During the summer months, I usually want to put away the education books and pick up some light reading to take my mind off of school. Last summer, however, while I was writing my book Self-Regulation in the Classroom: Helping Students Learn How to Learn, I spent a lot of time studying the topic and digging through research. While researching, I came across some great books that helped me round out the text and spoke to me outside of being an educator. Pick up one of these books this summer to learn more about yourself beyond being an educator.
Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire (Perigee Books)
Kaufman, the scientific director of the Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and Gregoire, a senior writer for the Huffington Post, have pulled together the latest findings in neuroscience and psychology as well as examples of artists and innovators from recent and past history to help explain how all of us can be, and are, creative. With more standardized testing and fewer opportunities for children to be creative, this book highlights the critical need for all of us to understand how our brains are naturally wired for creativity. The authors present ways to hone your passion, encourage daydreaming, feel secure in solitude, turn adversity into advantages, learn to think differently, and more. You will find this book full of “aha” moments as you reflect on your own life. You will learn how to make the school day and your classroom space more creativity-invoking. If you are a research geek, you’ll enjoy the 55 pages of notes at the back of the book that support the text—but you don’t have to read those pages!
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink (Riverhead Books)
Motivation is one of the biggest hot-button issues in the world today. We’ve learned to be driven by extrinsic rewards or punishments, either getting a good grade (reward) or being called out (punishment) when you don’t do your homework. In his extensive investigation into what motivates people, Daniel Pink discovered that we strive for our best when we have an intrinsic desire to direct our own lives and we feel a sense of accomplishment when we create new things. I love this book because it very clearly lays out these driving forces—especially those that drive the children of the 21st century. Every educator needs to read this book to understand that external rewards and punishments have little to no effect on achievement. Let’s focus our attention on how we can get students to feel autonomous, gain mastery of a subject, and find purpose.
How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens by Benedict Carey (Random House)
Too often, educators lack awareness of how the brain learns. Additionally, we continue to teach based on a lot of mythology, such as reviewing class notes as a method of studying. In fact, studying class notes has little value when it comes to an exam. What has more impact on performance is the ability to re-create the notes from memory. Benedict Carey does an excellent job of dissecting the research on how we learn and providing ample ideas for making learning more valuable. You will find useful tips on the quantity of study versus the quality of study to help improve students’ achievement. This book can help you break down many of the myths and misconceptions we all have about learning.
Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing the World for Success and Influence by Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., and E. Tory Higgins, Ph.D. (Hudson Street Press)
To be self-regulated and achieve success, all people need to learn how to manage their feelings, behaviors, and thought processes. Focus offers detailed information on the two ways we are motivated to achieve: either through winning or avoiding losing. This is being called promotion-focused (achieving because you see the benefit of the accomplishment) or prevention-focused (avoiding failure and being just “good enough”). The book offers examples of promotion- and prevention-focus in a wide range of situations, from raising children to marketing to business. It can also be a helpful book for teachers to learn how to motivate children to achieve beyond the reward of good grades. For school administrators, it can provide useful ideas to engage staff in working toward a fulfilling school environment.
When considering your reading choices over the days away from school, think about looking outside the field of education. A lot of great material is out there, from business to history to romance, that can help us understand the human condition. I enjoy the challenge of connecting materials outside of education to the classroom and making them work in school. I’d love to hear your other choices for summer reads and how they can connect back to the classroom. Tell me the name of the book and provide a little description of how it connects to education. I look forward to reading your ideas.
Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., writes the monthly Cash in on Learning blog posts for Free Spirit Publishing. He has given hundreds of workshops, presentations, and staff development sessions throughout the United States and internationally.
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