How Do We Begin to Create a Culture of Reading and Writing?

Boy reading book on the floor of a book store.“Do me a favor,” I say, “and close your eyes. I’m going to ask you to visualize something. If I told you you’re visiting a school with a healthy culture of reading and writing, I want to you visit it in your imagination. Start with the lobby or entryway. Notice everything you see and hear as you walk through.”

The exercise goes on for about thirty seconds. I ask the assembled room of teachers to walk the halls, look in on classrooms, listen in on the conversations in common spaces and between the folks they pass in hallways.

I ask them to pay attention to the adults and to the students equally. “Everyone is responsible for creating and sustaining culture, so make sure to observe and listen in on everyone.”

When each teacher has finished their tour, it’s tie to write. “Take five minutes and put it all out in writing. Capture as much of the detail as possible. If you draw a blank, keep writing, ‘and, and, and, and,’ until your brain fills in the holes. Trust that it will.” And, the room takes five minutes to write.

Next, I ask them to share with someone else in the room, not reading the writing verbatim, but distilling to key ideas. I limit the time to talk because conversations at this point are fully-fed and reproducing like tribbles.

The final step, jumping into a shared and open google doc where they answer one question as many times as they can, “What would it take to create the kind of culture you envisioned in your school?”

Again, the activity is timed. Most of the time, I’m having this conversation as a drop-in to a larger meeting. There are other atomized conversations about literacy on the agenda.

I’ve run this conversation several times in the last few months. As the language arts coordinator, it’s one of my favorites. The creativity and joy it elicits each time can be unfamiliar for your average professional meeting.

All of that said, we need to be having this conversation or some variant thereof as much as possible in schools of every level. From pK to 12, we need a picture of the kind of culture of reading and writing we’re hoping to inspire and establish if we want the people in our care to see themselves as readers and writers who aspire to ask and answer better questions.

Here are a few things I’ve noticed in each iteration of this conversation:

  • No one – no matter their subject area – has ever said, “I don’t know” at any point of the process.
  • No one has argued with the assumption what they’re being asked to envision is not important, worth their time, helpful to students, or a better version of what learning and teaching can be.
  • Once they get started with the writing and the talking and the coming up with ideas of how to make it work, the conversations are difficult to curtail or contain.
  • Almost every single idea these teachers generate for how to shift the culture of their schools is free to implement. When it’s not free, it’s low-cost or an idea any PTO would be thrilled to help realize these ideas.

So, let’s do it. Let us build a context around the atomized skills we’re all-too-clear our students need help building and then make it the norm that every person in our care instinctually knows our schools are places where our implied shared identity is one of curious readers and writers.

No, You’re On Grade Level!

level

Are you doing particle physics at grade level? How about your saxophone playing? Is it on par with your age group? Your ballet? Chemistry? Calculus?

My best guess is your answer to most, if not all, of these question was somewhere between “huh?” and “nope.” That’s to be expected.

Let me take one from my own learning – particle physics. First, look at your thumbnail. Turn it so you’re looking along its ridge. If all of space is what is known about particle physics, then one percent of the width of your thumbnail represents what I know about the subject.

That isn’t to say I know nothing about particle physics. I have certain facts and concepts catalogued in my brain and connected to the rest of the knowledge and experiences I’ve got up there. A secret? I’ve never taken a class on particle physics. Heck, I’ve never even taken a class on physics.

Yet, there’s the knowledge – one thumbnail deep. I learned it because I was curious. Something I’d run up against in the world inspired a question, and I was motivated to learn.

Given all of this, would you say my knowledge of particle physics is on grade level?

My answer would be yes. My ability to speak to the topic is aligned with any intrinsic needs I have to understand it better to accomplish any external goals I might feel. It has nothing to do with my age or how many years I have or have not been in school.

Somehow, though, we let the phrase “on grade level” determine not only the value we place on a child’s learning in a given subject, but the approach we take to helping that child advance his learning in that subject.

Reading is the most frustrating example in this conversation (with math not lagging too far behind). When a measure of a student’s ability to read is not commensurate with his “born on date” (to borrow from Sir Ken), we react as though all brains develop at exactly the same speed and that reading is intrinsically-driven by a person’s genetics. I say this as an English teacher and one who decided to spend four years of college reading and talking about it, there is nothing about reading that is biologically inherent to the human experience.

