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Opinion, Promising Practices

So What’s On Your Summer Reading List?

As June melts into July, one can almost hear the anticipation as teachers and students across the country listen for the final school bell that signals the start of Summer 2013. And while many prepare to head off to vacation spots, splash pads and backyard sprinklers to unwind from what has been a busy and, in some cases, contentious school year, there are a great number of Canadian educators for whom professional learning, planning and dreaming about ways to improve their programs are a natural part of their summer lives!

For me, I always go to my bookshelf during this last week of June and pull down a few volumes—books that I may not have had the opportunity to get to during the school year, or ones that I may feel an urge to revisit. I thought that I would tell you briefly about the four that have made it to this year’s reading table. The interesting thing about the list is that, with one exception, these are not books directly related to education and schooling. Instead they center on the wider social context in which we live our lives. They may resonate with you, but you may have others that you have selected for your summer reading list.

Getting To Maybe: How the World is Changed by Francis Westley, Brenda Zimmerman and Michael Quinn Patton. I picked up this book at the very first Canadian Education Association I attended several years ago and have gone back to parts of it a couple of times. Grounded in complexity theory, Getting To Maybe challenges and inspires readers to look at the world around them from the perspective of social change, possibility and the relationshipis that are woven throughout each of our lives. For me, the book jarred me out of a mindset that had me looking at things from a linear, rational, problem-solving stance and opened up whole set of possibilities that emerge when the world is rendered complex as opposed to merely complicated.

Intimately connected with my first choice, How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein taps into the growing energy around social innovation by dcoumenting the lives of people  whose passion and ideas for change are transforming villages, towns and cities around the world. The thing that drew me to purchase this book in the first place was the promise that those featured in Bornstein’s narrative are not really all that famous. They are ordinary people doing extraordinary things—people who are cutting into the social, political and economic fabric of their local contexts to make a difference!

Inquiry as Stance by Marilyn Chocharn-Smith and Susan L. Lytle is an exciting addition to my library. The two authors, well-known for their work in connecting educators’ knowledge to the work that they do, have here tried to widen the circle around what counts as practitioner research and have sought to place the act of education-based inquiry in the context of other social change, innovation and justice conversations. This promises to be more than a book about teacher research. Instead, it could be just what the doctor ordered in terms of expanding the conversation around what counts as inquiry and the depth of insights and possibility that can come from adopting an attitude of Inquiry As Stance.

Finally, the most recent addition to my library, and a book that now sits on the top of my stack of summer reading is Human Dynamics: A New Framework for Understanding People and Realizing the Potential in Our Organizations by Sandra Seagal and David Thorne. I was drawn to this book a few weeks ago through a conversation with my new colleagues Don Simpson and Dawn Ralph. We were talking about how strong communities, teams and relationships are built by recognizing the diversity among us. Seagal and Thorne’s work outlines in vivid detail five of the most predominant personality profiles operating in Western societies and provides insights on leveraging those personalities to enhance communication, connectivity and learning in organizations. I’m very excited to discover how the principles of Human Dynamics might be able to inform our conversations about student diversity, but also how efforts to transform our systems of education might be inspired, not by policy mandates, but by stronger connections between the people at the center of our sites of practice.

Now I realize that this may seem like heavy reading for the dog days of summer, but with the appropriate pairing of text and refreshment, you never know what might happen! But, I present these here really as an invitation for you to share some of what is on your summer reading list. You may have things in mind that are directly related to education, but perhaps they resonate with other interests or passions that you may have. Feel free to share a couple of items on your reading table. Who knows, your suggestions may be just what one of us may be looking for as June melts into July!