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NEWSLETTER: 2012.8: Article - The Summer Read and Faculty Engagement
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The Summer Read and Faculty Engagement

By: Holly Chesser
Published August 2012

This summer did you enjoy the classic experience of lounging by the ocean flipping through a casual read? Perhaps Fifty Shades of Grey, The Hunger Games, or Brain Rules? Wait, what … Brain Rules? That’s right. Faculty at Randolph School in Huntsville, AL, collectively read developmental molecular biologist John Medina’s book on how the brain works.

School’s out June and July, but those months still offer a strategic opportunity for teachers and administrators to engage in learning by reading and reflecting on new ideas and approaches for the coming school year. If you’re thinking about a faculty read for next summer as part of your school’s professional development, three SAIS member schools offer a model of how to choose the right book to fit your school’s focus, how to process the information as a faculty, and lastly how to use the information gained to make new decisions or restructure existing models.

Ransom Everglades, a 6-12 school in Miami, FL, has engaged its faculty in a collective read for the past three summers. The school selects a book that emphasizes issues in curriculum and/or school life that represent concerns of its administration, faculty, and students. The first year the school’s focus on innovation and 21st century thinking and skills led to Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind. The second year, inspiring faculty to “green” their curriculum, the school selected Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, which emphasizes the relationship between exposure to nature and children’s emotional and physical wellbeing. This summer, in the wake of our nation’s attempt to process and interpret the Trayvon Martin shooting, the school chose to focus on diversity and race, ultimately selecting Lorene Cary’s Black Ice, the memoir of a bright, determined young woman who became the second black female to attend a prestigious New England prep school in the 1970s. Reflecting on the positive feedback from the faculty, Director of Studies John King comments, “I think we ended up with a nearly perfect choice.”

At Greensboro Day, a North Carolina K-12 school, a shared faculty read is a regular practice during the summer, usually accompanied by additional reads in each division. Head of School Mark Hale explains that the tradition provides “a focus for the year, common terminology, and more dynamic student learning.” Based on faculty input, the school’s Improvement of Instruction Committee chose Rick Lavoie’s The Motivation Breakthrough: 6 Secrets to Turning On the Tuned-Out Child as this summer’ read. Planning on incorporating the book’s teachings throughout the year in its on-going professional conversations and development, the school has invited the author to speak to the faculty in September and a school consultant to lead a one-day workshop on how to integrate Lavoie’s “secrets” into classroom teaching.

Committed to revising student schedules in each of its divisions, Randolph School chose Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. The book explores what brain science suggests about how children learn and ways in which this research might influence how we teach. In the third year of a full faculty read, Randolph chose Brain Rules this summer to help accomplish a specific task. Jerry Beckman, Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs, states that Medina’s book offers a “direct connection to the ongoing work of creating a new daily schedule.” Gathering during pre-planning in small groups, faculty will discuss the book’s findings on the effects of sleep, exercise, and stress as they make recommendations to the administration for the construction of daily schedules that best meet the “brain” needs of Randolph students.

School may be “out for the summer” for students, but faculty and staff can find those quiet months an excellent opportunity to read, reflect, revise, and reinvigorate. Next June what book will your faculty take to the beach?

Peruse the summer reading list of the SAIS Board of Trustees.

Visit the SAIS suggested reading list.

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