A Quote and a Winner

First, I want to congratulate Kristina Watts who won the comment contest last month and will receive a copy of “The Braided Path” by Donna Glee Williams which I reviewed a few weeks ago.  The interest in the contest was strong and I plan to have another soon, so stay tuned.

Second, since it’s Thursday, it’s time for another item from my news feed.  This week, I’d like to point you to the fantastic Shanker Blog.  The smart minds there blog about ed policy issues and research in a way that puts these topics within the grasp of educators everywhere.

In a recent post, Matt Di Carlo wrote,

“I can fully understand the need to avoid complacency, but acknowledging that even the most effective educational interventions require patience and realism is not tantamount to maintaining low expectations, or admitting students can’t learn.”

Here Di Carlo has expressed perfectly the push-and-pull of those who want tangible change now and those who recognize the multi-generational nature of the achievement gap.  But, how do we (and by “we”, I really mean “policy makers”) maintain the sort of intensity and drive over decades that are needed to effect real change?

Teamwork beats Competition among Teachers

Two of my favorite education folks both wrote this week about the perils of teacher competing with one another, and the benefits of collaboration.

John Merrow attended the NBPTS’ Teaching and Learning in 2014 conference and wrote about the experience.  He picked up on the theme that teaching should be a team sport, saying

“In teaching that means sharing ideas and curriculum; it means having the time to watch each other teach; it means setting aside time for the educational equivalent of medicine’s ‘grand rounds,’ a time when teachers who teach the same students share their observations about those kids.”

Simultaneously, Brett Clark (my guru for leadership and large-scale edtech rollouts) wrote about his tendency to be cause-driven rather than pursuing his own success.  He writes,

“I am only in competition with one person, myself. The only person I want to be better than is the person I was yesterday.”

Both Merrow and Clark illuminate the benefits that come from working together and that message resonates with me.  It seems obvious that our profession can only be at its best when those “in the trenches” coordinate their efforts.

Common sense as it might be, however, policy makers continue to enact schemes that pit teachers against each other in a fight for raises and other rewards.  Isn’t it time that teaching became a true team sport?

A new fantasy book to recommend

9781770530584In my recent obsession for dystopian fantasy books, I’ve read several series after getting hooked on the first book.  The world-building that takes place in the first installment is often so captivating that I find myself almost obligated to read on and justify the investment.

Recently, however, I had the pleasure of previewing The Braided Path
[affiliate link] by Donna Glee Williams.  Donna Glee is a friend and colleague, although I knew nothing of her writing until I started this book.   She described its genre as “nonmagical fantasy”, which I found to be a perfect description.  When she offered to let me read it before it was officially available, I jumped at the chance (and talked my beautiful wife and avid reader, Stephanie, into reading it, too).

My wife and I made a project of reading through the book in the evenings, after our children had gone to bed, pacing with each other so that we could talk about it before going to sleep.  I recommend this strategy for anyone who is interested in a “couples book club”.  It’s fun to have someone to discuss the book with, and it had been a long time since my wife and I had shared an experience like that.

In the end, we finished The Braided Path with a similar impression: Wow.  This is a book that manages to build a intriguing world in just the first 50 pages.  The early events in the plot leave you with a sense of closure by the end of the fourth chapter.  I kept thinking, “That was very satisfying, but what comes next?”  The answer was SO MUCH.

I won’t spoil this enjoyable and captivating story for you, but suffice to say that you’ll want to read it a second (maybe a third?) time and draw even deeper satisfaction from the themes of love, boundary-pushing, and coming-of-age that permeate the thoughtful prose.  Here is an example of how Williams uses just a few words to paint a detailed picture:

They’ve come this far in silence. He doesn’t know what to say. Walking behind Fox, he’s had a chance to study her back, expressive as any face. There’s something angry about the set of her shoulders, a sort of stiffness, a sort of tension.”

The small book is packed with similar turns of phrase, to the point that I missed the softness of the language when I moved on to other books.  I hope that there are more stories to come from Williams, whether they include these same characters or a new set to fall in love with.

I’m giving away a copy of The Braided Path.  Just leave a comment to put your name in the hat.  I’ll pick the winner on Sunday, March 23 at 5 PM.  One entry/comment per person, please.