18 March 2013

ASCD 2013: A Trip to the Library

I had an opportunity to sit down with several ASCD authors. It was part speed-dating, part squee-like-a-fangirl, and part new book smell. Heavenly.

I am first to admit that I have not read all of the books listed below---a deficit I plan to rectify at the earliest opportunity---but for now, let me comment on the authors and my reaction to their ideas during our conversation.

Author: Robyn Jackson
Title: Never Work Harder than Your Students

Ms. Jackson is a passionate educator and author who continues to share her ideas on Twitter. I have read the book featured at her table and remember being inspired by her dedication. In my mind, she was a bit larger than life. In reality, she is a petite and softspoken tour de force. Her confidence takes the form of quiet resolve. A reflective educator, she shared insight into how she continues to find inspiration (read something other than "teacher books") and renew enthusiasm for her work.

Authors: Bill Parrett and Kathleen Budge
Title: Turning High-Poverty Schools into High-Performing Schools

Mr. Parrett is a friend of my colleague who is attending the conference with me. They worked together in Alaska many years ago and it was very sweet to see him insist that he join the table as his personal guest. The authors are based in Boise, Idaho, but spend a lot of time doing consulting work, including some of the districts in my state. While listening to them discuss their ideas and ongoing work, I really appreciated the depth of understanding and individualized attention they applied to each district. Every district is unique, after all. So, this is another book that I’m interested in diving into. I don’t expect a magic bullet (nor was one offered), but new ideas are always welcome.

Author: Allen Mendler 
Title: When Teaching Gets Tough: Smart Ways to Reclaim Your Game

I read this book earlier in the year and was glad to have a chance to sit down with the author. Mr. Mendler has a background as a social studies teacher and school psychologist. He has written extensively about working with challenging students, but the most recent book focuses on helping you rediscover your passion for the classroom. There are lots of common-sense strategies to get you through those rough patches. You know---the ones where you’re questioning your reason for getting into the work in the first place? Give this book a try.

Author: Mark Barnes
Title: ROLE Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom

I only got to talk with Mr. Barnes for a few minutes, but we discovered we had a lot in common. His book is about his journey over the last few years as he moved away from a traditional classroom to one that is more student-centered. We chatted about the impact of changing grading practices and using more feedback with students. Yes, this one is going on the nightstand, too.

Authors: Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams
Title: Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day

These authors were seated at the same table as Mr. Barnes and only had a few minutes to spare, too. Although they are the leaders of the flipped classroom revolution, the idea is a familiar one by now. Again, it’s not a book I have read (yet), but it was good to chat with them about next steps. How are people starting to groove off of this idea? There are lots of different variations in play as educators adapt the model. Their plan for book two is to showcase these examples. These authors were very friendly, approachable, intelligent, and interested in both listening and sharing ideas. They have an aura of intensity around them, but don’t be shy if you’d like to engage in some conversation with them. I think you’ll find them game.

Authors: R. Thomas Dewing and Matthew Perini (not present: Harvey Silver)
Title: The Core Six: Essential Strategies for Achieving Excellence with the Common Core

This was far and away my favourite conversation of the event. I had not heard of their book, let alone read it, but hey, why let details stand in the way of a good time? Mr. Dewing and Mr. Perini have a delightful sense of humor and we laughed quite a bit through our chat. Their book focuses on a few central strategies that support the Common Core. The strategies are not new---they include things like Compare and Contrast, and Write to Learn. But I think the message here is important for a lot of classrooms: help kids learn how to learn and they will be able to meet whatever standards there are for their grade level. I especially like this idea as one to bring back and discuss with our “supersmalls.” A teacher in a school district who might have five different grade levels in a classroom, no contractual prep time, and only one other colleague could use this as a way to organize the transition to the Common Core. Planning is reduced somewhat by focusing on the strategy and then differentiating by grade level.

There were a few authors I didn’t get to talk to, but I greatly enjoyed the buffet of ideas I was able to sample. My suitcase is a little heavier for the trip home. My mind is full of ideas, too, but fortunately there will be no overage fee to carry those on the plane. Once I have time to read and think about these books in more detail, you can expect some more expansive posts here.


Hugh O'Donnell said...

Thanks for sticking up for the Milwaukie High folks. Reading this post had me laughing and pissed off at the same time. Reminded me of the old tales of your own teaching in high school and all the "stuff" that went along with that.

The Science Goddess said...

Hugh---going to copy and paste your comment into the "Celebrate" post...but didn't want you to think it had gone unpublished!