Happy November, Friends!

This is one of my favorite months of the year, in no small part because this is when Charleston tries very hard to have fall. It is also when we collectively round the corner toward Thanksgiving and winter breaks and much of the very heavy lifting of the first semester of the school year is behind us. My schedule includes the last of the fall governance workshops, our annual conference has wrapped up, and we are starting to look ahead to the winter and summer institutes next semester. In short, we enter November filled with gratitude for the hard work we have been privileged to do, the beautiful weather that gives us a moment to enjoy this incredible region, and the break in the action ahead.

This is also when I start hoarding books. I collect books all year long, but this time of year is when I can see a window over the holidays where the books might actually get read. Early November might seem optimistically early for this kind of planning, but it also gives me time to start screening books for friends and family. Books are the gift type I most frequently indulge. For that matter, if someone is not much of a reader, I am often at a loss for what to get them.

My work-related reading is already piling up, and I have started to get through a couple of them. Below are some descriptions of what is on my bedside table, in case they might be of interest to you or someone on your list.

From ReOpen to Reinvent: (Re)Creating the School for Every Child, by Michael Horn

Michael is one of the co-founders of the Christensen Institute and heavily involved in work around disruptive innovation and other movements. He also never does anything halfway. He brings interesting tools and insights from the business world, like the jobs-to-be-done framework to the education space. I would argue that his time on the NAIS board was one of the triggers for NAIS’s extensive work around the jobs-to-be-done framework. This book collects his thoughts about education from before, during, and after the pandemic, including his many conversations with industry leaders, and collates them into an approachable set of concepts for improving education for everyone. One of the things I like about Michael is that he is not preachy, and he has an understanding of the complexities around change. He will also be doing a book club for us on December 6th, in case you would like to join in.

Belonging: The Science of Creating Connection and Bridging Divides, by Geoffrey Cohen

A friend recommended this book to me as she is reading it right now and ties it to her work with schools around creating cultures of belonging. She thinks quite deeply about diversity initiatives and the culture wars and has been working hard to find more ways to work with schools so that everyone feels heard and understood. This from the blurb:

Often inadvertently, we behave in ways that threaten others’ sense of belonging. Yet small acts that establish connection, brief activities such as reflecting on our core values, and a slew of practices that Cohen defines as “situation-crafting” have been shown to lessen political polarization, improve motivation and performance in school and work, combat racism in our communities, enhance health and well-being, and unleash the potential in ourselves and in our relationships. Belonging is essential for managers, educators, parents, administrators, caregivers, and everyone who wants those around them to thrive.

I see this book as one for those of us who are fundamentally worried about the human condition right now, who want to create more connections and space for everyone around the table, and who work with institutions and individuals that cover a wide span of the political and other spectrums.

Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male is Struggling, Why it Matters, and What to Do About it, by Richard Reeves

I heard about this book on a Scott Galloway podcast (October 27th) and it piqued my interest. In my opinion, the increasingly alarming data around boys and men often gets short shrift. You can read more about these issues in this short article focusing on the education gap alone by Reeves. It is worth considering how the world is failing men and boys right now, and how we might start thinking about changes in education to support boys in a way that will bring them more success, purpose, and happiness later. How we think about and approach this issue over the next many years will likely be fundamental to their success and ability to thrive.

Blind Spot: The Global Rise of Unhappiness and How Leaders Missed it, by Jon Clifton

Many of these trends from the other books speak more broadly to what is happening with people worldwide. I have been a fan of Gallup’s approach to wellness for some time. This book captures its most recent happiness data around from around the world. What is incredible about this data is that it predates the pandemic – global unhappiness has been rising for a decade. However, we rarely measure this statistic in any standard metrics like gross domestic product or other indicators. The data is not all bad, people living their best lives have doubled, but those living their worst lives have quadrupled. This does not bode well. As we partner with families to grow healthy people, helping them define for themselves what a good life may be, and how to think about the overall wellness and happiness of others is likely to become more important.

These are my current line-up of books. There are other “fun reads” in my pile, including the full set of the Shetland series by Ann Cleeves, Now is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson, and my usual pre-holiday cookbook vetting (Ina Garten’s new oneMelissa Clark’s Dinner in One, and Kardea Brown’s The Way Home: A Celebration of Sea Islands Food and Families are currently in the running). What are you reading this holiday season? Share it with me and we’ll spread the word!

Finally, we wish you all a peaceful and fulfilling Thanksgiving. This is the season of gratitude and thankfulness and we at SAIS are humbled that you choose to be a part of this organization. As always, if we can do anything for you, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Sincerely,

Debra