How I Read My Summer Vacation

All right, let’s face it – summer vacation is officially over. And sadly, with such a beautifully warm past few weeks, it seems like we had to mourn it twice. Now that I have successfully completed the seven stages of grief, I want to tell you about what I read this summer, since that seems to somehow connect where I finished last year and where I am beginning this year.

Alfie Kohn: Beyond Discipline (From Compliance to Community)

I picked this up because we were talking with staff about the purpose of discipline and school rules. Of course, we want students to be able to come to a place that is safe and caring, but we also want to prepare students for a world that is often otherwise. Good citizens are not those who blindly follow authority. They ask hard questions, agitate for change, and demand to participate in their own community. How we handle students who choose to challenge us speaks volumes about the kind of citizen we want our students to be.

Peter Senge: The Fifth Discipline

Not a light summer read. Hence, I am not done. But I really appreciate what he has to say about leadership. Right now I’m at the place where he is talking about translating personal vision into a shared vision. This doesn’t happen at the yearly retreat, but in the day to day conversations where we keep in front of us why we work in schools and what we want that to look like.

Heather O’Neill: Lullabies For Little Criminals

I finally gave in and read this. Didn’t want to, because I knew it would be sad. What else could a story about a ten-year-old girl being raised by her junkie dad in Montreal be? But, at times, the narrative is so incongruously beautiful, it aches.

Kathryn Stockett: The Help

Read this before you see the movie. Or just read the book. For those who don’t already know, it’s about a white woman in Jackson, Mississippi, in the 60s, who collects the stories of black housemaids and publishes the book. You don’t need to be a historian to understand the enormity of such a taken risk. Aside from the social commentary, the characters are what make this book.

Ron Ritchart, Mark Church & Karin Morrison : Making Thinking Visible

If you are an educator, or work in any sort of learning environment, you must, I repeat, you MUST, read this book. I can barely even think where to begin with my comments on this book there is so much to it. Every time I sit down with this book (when I’m taking a break from Senge), I find myself tweeting out every second sentence. There is much that is applicable here in terms of our work with assessment. We need to hold up the looking glass for our students so they, and we, can understand their mental processes, and then help them become better thinkers. I love the deconstruction of Bloom’s taxonomy (description can be a higher order of thinking if done right) and the notion that understanding is not a type of thinking, but the goal of thinking. Another little tidbit: we teach stuff so students can learn to think and understand their world with that stuff, not just so they can tell the stuff back to us.

So that’s that, folks. It was delicious.

  1. I can’t wait to start reading “Making Thinking Visible”. We have got about 6 teachers starting a book club and this is the book we have chosen – I pushed for this one as I read a few of your tweets and thought it sounded “delicious”, too! Thanks for sharing, Kathy…

    • Mark Church
    • October 1st, 2011


    I’m Mark Church, one of the co-authors of Making Thinking Visible written together with my colleagues Ron Ritchhart and Karin Morrison. I came across your posting this evening as I was doing a bit of research on the web — how fantastic it was to see your comments about our book.

    I’m currently working on my PhD at the University of Washington in Seattle, with keen interest in how school leaders go about creating/sustaining rich cultures of thinking and learning for those they lead. To see that you’re the kind of leader who views her leading as an act of inquiry (the “edgier” the better) was of great interest to me.

    While I’ve spent time thinking through the ideas of Making Thinking Visible with colleagues in the Toronto area, I had no idea some folks out in Alberta were putting legs to these ideas as well! I’d love to hear your experiences/thoughts as you’ve looked at notions of Making Thinking Visible from a school leader’s perspective.

    Best wishes,

    Mark Church

    • Mark, I am delighted that you stumbled across my post and found the time to respond. I find that your work in this area has fit really well with what we’re trying to do with assessment in Parkland School Division. Just this year we launched a report card from K-9 that focusses on skills and processes. Teachers are required to directly assess and report on things such as problem-solving, critical thinking, communicating, and making connections, just to name a few. I had the good fortune to be a part of the committee that developed this report card. As well, one of our schools, Greystone Centennial Middle School in Spruce Grove, is using your book for a book study as they work through how they need to align their practices so they are able to effectively report on these areas. This has been very exciting work for us. Thanks again for your comments!

  2. We start our book study this week – so glad that one of the authors of Making Thinking Visible is in contact with you, Kathy. Thanks for sharing your summer reading list – it influenced our decision about what book to choose for our book study (as I said before, your last book recommendation to me was a winner!)

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