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Book Review of "Unmapped Potential" by Julie Hasson and Missy Lennard

Wednesday, October 4, 2017  
Posted by: Christina Mimms
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Reviewed by Dr. Mary McPherson, Elementary School Principal, St. Martin's Episcopal School, Atlanta

With 20 years in the field of education both public and private, I am always in search of resources to improve my practice as an educator and principal. I end each school year looking toward a rejuvenating summer in hopes of creating a new road map for the coming school year that will reinvigorate and renew students, teachers, and me. Unmapped Potential by Julie Hasson and Missy Lennard provided that roadmap as I entered this school year. The authors, principals who, in their years of experience working to transform schools, share their wisdom built over years of working in low performing schools and how they found their path to be the principals and educators they wanted and needed to be for their schools. Hasson and Lennard provide a concise and clear plan for harnessing the power of mental mapping to help shape thoughts and ideas, change your thoughts to improve results, learn to limit beliefs that are preventing you from moving forward in your career, and inspiring change in others, and how to create habits that support the kind of professional (and personal) life you want to live. Through the sharing of personal stories and using mind-set and brain research, the authors help readers create lasting change that will positively impact their schools.

Hasson and Lennard argue that educators just need the right map to help them move from frustrated to potential realized. The idea of mapping may sound simplistic, but in reading the book, I found value in the short, straightforward chapters that highlight relevant topics and end with map-changing actions and questions. I found myself equating the use of concept mapping with students to what Hasson and Lennard are coaching their readers to do. It is this mental mapping that we find so powerful in providing an organizational system for students to collect their thoughts and transform them into cohesive ideas that turn into great pieces of writing or presentations. The mapping questions at the end of each chapter provide the guide for creating your own mental concept maps. I found myself drawing out my own maps visually and connecting my answers to questions to demonstrate how they rely on each other to strengthen my own practice and support the changes I wanted to start making with the coming school year. Hasson and Lennard stress the importance of following through with their recommended actions for each chapter and, while it might seem mundane and a waste of time, I found answering the questions enlightening and important in providing a sense of direction that I have been seeking for several years.

As I entered the 2017-2018 school year, the nugget of wisdom below pulled from the chapter on “A Change Savvy Map” stuck with me while I completed the book and guided how I chose to structure my days at school.

Filling your days with what is predictable leaves little room for what is possible.

I developed a new mental map around this quote and made a promise that I would look for the unexpected each day and not allow myself to be lulled into a daily routine that feels comfortable because it is easy and predictable. I made a promise to myself that monthly division meetings would not be routine and would move the elementary school from being collegial to being truly collaborative.

After completing this book, I felt a sense of purpose and renewal I have not felt in several years and had a well-defined purpose that had been thought through that gave me a clear sense of how I wanted to begin transforming not only the elementary school but also the entire school. Just the feeling of energy I had entering the new school year made me realize that the renewal I thought I felt in previous years was not complete. This will be a book I return to time and again to assess my mental map, create new ones, renew my energy, and clarify my purpose as an educator and principal.






Dr. Mary McPherson is elementary school principal at St. Martin's Episcopal School in Atlanta. Follow her on Twitter @DrMacatSMES


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