Of Note: Feeling the Feelings

    That Discomfort You're Feeling Is Grief by Scott Berinato 
    Harvard Business Review, March 2020

    Late-Stage Pandemic Is Messing With Your Brain by Ellen Cushing
    The Atlantic, March 8, 2021

    "The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off," Gloria Steinem explained. Beyond the enervating, contemporary realities they reflect back to us, there is comfort to be found in these two articles naming powerful, current phenomena affecting our daily lives and selves. "If we can name it, perhaps we can manage it," writes Scott Berinato. The goal, on the other side of grief, is finding meaning in it. He names the "micro and macro" grieving we are doing a full year into this global pandemic that has rewritten our lives. This grief framework allows us, too, to say (and believe), "This is a temporary state." Essentially, the piece concludes that when we let ourselves feel the feelings, they will move through us. Relatedly, Ellen Cushing explores how "Late-Stage Pandemic Is Messing with Your Brain," which also sounds dispiriting at first glance, yet offers both affirmation and hope. Cushing summarizes: "Now, in the cold, dark, featureless middle of our pandemic winter, we can neither remember what life was like before nor imagine what it'll be like after." The beautiful three dimensions of our lives are coming back, she theorizes, and with the accompanying changes in our behavior, will end our mild cognitive impairment. If not for its neuroscience or psychology, Cushing's piece is worth reading just for the sensory delight of it, as her prose transports us back into the vibrant, lost world of texture and touch.

    Submitted By Meghan Tally, The Archer School for Girls, Los Angeles, CA


    Principals in Principle and Practice

    How Principals Affect Students and Schools: A Systematic Synthesis of Two Decades of Research by Grissom, Jason A., Anna J. Egalite, and Constance A. Lindsay
    Wallace Foundation and Vanderbilt University, February 1, 2021

    Heads and principals of schools know they are in a position to have deep and lasting effects on students, but a new report indicates that their impact is both greater and broader than previously understood. In this 2021 Research Report, the Wallace Foundation and Vanderbilt University provide a careful summary of two decades of leadership research. In just 100 accessible pages, the authors produce a concise analysis of what we know about school leadership effects and what skills and behaviors are the most powerful for school heads to have and use to support learning and teacher growth. It is timely, and it is direct: leadership matters. Effective school leaders drive student achievement, retention of high-quality educators, and the creation of a productive school culture and climate. The report highlights not just what school leaders do but how they do it. They do not lead alone; instead, they engage and mobilize the entire school community in sharing ownership for leadership. One conclusion speaks volumes about the magnitude of the findings: "Indeed it is difficult to envision an investment with a higher ceiling on its potential return than a successful effort to improve school leadership." With the evidence of this report in hand, another finding is clear and unambiguous: the need to design ways to develop, hire, retain, and professionally nourish leaders who can be effective in today's contexts, with today's students, and with tomorrow's leaders always in view.

    Submitted By Elizabeth Morley, Dr. Eric Jackman Lab School, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario


    Leadership is not about You

    Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader's Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You by Frances X. Frei and Anne Morriss
    Harvard Business Review, June 2, 2020

    Leadership, think Frances X. Frei and Anne Morriss, is about empowering people. Leadership is not about you, the leader. Rather, the mark of effective leadership is the degree to which the leader has unleashed the potential of everyone within the organization. Additionally, good leaders create cultures that do not depend on the personal attributes of the leader themselves; they create cultures that endure after they, themselves, depart the organization. Anchoring the books' central argument with examples ranging from ancient Rome to present-day Silicon Valley, Frei and Morris explore attitudes, dispositions, and behaviors that allow leaders to unlock the best potential of the people around them. Educational leaders will find the business examples to hold mixed applicability to school settings. However, this deficit is balanced by the incisive use of concrete modeling and tools to help leaders identify how their practices are, or are not, empowering those around them. In particular, the authors' deft deployment of lists means that even a casual read yields ready-made tools and easily-implemented advice.

    Submitted By Matthew C. Spotts S.J., Ed.M. Candidate Klingenstein Center, New York, NY


    Self-Transformation in the Service of Others

    You Belong: A Call for Connection by Sebene Selassie
    HarperOne, August 25, 2020

    "How do you acknowledge differences and inequities yet also hold a firm conviction that fundamentally we are all irrevocably interconnected and belong to each other?" Throughout You Belong, her first book, well-respected meditation teacher Sebene Selassie explores generative paradoxes like the one above. She offers engaging reflections on belonging, radical self-acceptance, and the transformative power of paying attention with curiosity and joy. Just as important, her ongoing exploration of areas of overlap between, for example, anti-racist education and embodied meditation techniques means that educators across a range of contexts will emerge from an encounter with this book feeling challenged and inspired. Individuals looking for ways to be more mindful and effective agents of systemic change will find much to guide them here; so too will individuals already engaged in the work, who would benefit from the accessible approaches to self-reflection and inner growth. Selassie's evident wisdom, humility, and good humor point to the fruits of a life dedicated to self-transformation in the service of others – a lofty ideal that feels more approachable after time spent in the company of this caring teacher and guide.