I learned to read because I was curious, and thank goodness I did. It meant I was dubbed on-level from the beginning and thus allowed free choice in the books I selected inside and outside of school. I knew how to read, and according to my teachers, this meant I was allowed to read.

My classmates who weren’t grade-level curious or weren’t interested in reading early enough were not so lucky. Because they were destined to wonder too late, they were also destined to be forced into (s)lower reading groups. We all knew it. Whether coded by bird species or color, my classmates and I knew that some of us were welcome to pick up whatever book we wanted and others were relegated to only specific shelves.

Walk into most reading classes today and things have gone further south. Students can tell you their reading level by reciting a number to you attached to nothing other than their knowledge that the bigger the number, the more worth they have as a reader. Reading capitalism.

I’ve taught these students when they’ve arrived at middle and high school. “I don’t read,” the tell me early in the school year. When I ask why, they tell me they aren’t good at it. That makes me sad. Delving more deeply into their histories of being schooled into reading, they explain they never liked the books their teachers made them read in earlier grades. Many of them simply didn’t read and figured out how to passably appear as though they had.

This realization is what convinced me of the need to open my classroom to student choice. I didn’t care what students were reading so long as they always were and could show consistent growth in their ability to talk and write about it. Sure, we read some shared texts so I could understand students’ progress at grasping key concepts of the discipline. When it came to grade-level reading, though, all I was working toward was disabusing my students of the idea that reading was something people did so they could reach a certain level for a certain grade.

What I’d like to see, and what holding tightly to the idea of “on grade level” prevents, is not students who see their worth as readers, scientists, mathematicians, or musicians, but who see worth in those activities and are members of communities that foster their curiosity to know and do more.

A History of a Thing I Lost

Light Reading

Are there books you can read more than once? I’m talking outside of the fervor with which you approached Harold and the Purple Crayon or Dr. Seuss as a child. Are there books that keep bringing you back to their pages for more?

For me, the list is incredibly few. At its top sits The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia. I won’t pretend that an 18th Century book by Samuel Johnson first published in serial form fits my go-to profile for favorite books. This one, though, is an example of the right book at the right time.

Rasselas and I first became acquainted during Fall semester of freshman year in college. The prof who taught my required Foundations of Inquiry course was also an 18th Century Brit Lit scholar, and he used a quotation from Rasselas at the top of his syllabus.

Our discussion of that quotation on the first day of class influenced a line of thinking for me that was something like, “College. Okay, yeah. I see how I could like it here.” And, I did.

I found Rasselas on the shelves of the local used book store and devoured it over winter break (a tradition I kept for many years after). The book became my gift of choice when friends faced major life choices and changes. I have no knowledge of whether or not any of them read the book, but handing it to them was an act of saying, “This was a flashlight when I needed it. I hope it can be the same for you.”

While I compulsively searched every used bookstore I encountered for more copies to add to my stock, one version, a small, light green edition stayed on my shelves with my notes in the margins. While not the, this was my first edition. We’d been on the journey together. We’d conversed about the importance of making your choice and being content.

Then, I gave it away. At a moment of realizing someone else needed it more than I did, I handed that edition off, hoping the combination of Johnson’s words and my margin notes might offer more than a clean copy could.

I miss that book. Since handing it over, I’ve not found another edition of Rasselas. We haven’t spent this much time apart since we met in college. Until we meet again, I’m trying my best to remember the lessons we learned together.


This post is part of a daily conversation between Ben Wilkoff and me. Each day Ben and I post a question to each other and then respond to one another. You can follow the questions and respond via Twitter at #LifeWideLearning16.

How Hyperlinks Have Changed Me as a Reader and Writer

An Image of 20 open tabs on my web browser

When I was in college, learning as an English Studies major, we were just beginning to have conversations about “hypertextuality” and what it’s implications might be for reading and writing. If everything could be connected to everything else to which it was referring, how might that change the load for readers?

Decades into the transformation, I’ve got my initial findings ready to report. It means a ton.

First, the reader’s perspective. Reading hyperlinked texts has created a continuous cavalcade of texts populating my browser windows across devices, apps, and windows. It hasn’t made reading more difficult, but it has made the act of learning from my reading more complex. I recently finished reading Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. It was a rare work of fiction to make it into my reading diet these days. Then, yesterday, I dove into Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as SoulcraftI should say that I’m reading both of these books through the Kindle app on my tablet. When I’m traveling, this lightens the load of my carry-on.

