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Superintendent's Bookshelf


What I'm Reading This Month


Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want, by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy (2016)

I am a big goal-setter. I find that I am much more focused and driven when I write down my goals or when I have target events to shoot for. If I have neither, I can kind of drift. This book caught my attention because it was recommended by many and it clearly focuses on the idea of drift and how to avoid it. I think the book I have relied on the most for goal-setting in the past has been my Steven Covey bible. This certainly relies on many of the tenets of Covey, but it is a new perspective.


Hyatt begins with the end in mind (that’s a definite Covey reference). In fact, he says start with the people who you think you would want to speak at your funeral. He asks what statements they would make in a eulogy about you, or more pertinently, what statements would you want them to make about you. So you have to think about your parents and your siblings and your spouse and your children and your friends and your work colleagues and the impact that you want to have. You could look at it as pretty depressing or you could look at it as just another way of looking at what’s important in life and how you need to refocus on that. He actually has you write those statements out.


Next, he relies on yet another Covey concept, the idea of the bank account. Covey talks about having to invest in a bank account so that when you mess up or when you don’t have time, or when you need something, those accounts are not only paid in full, but they have reserves in them for you to draw upon. Hyatt has you create “life accounts.” There’s a life account in my case for my spouse, for my children, for my parents, for my siblings, for my friends, for my work colleagues and you have to discuss what your target is with each of those and what your specific goals are for each of those life accounts. You also need to refer to the current state in those accounts. Again, it makes you think rather deeply about what is going on in all aspects of your life. This is where you might put bucket lists for all parts of your life in the goals section.


That is the bulk of the work. What comes next is a traditional goal-setting. But not only is it annual goals, but it is monthly and more importantly, weekly goals. So the end result is a process where each week, you look at all that you set forth in this process and determine what you can do that week to move forward or to maintain your progress towards improved relationships and goal targets.


It’s a fascinating approach and it took a lot of work. He suggests reserving at least two full days for all of this. I did it over winter break on some long flights that I had and in some other time that I had and then broke up into 3-hour chunks. I like it, I recommend it, and I will see if I go back to it next year after a full year of being with it.


First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, by Loung Ung (2000)

I read this book as I prepared for our trip to Cambodia in December of 2017. I had been trying to get our family to go to Cambodia for three years now. My brother-in-law has been the British Ambassador to Cambodia since 2014. He and his family have been inviting us over to visit them and tour the country, and I knew it would be a great opportunity. I finally convinced my family this year and we went in late December and early January of 2017-18. It was all I hoped it would be, both in terms of beauty and in terms of poignant history.


I know about the killing fields. I did not read the book but was powerfully impacted by the movie when it came out in 2017. One of the things that I wanted to see in Phnom Penh was the Killing Fields memorial outside of Cambodia. I thought this fairly recent book might give me some good insight into it. It did not disappoint. The book begins telling the story of a 5-year-old girl living in Phnom Penh with her well-to-do family whose father/patriarch is a former police officer and now high-ranking leader in Phnom Penh. After a brief description of their interesting and good life, all hell breaks loose, and Pol Pot’s troops come marching in to empty Phnom Penh. That was their strategy. They could not change culture in the city, so they emptied the cities. Her father knew that his plan was to kill all of the educated elite, as well as anyone associated with the former government. So their family had to say nothing about where they came from and say they were peasants and farmers. The family went from village to village, then eventually was separated.


The book tells the sad tale of the separations, of death of family members, and of survival. While in some ways uplifting, it is a horrific reminder of all that occurred.


I read more about the whole crisis. The United States was still reeling from failing to achieve its objectives in Vietnam, and the perceived sense of loss, and therefore could not support a country that Vietnam was supporting. It was the Vietnamese who came to the rescue and got rid of Pol Pot. Walking around the memorial grounds, and seeing 20,000 skulls in a central structure, complete with fractures and holes that define how they were killed, is a stunning and depressing reminder of what happened just a few decades ago. As my 15-year-old son and I walked around the grounds, we became more appreciate than ever of the importance of truth, of the need to stand up for what is right, and the frailty of democracy and government. We have to fight to keep what is good, and we are only a few bad people away from falling into a deplorable state.


Click here for my annotated bibliography



In this section, I will outline books that guide my thinking. I'm at my best when I'm reading, thinking and pushing myself. There's nothing more important than teaching literacy - the ability to read and write at advanced levels - and one way we all get better is (shock) by reading and writing. So I think it's important for me to share what I'm reading and what guides my work. Click here for my complete annotated bibliography.


