staff picks fall

School Days

Back in July, beach chairs gave way to backpacks on store shelves since many students start school in mid-August, bringing summer “learning loss” to a halt. Here is an array of books for students, teachers, parents and concerned citizens. Topics range from first-day jitters to trenchant analyses of, and prescriptions for, improving how students learn in this country.

Creative schools : the grassroots revolution that’s transforming education by Ken Robinson – This book is a revolutionary reappraisal of how to educate our children and young people by Ken Robinson, the New York Times bestselling author of The Element and Finding Your Element. Robinson is one of the world’s most influential voices in education, and his 2006 TED Talk on the subject is the most viewed in the organization’s history. Now, the internationally recognized leader on creativity and human potential focuses on one of the most critical issues of our time: how to transform the nation’s troubled educational system. At a time when standardized testing businesses are raking in huge profits, when many schools are struggling, and students and educators everywhere are suffering under the strain, Robinson points the way forward. He argues for an end to our outmoded industrial educational system and proposes a highly personalized, organic approach that draws on today’s unprecedented technological and professional resources to engage all students, develop their love of learning, and enable them to face the real challenges of the twenty-first century. Filled with anecdotes, observations and recommendations from professionals on the front line of transformative education, case histories, and groundbreaking research—and written with Robinson’s trademark wit and engaging style, Creative Schools will inspire teachers, parents, and policy makers alike to rethink the real nature and purpose of education.

The smartest kids in the world : and how they got that way by Amanda Ripley – How do other countries create “smarter” kids? In a handful of nations, virtually all children are learning to make complex arguments and solve problems they’ve never seen before. They are learning to think, in other words, and to thrive in the modern economy. What is it like to be a child in the world’s new education superpowers? In a global quest to find answers for our own children, the author, a Time Magazine journalist, follows three American teenagers who chose to spend one school year living in Finland, South Korea, and Poland. Kim, fifteen, raised $10,000 so she could move from Oklahoma to Finland; Eric, eighteen, exchanged a high-achieving Minnesota suburb for a booming city in South Korea; and Tom, seventeen, left a historic Pennsylvania village for Poland. Here the author recounts how attitudes, parenting, and rigorous teaching have revolutionized these countries’ education results. Through these young informants, the author meets battle-scarred reformers, sleep-deprived zombie students, and a teacher who earns $4 million a year. Their stories, along with research into learning in other cultures, reveal a pattern of startling transformation: none of these countries had many “smart” kids a few decades ago. Things had changed. Teaching had become more rigorous; parents had focused on things that mattered; and children had bought into the promise of education. This is a book about building resilience in a new world, as told by the young Americans who have the most at stake.

How we learn : the surprising truth about when, where, and why it happens by Benedict Carey – In How we learn, award-winning science reporter Benedict Carey sifts through decades of education research and landmark studies to uncover the truth about how our brains absorb and retain information. What he discovers is that, from the moment we are born, we are all learning quickly, efficiently, and automatically; but in our zeal to systematize the process we have ignored valuable, naturally enjoyable learning tools like forgetting, sleeping, and daydreaming. Is a dedicated desk in a quiet room really the best way to study? Can altering your routine improve your recall? Are there times when distraction is good? Is repetition necessary? Carey’s search for answers to these questions yields a wealth of strategies that make learning more a part of our everyday lives – and less of a chore.

The teacher wars : a history of America’s most embattled profession by Dana Goldstein – In The Teacher Wars, a rich, lively, and unprecedented history of public school teaching, Dana Goldstein reveals that teachers have been embattled for nearly two centuries. She uncovers the surprising roots of hot button issues, from teacher tenure to charter schools, and finds that recent popular ideas to improve schools — instituting merit pay, evaluating teachers by student test scores, ranking and firing veteran teachers, and recruiting “elite” graduates to teach — are all approaches that have been tried in the past without producing widespread change. The Teacher Wars upends the conversation about American education by bringing the lessons of history to bear on the dilemmas we confront today. By asking “How did we get here?” Dana Goldstein brilliantly illuminates the path forward.

That crumpled paper was due last week : helping disorganized and distracted boys master the skills they need for success in school and life by Ana Homayoun – Missed assignments. Lack of focus and enthusiasm. Falling grades. For too many boys and their frustrated parents, these are the facts of life. But they don’t have to be. Top academic couselor Ana Homayoun has helped turn even the most disorganized, scattered, and unfocused boys into successful young people who consistently meet their personal and academic challenges. She does this by getting back to basics- -starting with a simple fact: most boys needs to be taught how to get organized, how to study, and – most important – how to visualize, embrace and meet their own goals.

Beth_Pocock

Beth Pocock is the Assistant Director.