It took me a while to realize the experiential difference between the two texts. For Station Eleven, I got to read all the way through without any need of clicking. Mandel didn’t embed a single hyperlink in the book. I read it linearly as I do most works of fiction or when I’m reading a printed book. The cognitive demand was focusing on the story, the characters and how things were progressing as I moved through the book. If you haven’t read the book, it’s important to know Mandel packs the structure of the story with a great deal of complexity. Readers need to track multiple storylines across diverse geographies while also keeping track of a non-linear chronology. From a teacherly perspective, it’s advanced stuff.

Still, moving to Soulcraft was jarring. Crawford’s book is rife with endnotes and references to studies and other works that support the thesis he proposes. Because I was reading digitally, those endnotes were lit in blue on my screen, asking (daring me?) to click through and read those endnotes.

This exemplifies the biggest change I’ve experienced as a reader in a hypertextual world. I have to be active in my choices of how I navigate through what I’m reading while also actively engaging with the content of what I’m reading. My brain must do more if I’m to take advantage of the full experience.

Admittedly, the most clicking through I do when reading in the Kindle app or any of its brethren is using the dictionary function or highlighting a passage to keep or share. In online reading, though, it’s a different story. The image above is a screenshot of the window in which I’ve been writing this post. That’s twenty tabs. Some of them have been waiting for my attention for more than a month.

Hypertextuality hasn’t meant I’m reading more. I’ve always been hungry for words. It’s meant that I’ve more reading anxiously waiting for my attention. The ease of “Open Link in New Tab” driven by the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) on important thinking means I’m never at a loss for material and often overcome by choices when it’s time to read. This is why those tabs have been left open so long.

The hyperlink has given me immediate access to more information and diversions, required me to think about what I want to read while I’m thinking about what I am reading. Basically, the Internet is a choose your own adventure book.

Now, as a writer. Hyperlinks have simplified the words I feel like I need to put on a page or a screen. I just did it in the previous paragraph. I wanted to make a choose your own adventure reference and realized not everyone would know what I was talking about. Rather than using the space to explain it, I got link to the Wikipedia entry and move on. Fewer words.

Plus, using tools like citebite and the highly extension, I’m able to pull in text I want to reference or share it out to posts I want to make on social media. I start to write alongside an author. I’m changing a text as I read it. I’m co-authoring. Sure, I write here on the blog. And I am a writer on other people’s blogs. I’m commenting in-line on Medium posts (which I just realized I could do here on my WordPress install). Basically, the hyperlink has made everything I type a web.

From a design perspective, it’s also allowed me to hide that web by embedding links within text. Whenever possible in email, because I want them to look clean and reduce the amount of text on a page, I embed my links. More often than I’d expect, this results in people responding with something like, “Looks like you forgot to include the link you mentioned. Could you send it?” Then, I do. I paste the ugly, naked URL in a reply email and mention nothing about the fact they missed it in my initial missive, because of all the cognitive demands I know they are experiencing just keeping up with reading in a hypertextual society.

So, where does that leave me? As a writer, I’m clearly seeing more of a benefit from living in a hypertextual society. There’s less of a demand on what I need to explain as I’m writing, and I’m able to make references to lesser known cultural touchstones or academic works while suggesting my readers do the work of building background knowledge. As a reader, I’m learning to manage my experience and make active choices about which rabbit holes I choose to jump into. I’m raising my awareness of the fact that being exhausted with something I’m reading doesn’t necessarily mean I’m exhausted with the content, but perhaps with the process. Luckily, I can always choose to walk away from a text. Even better, my writer self can empathize with my reader self and try to create an experience that’s respectful to you.

(Final open tab count at posting, 25 26.)


This post is part of a daily conversation between Ben Wilkoff and me. Each day Ben and I post a question to each other and then respond to one another. You can follow the questions and respond via Twitter at #LifeWideLearning16.

#WorthReading: What I saw in ‘The Bluest Eye’

I don’t take as much time as I’d like to read. When I do, it is helpful for me to know someone I know thinks the book I’m about to open was worth their time. This summer, I’ll be posting each Tuesday about a book I’ve read recently that is #WorthReading over your summer. 

I’m midway through my first reading of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. This revelation usually garners a response of “Really?” or “What?” or some derivation thereof. I’ll give you a moment to shame me for my cultural incompetence before moving on to one of the effects this book is having on me.

