter and Cancellieri don’t waste any words in this slim volume, but the short page count won’t leave you short on ideas for your classroom or campus. Feedback, much more than grades, is what pushes our students to take the next steps in their learning. I love the questions they emphasize: Where am I going? How am I doing? What are my next steps?
Embracing a Culture of Joy by Dean Shareski highlights the important role that joy plays in the education of our students. Yes, we have plenty of content to teach them, but if we fail to make school a safe place where meaningful conversations can happen, we will miss the mark every time. His book shares ideas from real classroom and will push you to be better in the classroom next year.
Better Conversations by Jim Knight is great for newcomers and veterans alike to the coaching conversations. Knight is a giant in this field, and his latest contribution is something I continue to come back to. It’s great for teams or individuals. Anyone interested in having better conversations should include this in their work to improve. Better Conversations has pushed me to grow in this area, and I’m grateful to have come across this resource.
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration is a different sort of book. Written By Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, this book tells the story of Pixar as well as the lessons learned in route to creating a creative giant of an organization. A great read for educators looking to establish a culture of creativity and innovation.
Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools will challenge you to see a different way for learning to happen in your school. What’s always been done isn’t getting it done anymore, and Michael Horn and Heather Staker’s book is just the push you’ll need to affirm your hunch that learning can and should happen differently. Even if you’re just wading into these waters, Blended will help you begin the process well.
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World is one of my favorite books I’ve read in the last year. Cal Newport’s book challenged me to cut out waste in my work, minimize distractions, and be wildly productive. As an assistant principal with a family (three kids 5 and under), I’m always interested in how to use my time wisely. Deep Work helped me think through some of those ideas in a new way without feeling like a guilt trip for some of my old habits. It’s a book I’m sure I’ll return to often.
The Innovators by Walter Isaacson is filled with stories of innovation, warts and all. I often find myself frustrated with lack of progress as I try to make change happen, but this book serves as a helpful reminder of the slow progress that often leads to incredible disruption in the status quo. Isaacson is undoubtedly a wonderful storyteller, and The Innovators is not to be missed. The book is inspiring and encouraging to all educators who are trying to create change!
The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories is a fascinating exploration of how storytelling is changing in a world where anyone can be a media creator. As educators, this impacts more of our lives that we realize. Though the book doesn’t explore these ideas explicitly, there are clear implications for the way we teach and tell the story of each school.
Fearless Voices: Engaging a New Generation of African American Adolescent Male Writers is a book I came across a few years ago that I keep coming back to. Alfred Tatum’s work is filled with practical tips about the value of self expression for young African American men in our schools. His work fills an important space in this conversation that is often neglected or oversimplified. If you’re an English teacher, you need this book.
Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other is Sherry Turkle’s exploration of what technology is doing (and has done) to us as a society. This book is essential reading for educators to be self aware of the effects of tech on our interactions with students and articulate in conversations with digital natives who know nothing other than this state of affairs as normal.
The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human is a book that makes my former English teacher heart really, really happy. Jonathan Gottschall looks at the way that we use stories to convey meaning, explain difficult circumstances, and navigate day to day life. Hidden in its pages are great insights into the way we understand the world and how stories shape others and our own realities.
Together is Better is the book for the reader who doesn’t have a lot of time to carve out. Simon Sinek’s latest book is a quick read that left a lasting impact on me. I love the title’s message, the artwork, and even the scent that’s unique to the book. If you’re familiar with Sinek’s other books or his TED talk, you’ll see some familiar ideas here, but the reminders are worth hearing again.
Peer Feedback in the Classroom: Empowering Students to be the Experts is Starr Sackstein’s latest book on feedback. Sackstein is one of my favorite voices in the larger conversation about grading, feedback, and student voice. Peer Feedback is the necessary next step for teachers to give students the proper voice and ownership of their learning in the classroom. Like her other writing, Sackstein give you a “tell you like it is” perspective mixed with hope for a new normal. Writing as a classroom teacher, her words offer practical changes that can make a huge difference for students in a classroom near you.
Table Talk Math: A Practical Guide for Bringing Math into Everyday Conversations is the book that answers the question: How can you help ensure that your children and teens learn to love math? Working with simple to implement guidelines, John Stevens offers conversation starters for the adult who is looking to see math everywhere and help students see the same way! That conversation isn’t always easy, but Table Talk Math is the place to start to get that dialogue off the ground.
Teaching Math with Google Apps: 50 G Suite Activities by Alice Keeler and the late Diana Herrington suggests simple to implement changes that will change the way that students learn math in your classroom. With phones in their hands that can solve most of the math problems students encounter, we need to adapt our instruction to teach what is most important and most valuable for them as we prepare them to solve problems in the future that don’t even exist yet. If your classroom looks like the one you learned math in, this book is just the one to shake things up for you!
Lead Like a PIRATE will challenge you to be the leader who inspires others to create the schools that students are beating down the doors to get into. Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf share stories that will push your thinking and build your confidence as a leader in any role on your campus. Full of practical ideas that actually help create change, Lead Like a PIRATE is for every school leader who wants to get excited about making school amazing for students and teachers.
Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters tackles the problem of disengaged reading that continues to grow in our age of distraction. Kylene Beers and Robert Probst explore how we got here, why we need to change, and how teachers can do that in the classroom. The book is funny, practical, and filled with ready to use ideas for your classroom. If we want our students to be readers, we have to make sure we heed their advice!
Shift This: How to Implement Gradual Changes for Massive Impact in Your Classroom is the book for teachers who are ready for a change in the classroom. If you want a student led classroom filled with personalized learning among a community of learners, Shift This is not to be missed. Author Joy Kirr shares genuine examples from her work as an educator throughout the book. I can’t see how you would read this and not leave changed.
Hacking Project Based Learning: 10 Easy Steps to PBL and Inquiry in the Classroom by Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy is required reading for anyone looking to take the first steps into PBL in their classroom. This book will help you know where to get started and lead you through ten hacks that will help you start well. Whether you’re experienced with PBL or just getting started, this is a book that you shouldn’t miss.
Very Good Lives is J.K.Rowling’s commencement address to the 2008 graduates of Harvard. In it she outlines the importance of imagination and the benefits of failure. It’s a quick read that will take years to digest. I return to it often and rarely encounter the text without discovering something new that pushes me to be a better version of myself. Be sure to check out the video of her delivering the speech to Harvard graduates as well!
Unscripted by Ernie Johnson will inspire you to get your life in order, recommit to what you know to be right, and do so without neglecting first things like family and faith. Ernie Johnson’s incredible life has not gone according to the script he would have planned, but his story of overcoming odds and selfless service to others should not be missed. Ernie Johnson’s story is an inspiration!
TED Talks is a guide to public speaking by the folks at TED. Not surprisingly, it’s filled with wonderful stories, thoughtful anecdotes, and the guidelines you and I can follow on our quest toward greater clarity and engagement in our public speaking.