    Submitted By Andrew Housiaux, Tang Institute, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA


    Shifting to the Learner

    Learner-Centered Leadership: A Blueprint for Transformational Change in Learning Communities by Devin Vodicka
    Impress, April 1, 2020

    In Learner-Centered Leadership: A Blueprint for Transformational Change in Learning Communities, Devin Vodicka underscores a sense of urgency in shifting to a learner-centric model of education. He draws from cognitive science, organizational leadership, and technological advances to show how new developments make it possible to position learners at the center of their own educational journeys. He provides concrete examples from his experience as a school district superintendent, illustrating how learner-centric measures transformed the district into a nationally recognized educational innovator. While Vodicka asks and addresses many key questions along the way, his thoughts around learner-centered leadership are particularly impactful. He explores the intersection of two compelling leadership models – servant leadership and transformational leadership – and aligns them on the basis of service to other people and aspirational values. This examination is helpful for any educator, regardless of title, looking to move on from standardized tests and traditional grading and to unearth what's truly best for learners. Vodicka's thoughts on change and breakthroughs, and his push toward the future, makes for an adaptable, insightful blueprint for those of us asking where to start.

    Submitted By Jennifer Chassin, Ed.M. Candidate, Klingenstein Center, New York, NY


    More Specific Criterion

    How to Reduce Racial Bias in Grading by David M. Quinn
    Education Next, January 1, 2021

    The Implicit Bias Test is fast becoming a staple in independent schools. For those who are unfamiliar with it, the test measures the relative strength of association between various identities and characteristics, revealing the degree to which we harbor biases toward or stereotypes of different groups. David Quinn, assistant professor of education at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education, suggests that, on its own, this sort of anti-bias training is not sufficient when it comes to changing practices in the classroom. In a recent study, Quinn's team randomly assigned teachers one of two writing samples that were virtually identical save for one detail: the student names. While half the teachers were asked to assess writing with names signaling a black student author, the other half encountered names signaling a student who was white. Not surprisingly, teachers demonstrated significant bias in favor of the white-sounding author when given vague assessment criteria. When asked to assess with specific rubrics, however, the bias was eliminated. As independent schools continue to grapple with the ways in which grading and assessment systems uphold structural inequities, Quinn's findings push us to consider how more specific criteria can be a powerful way to mitigate against our biases, even when we are already aware of them.

    Submitted By Kurt Prescott, Ed.M. Candidate, Klingenstein Center, New York, NY


    Talking to Health

    Fourteen Talks by Age Fourteen by Michelle Icard
    Harmony Books, February 23, 2021

    As we reach the year mark of the pandemic, with schools still navigating hybrid and distance learning, many parents and educators are finding  themselves rethinking the ways in which they partner to support the growth and development of students. Parents are spending more time with their children, and conversations that may have once lived in advisory programs or health classes are being had at home. Author Michelle Icard seems to have anticipated this new reality with her latest book, Fourteen Talks by Age Fourteen. The premise of the text is simple – families that engage in fourteen conversations, with topics ranging from sexual health and friendship to "fairness" and impulsivity, will better prepare their young teenagers for a healthier transition into adulthood. Icard's chapters follow a clear structure and provide research, practical tips, and even sample scripts for engaging in meaningful discussion. Although Icard addresses parents as her audience, educators, middle school teachers, and administrators, in particular, will appreciate Icard's work. Especially useful is her B.R.I.E.F. Model for engaging in conversation: "Begin peacefully, Relate to your child, Interview to collect information, Echo what you're hearing, and give Feedback." In all, Fourteen Talks by Age Fourteen is an easily digestible and welcome read for anyone who partners with and/or supports middle school students and their families.

    Submitted By Sarah Katherine Peeden, Pacific Ridge School, Carlsbad, CA


    Sifting through the Media

    Don’t Go Down the Rabbit Hole by Charlie Warzel
    New York Times, February 18, 2021

    The Librarian War Against QAnon by Barbara Fister
    The Atlantic, February 18, 2021

    New approaches and ways of thinking about media literacy offer some hope for students developing what may be a democracy-preserving skillset. Counter-intuitively, the method espoused by scholars Michael Caulfield and Sam Wineburg cautions practitioners to "stop overthinking what you see online" and instead see "our attention [as] a scarce commodity that is to be spent wisely." Caulfield's model, the SIFT approach, gives students a methodology that better reflects the nature of news consumption and production online. Writing in The Atlantic, Project Information Literacy's Barbara Fister issues a similar call for an approach to information literacy that includes "an understanding of information systems: the architectures, infrastructures, and fundamental belief systems that shape our information environment, including the fact that these systems are social, influenced by the biases and assumptions of the humans who create and use them." Among the many reasons that media literacy is often under-taught is the fear of partisanship, but these theorists note that these approaches, by focusing on how information is produced and spread, avoid some of the pitfalls of more partisan approaches; Warzel notes that "[t]he goal isn't to make political judgments or to talk students out of a particular point of view, but to try to get them to understand the context of a source of information and make decisions about its credibility." Fister encourages teachers to emphasize "democracy" rather than filtering curriculum through a partisan lens: "this means being willing to take a strong stand on behalf of ethical research practices, the voices of qualified experts, and the value of information systems that judiciously vet and validate information, along with a willingness to clearly reject the notion that truth is simply a matter of political allegiance or personal choice." Fister offers other helpful framing advice, including connecting media literacy to broader ethical concerns, tapping into others' expertise, and building off of students' own generational grasp of social media.

    Submitted By Jonathan Gold, Moses Brown School, Providence, RI

KlingensteinCenter Teachers College Columbia University

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