For anyone who’s read the book, you know there’s a scene where the character Pecola enters the house of a boy she meets for the first time on a playground. Morrison alerts her reader to the fact that whatever is about to happen in this scene will be unpleasant.

If you, like me, have never read Bluest Eye, I won’t go into detail about what happens. That’s not what prompts this writing. Instead, this post is inspired by what didn’t happen and what I was sure I was about to read.

Pecola is not raped in this scene.

I’m struggling with the fact I was mentally prepared for that to be the outcome. As Morrison described the boy with whom Pecola is interacting and their brief conversations, I was sure she was giving me the literary equivalent of a trigger warning.

What transpires between the two is nowhere near kindness. The events elicited deep sadness.

Having some time to digest it, though, the thing that hurts my heart the most is my ready assumption that I should be steeling myself against sexual violence. I have turned this thought over since the reading, trying to understand why I assumed that the bad thing that was about to happen to this character would be the worst thing I could imagine.

It’s likely the intersection of several factors.

The last book I finished was Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places. If you’ve seen or read any Flynn, you know she writes for the jugular. Any character, sympathetic or not, is going to be put through hell. It’s possible that Dark Places primed my brain for this “kill and torture your darlings” philosophy as the default for whatever Morrison or any other fiction writer had in store.

This is possible, and I worry that Flynn doesn’t actually bear the weight of my expectations.

I worry that it’s a million threads weaving together that led me to expect that this young, female, African American, impoverished character who is described as “ugly” several times leading up to the exchange will be raped.

And I worry I thought this as I yelled at her to “Turn around!” when she and this boy started talking in the book. And I worry that I thought this when he closed the door as they entered his house and my eyes started to well with tears.

Mostly, though, I worry what it implies that the actual events that transpired in this scene still led me to think, “I’m so glad he did not rape her.”

Do you get this? Because it’s been heavy on me since the reading.

The absence of rape with the presence of other embarrassments I wouldn’t wish on any other person was a relief.

Race, class, gender, power, prescribed concepts of beauty – this is how some part of my brain has come to expect them to intersect when presented as Morrison presents them here.

I cannot explain how deeply it hurts to realize this is what I was assuming would happen.
It is the same feeling I have when I assume a queer character in a mainstream fiction will either be coming out or be emotionally and/or physically abused for being different.

It’s also where I find hope in the world outside literature. In the same way I know the LGBTQ experience is fuller, richer than the coming out process or the events of Boys Don’t Cry, I know that all of the cultural identifiers Pecola carries with her do not mean the hurt and torment visited upon her are certain in the real world as they are each time someone discovers The Bluest Eye.

Perhaps thats why I turn to literature. In it I can see what is possible if I work to make the world a more perfect reflection of what I hope to be possible and a portent of things I must work against in case our demons overpower the angels of our better natures.

#WorthReading: Claudia Rankine’s _Citizen_

I don’t take as much time as I’d like to read. When I do, it is helpful for me to know someone I know thinks the book I’m about to open was worth their time. This summer, I’ll be posting each Tuesday about a book I’ve read recently that is #WorthReading over your summer.

Cover of Claudia Rankine's

I do not remember where I first read about Claudia Rankine’s prose/poetry, National Book Award finalist Citizen. What I remember is that the online article said, “Read this book now. That is all you need to know. It is worth your reading. I don’t need to tell you about the book because it is that good.”

Dutifully, I ordered my copy and dropped it on the pile of to-read books. In January, as I was on my way out the door for the train ride to Philly for EduCon, I picked up the book, figuring, “It’s not that big. Perfect for a train.”

I was wrong in two ways.

1. Rankine’s book is big. The blend of poetry and prose packs more subtext about racial identity, race, perspective and resilience in the face of the marginalization of institutional racism. I read as I always do, with a pen in my hand. By the end of the train ride, I’d made only two marks in the margins. There was too much I wanted to capture. Rankine, in the stories she tells, has done the underlining for her reader by deciding those stories were worth including in the book.

2. It is perfect/imperfect for a train. Riding alone, I was constantly looking up, toward strangers and evaluating whether I could break the divide between us with, “I need you to read this because it is my responsibility now to pass it on.”

And that’s a large piece of why Citizen is #WorthReading. It is an American Lyric as advertised, and it is a lyric worth repeating, worth spreading, worth returning to as a reminder of stories too often muted and voices too often left out.

