Good morning, I hope this finds you well. In Connecticut, at least, the weather is fabulous. And today is Day Two of not having to wake up at 5:30 am because the school bus arrives at 6:40, so I feel like I have a new lease on life. Nevertheless, I was up early this morning, despite the fact that the fire alarm went off late last night and my husband and son made a dash to the store for new batteries for the smoke alarms. I was happy to see the Marshall Memo in my inbox, and reading the contents made me laugh, as there were so many connections to topics that have been in my head recently.
But before talking about some of those, thank you to those who have joined the online book club. There have been several times in my life when I have suggested something to people who have absolutely no obligation to do anything just because I thought it was a good idea, so there’s this sense of almost losing my balance, waiting to see what will happen. So when Julie posted the first message just a couple of minutes after I sent the email, I was ecstatic. The last Coaching Letter arrived at a lousy time, and the announcement about how to join the book club was in the last paragraph, so you may have missed it. So here it is again:
The first book is Humble Inquiry, by Ed Schein. The discussion will take place in Google+—you can access it on the web at https://plus.google.com/communities/109390517899032274686?iem=1. If you click on this link it will give you the option to join the group. You can also download the app on Android or Apple, including, of course, your iPad. You can also post pictures and share links to something else you are reading, watching, or listening to. When you join, please post an introduction to the group—who are you, what do you do, and why are you joining the book club? The next post I’m going to write is a personal connection to the personal story Schein tells at the beginning of the book about how it feels to be given advice.
While I’m making announcements, I’m attaching flyers for the Center’s Equity Institute, which is filling up fast, and to our Coaching Institute, which I and my colleague Kerry Lord facilitate. This time, we are hosting it at Mercy Center, a fabulous place on the coast, with views of the beach and a silent wing! I love it. We only take 24 people, so at only $275 per person for three days, it’s a steal. I realize that I have come to think about it as trying to reach the overlap between coaching and leading; it is about being a better listener, asking better questions, and giving better feedback, but it is also about thinking through challenges, not making assumptions, and being strategic as well as tactical. Come if you can, whatever your job description.
I’m also the project manager for a grant that CAPSS has from Nellie Mae to support districts that are developing/have developed a Portrait of a Graduate, and are working on building strategy and capacity to realize that vision. We’re running a three day workshop in July so I’ve been spending a great deal of time on that. I was talking to two guys from Apple about how to think about the best use of technology in instruction, and as a result of that conversation, I’m just about to order a copy of Design Thinking for School Leaders, the new book from ASCD.
Back to the Marshall Memo. The first story is about football, which reminds me of this Malcolm Gladwell podcast that I listened to a week or so ago. Gladwell’s podcast, Revisionist History, is terrific, and there are plenty more episodes I would like to write about. In this one, he does a fantastic job of setting up the big punch, and he is really talking about mental models and the power they have over us. It’s very powerful and hard to listen to in places.
The Marshall Memo also has a great resource on diagnostic questions. I have done a lot of work on classroom formative assessment—not formative assessments, which are events and frequently things, but formative assessment, which is a process, and less to do with assessment the way we often think about it, and more to do with instruction. If you have not read Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan Wiliam (yes, I spelled it correctly), and you are in education, I highly recommend that you do so. It seems to be catching on in a number of places, not least because it includes so many practical examples that make the ideas come alive.
And the Marshall Memo features a piece on learning styles. One of the first Coaching Letters was a kind of advertisement for the Marshall Memo, and also about learning styles and how our ideas about them are completely distorted, and referred to this blog post by Daniel Willingham. There weren’t many subscribers to this newsletter at that time, but it was the response I got to that one that made me realize that I had a useful contribution to make and encouraged me to try to do more with it. So thank you, Bob Villanova and Robert Henry, your encouragement meant a great deal early on.
Finally, for reasons I don’t quite remember, I joined Daniel Pink and Malcolm Gladwell’s book club. The first two books are New Power by Heimans and Timms, and The CEO Next Door by Botelho and Powell. I started reading the first one, and haven’t got very far but I like it very much.
So I realize that this newsletter is a bit random, but I hope it gives you ideas for things to think about, read, and listen to. And please, join the book club! Everyone needs a bit more humility in their lives.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate it. Yours, Isobel
Isobel Stevenson PhD PCC
Connecticut Center for School Change
151 New Park Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106