Books About Teaching and Learning

  • Building The World's Greatest High School, by Richard Parkhouse (2013)
  • Better Learning Through Structured Teaching, by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey (2013)
  • Building a Better Teacher, by Elizabeth Green (2014)
  • Pathways to the Common Core, by Lucy Calkins (2012)
  • Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Education Will Change the Way the World Learns, by Clayton Christensen. (2011)
  • Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching, by Charlotte Danielson (2007) 
  • The Six Secrets of Change, by Michael Fullan (2008) 
  • Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, by John J. Ratey (2008)
  • Focus: Elevating the Essentials To Radically Improve Student Learning, by Mike Schmoker (2011)
  • Horace's Compromise (1984); Horace's School, by Ted Sizer (1992)
  • Emotions, Learning, and the Brain, by Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang (2015)

Books About Leadership

  • Rookie Smarts, by Liz Wiseman (2014)
  • Getting Things Done, by David Allen (2001)
  • The On-Time On-Target Manager, by Ken Blanchard and Steve Gottry (2004)
  • Know How, by Ram Charan (2007)
  • Good to Great, by Jim Collins (2001)
  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey (1989)
  • Quiet Strength, by Tony Dungy (2007)
  • Switch, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (2010)
  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Richard Kiyosaki (2000)
  • Death by Meeting, by Patrick Lencioni (2004)

Books Recently Read


The 2017-18 School Year

  • The Short Bus, by Jonathan Mooney (2008)
  • In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette, by Hampton Sides (2015)
  • News of the World, by Paulette Jiles (2016)
  • Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want, by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy (2016)

  • First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, by Loung Ung (2000)

The 2016-17 School Year

  • Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)
  • Emotions, Learning, and the Brain, by Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang (2015)
  • Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton (1911)
  • Golf in the Kingdom, by Michael Murphy (1971)
  • Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, by Bob Rotella (1995)
  • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth (2016)
  • Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance (2016)
  • Leading with Focus, by Michael J. Schmoker (2016)
  • Master of the Grill, America’s Test Kitchen (2016)
  • Never Send a Human to Do a Machine’s Job, by Yong Zhao (2015)
  • Nova Scotia, by David Orkin (2009)
  • The Obesity Code, by Jason Fung (2016)
  • 100 Recipes: The Absolute Best Ways To Make The True Essentials, America’s Test Kitchen (2015)
  • Shantaram, by Gregory Roberts (2003)
  • Unselfie : Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, by Michele Borba (2017)

The 2015-16 School Year

  • Being Mortal, by Dr. Atul Gawande (2014)
  • Creative Schools, by Ken Robinson (2015)
  • Edge of Eternity, by Ken Follett (2014)
  • Get Some Headspace, by Andy Puddicombe (2012)
  • Girl at War, by Sara Novic (2015)
  • How to Raise an Adult, by Julie Lythcott-Haims (2015)
  • Media Moms and Digital Dads, by Yalda Uhls (2015)
  • Overloaded and Underprepared, by Denise Pope, Maureen Brown & Sarah Miles (2015)
  • Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be, by Frank Bruni (2015)
  • WordPress to Go, by Sarah McHarry (2013)
  • The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough (2015)
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig (1975)


The 2014-15 School Year

  • Better Learning Through Structured Teaching, by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey (2013)
  • Building a Better Teacher, by Elizabeth Green (2014)
  • Cool: How the Brain’s Hidden Quest for Cool Drives Our Economy and Shapes Our World, by Drs. Steven Quartz and Annette Asp. (2015) 
  • Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Lifeby William Deresiewicz (2014). 
  • Leverage Leadership, by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo (2012)
  • Rookie Smarts, by Liz Wiseman (2014)
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari. (2015) 
  • The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way, by Amanda Ripley. (2013) 
  • The Swerve: How the World Became Moderns, by Stephen Greenblatt. (2011)
  • Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, by Laura Hildebrand (2010)


The 2013-14 School Year

  • Building The World's Greatest High School, by Richard Parkhouse (2013)
  • Coaching Conversations: Transforming Your School One Conversation at a Time, by Linda M. Gross Cheliotes and Marceta A. Reilly (2010)
  • Daemon, by Daniel Suarez (2014)
  • Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card (1985)
  • The Flip Side: Break Through The Behaviors that Hold You Back, Flip Flippen (2007)
  • A Leader's Legacy, by James Kouzes (2007)
  • The Long Walk to Freedom (The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela), by Nelson Mandela (2013)
  • The Power of Collective Wisdom, by Alan Briskin and Sheryl Erickson (2009)
  • 10% Happier, by Dan Harris (2014)
  • Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor, by Warren Bennis (2008)
  • Wired, by Douglas Richards (2012)

The 2012-13 School Year

  • Big Green Egg Cookbook, by Sara Levy (2009)
  • Enhancing Professional Practice, by Charlotte Danielson (2007)
  • Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury (1951)
  • Fall of Giants, by Ken Follett (2010)
  • Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams (1980)
  • The Hobbit, by JR Tolkein (1937)
  • How Will You Measure Your Life?, by Clay Christensen (2012)
  • The One Thing, by Gary Keller (2012)
  • Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein (1961)
  • Wheat Belly, by William Davis, MD (2013)
  • Winter of the World, by Ken Follet (2012)
  • The Wolf Gift, by Anne Rice (2012)


The 2011-12 School Year

  • Adventures of Huckleberry Huck Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyerand Roughing It, by Mark Twain (1884, 1876, 1872)
  • The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein (2008)
  • The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins (2008, 2009, 2010)
  • The Lincoln Lawyer, by Michael Connelly (2011)
  • Montana 1948, by Larry Watson (1993)
  • Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse (1922)
  • Slaughter House Five, by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)
  • Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson (2011)
  • Truman, by David McCullough (1992)