5 Links for the Week 7.3.14

Over at the work blog I started a series this last school year to collect and push out resources that might be worth the time and consideration of teachers who might happen by the blog. As that blog’s sleepy during the summer, I thought I might move the series here for a while. Assembled below are 5 Links that have gotten caught in my browser and won’t go away. I share them here in the hopes that I’ll be able to bring myself to close a couple tabs. If you have any suggestions for future 5 Links, leave them in the comments.


Link 1 – Maps just got a little googlier

Smarty Pins this new trivia game integrates Google Maps and gives players clues from a number of categories. You get your clue and you position your pin on the location you think the clue is referencing. My record number of questions thus far? Seven. I’m not proud, but I might be addicted.

Link 2 – Paper or Screen – Is one better?

The answer appears to be “Maybe.” This piece from ft.com by Julian Baggini pulls together some of the current research on the printed and eprinted pages and how they affect reading. Baggini writes, “Overall, there doesn’t seem to be any convincing evidence that reading on screen or paper is better per se.” That said, how do we proceed with teaching reading?

Link 3 – Who’s paying your congressperson?

Represent.us has this piece about 16-year-old Nicholas Rubin who created a plugin which skins your webpage for lawmakers and then provides a fact sheet on where that public servant received their money. If I were a history or English teacher in a tech-enabled setting, this would be on my list of suggested plugins for students.

Link 4 – The Internet as a Public Utility(?)

The video above is from PBS Digital Studios, and I can’t seem to get enough of their content. Mike Rugnetta takes viewers through a 14-minute investigation of Net Neutrality and the “What ifs?” of it all. Well worth watching and keeping under your had to start class discussion, spark debate, encourage research, and help students be more thoughtful citizens.

Link 5 – Where hunger is

The map above, the Global Hunger Index map, is a powerful reminder of where we still need to work as a global community to help those who still do not have access to adequate nutrition. Oftentimes, we unleash maps and data on students without any clear connection to the real world, I could see this tool inspiring weeks of inquiry and investigation. Perhaps, it might even lead to student action.

154/365 Schools and Markets

About halfway through Michael Sandel’s What Money Can’t Buy: The moral limits of markets, a phrase from the book’s introduction is still in my head:

The problem with our politics is not too much moral argument but too little. Our politics is mostly overheated because it is mostly vacant, empty of moral and spiritual content.

Now, before you start worrying Sandel is going down the Bill Bennett path of virtue, let me explain. Sandel is making the argument throughout this book that we’ve started to use the idea of the market and it’s cold economic understanding as a stand-in for thoughtful discourse and the raising of questions worthy of a people striving to be the best versions of themselves by asking why and whether we should act in certain ways.

We have become a market society, Sandel writes, rather than a market economy.

I’m only halfway through the book, which means I’m through the section where Sandel handily identifies the problem using examples from a variety of social landscapes, and I’m interested in his arguments of how we should act as I finish reading the book.

The thing that stands out here, and a piece Sandel highlights nicely early on, is the market language that has come to be commonplace in education. We can allow the market to play out as it will through various mechanisms of school choice. Schools might shutter and some companies may find ways to shorten the shoestrings they call budgets for the educating of children. But, is a free market the best way to ensure the provision of a public good? By listening to and acting on arguments based in economic thinking divorced from the moral imperative to enrich the thinking and actions of all our citizenry, are we endangering the future and losing any hope of closing the gaps we so often reference?

Sandel would argue we are (and I’d join him in that), but the mere need for such an argument should point to the idea that not everyone thinks this way and that perhaps some of them are setting policy by looking at education through an economic lens and not a humanist one.

To create the systems of education we need and to lean in to the hard work of understanding what our highest aspirations should be, we need a combination of both of these lenses in the same way any telescope finds and refines it’s view of what the eye cannot see beyond the horizon.

If we are to live in a marketplace, let it be one of ideas and discussions of our moral aspirations.

112/365 Play. Empathy. Democracy.

Playing the Building: Installation by David Byrne
I’ve been slowly working my way through Martha Nussbaum’s Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities. (Cataloged highlights from Kindle here.) The text began with much read-noddign on my part. “Yup,” my brain said, “She thinks what I think.”

Because of this, much of the early chapters didn’t feel challenging. Nussbaum was presenting the arguments I find myself making to others all the time. I needed her to either challenge my constructs or deepen my understandings. I saw the merits in her arguments, so I stuck with her.

Happening upon chapter six “Cultivating Imagination: Literature and the Arts,” I’m pleased I’ve kept reading. While the argument for play, creativity, fun, exploration and all their adjoining pieces is a familiar one, Nussbaum does something I’d not before witnessed.

She makes the argument for the importance of play and imagination in strengthening a democracy.

Claiming “Citizens cannot relate well to the complex world around them by factual knowledge and logic alone,” Nussbaum calls in play and imagination as skills to be prized in helping to build the empathy necessary for a democracy in which a plurality of views coexist and build a society.

We cannot get to empathy without imagination.

Democratic equality brings vulnerability…Play teaches people to be capable of living with others without control; it connects the experiences of vulnerability and surprise to curiosity and wonder, rather than to crippling anxiety.

Nussbaum calls for empathy education here. In fact, she opens her chapter quoting education authors calling for the same thing in 1916 and 1971.

I’ve made the call for empathy myself when speaking with groups of teachers. It’s embedded within the Ethic of Care. The pieces new here are the relationship of empathy to democracy and the use of play as a building block for empathy.

If I am not given way to imagine, I’ll never find the space to imagine how you are feeling or see our lives as interconnected. If I never see those lives as interconnected nor your thoughts and feelings as relevant to me, I’ll not take them into account when I think about things like school funding, civil rights, taxation, environmental issues…basically, every idea that intermingles with democracy.

I’ve valued and spoken to the value of each of these pieces – play, empathy, democracy. I’ve not had the occasion to consider them as interdependent and one leading to another. Such a relationship rearranges the furniture in my brain a bit and helps me to find a way to structure a call to action when next I find myself in front of a group of educators.

92/365 Teachers Should Probably be Readers

The same way that we must want for adults what we want for students, we must do as adults what we would like students to do.

Particularly – reading.

In the schools we need, teachers not only encourage literacy and learning, but they participate in it themselves as well.

Every school has one teacher who can point to the filing cabinet drawer when you walk into her room. “That drawer,” she will tell you, “has eighth grade in it.” Pointing to the other drawers, she will explain that the lesson plans and overheads for other years are all stocked away in the even that she be moved to teach another grade the next year.

Sadly, many schools have many versions of this teacher.

The high-tech version of this teacher can point to the flash drives with text files and powerpoints archived across grade levels.

Teachers must seek and engage in reading for the same reason we want our students to read – to find new ideas, challenge old ideas, and build on what they already know.

Admittedly, given the papers that need grading, the lessons that need planning, and the resources that need creating, picking up a book about teaching is not the sexiest of out-of-school activities. The right books, though, could mean finding new practices that alleviate the load of traditional teaching.

While toolkit books that preach this or that newest “best practice” can be helpful for a quick top-off when teachers are struggling to figure out how to make their next units of study interesting, they aren’t the best reading. These books are the paperback romance novels of the education world. They offer quick escapes from the problems of practice and don’t ask their audiences to think too much about what’s happening or why.

The education books worth the time it takes to read them, engage teachers in thinking about why and how they do what they do in their classrooms or other learning spaces. Like the best literature, they are complex, thought-provoking, and devoid of easy answers. Readers must also do the work. Dewey, Friere, Lawrence-Lightfoot, Holt, Dweck and many more present ideas about education and schools that ask us to evaluate our preconceptions and remain open to the new worlds they would have us create through out practice.

Admittedly, the time crunch mentioned above is a barrier to teacher reading in the same way the hyper-scheduled student struggles to find time to read anything other than the chapters assigned by his teachers.

Schools can help here:

  • Interested faculty can organize a reading group that meets regularly over a common planning period, after school, or during lunch.
  • In spaces where common interest cannot be mustered, teachers can turn to online spaces like goodreads.com for communities of readers, book suggestions, and conversations about what they read.
  • School leaders who understand the value of common language in building culture can ask faculties to study texts they’ve selected as speaking to the mission, values, and goals of a school in order for all concerned to build an understanding of the common vision of the space.
  • Ten minutes of every faculty meeting could be opened up to faculty members sharing pieces of something they’ve read in the interim since the last time everyone got together.

If we want schools to be temples built to the exchange of ideas, we must create the spaces necessary for those exchanges and we must be constantly working to access, synthesize, and consider new ideas. Reading, though not the only way to access these ideas, can be a strong gateway drug for learning.