Summer Book List: 8 Recommended Reads From the New Classrooms Team

With the school year winding down, educators have some time to unwind, refresh, and disconnect. For a lot of us, that means a good book with new ideas and inspiring takeaways. We asked for recommendations from folks around New Classrooms and compiled a list that covers everything from change management and leadership to parenting and brain science. Here are eight books that we think would be well worth your time this summer. Enjoy!

Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, Second Edition

By Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

Whether you're a parent, a teacher, or someone who wants to make a difference in the world, you probably wish you had more influence with the people that you connect with in your life. This book helps you identify and learn important principles and skills that enable you to influence others to make critical changes in their lives leading to continuous improvement and growth.

Whether you are trying to change behaviors of a spouse, colleague, or friend, the authors identify six sources of influence that make change inevitable. As a coaching team, we've found this book to be valuable in both our personal and professional lives!

— Sarah Towler, Director of Instructional Support

This is an easy, fun read about the important issue of executive function. Referencing such important cultural touchstones as Star Trek and MTV, John Medina explains why executive function is so critical for the development of teenagers. This is a great book for anyone who’s interested in how social-emotional learning integrates with the academic instruction of new school models.

Teach to One's Student Success Framework identifies key SEL constructs such as self-management and decision making which are elements of executive functioning. This book fits right into our world, so head to the beach and read about why teenagers are the way they are!

— Sue Fine, Chief of Learner Development

Thinking, Fast and Slow

By Daniel Kahneman

This book contains some profoundly important concepts around how people make decisions. It will help you understand why humans sometimes make errors in judgement, and how to look for signs that you may be about to make one. The premise is that our brain has two systems for thinking. System 1 is the intuitive, “gut reaction” way of thinking and making decisions. System 2 is the analytical, “critical thinking” way of making decisions. This book shows that, for the most part, System 1 is in control and often leads us to jump to conclusions and make wrong judgements.

Our team found this useful not only for our professional lives but because it also pushed us to think about how we can do a better job of helping students activate their System 2.

— Brad Cameron, Director of Instructional Content and Progressions

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This book is one of the most concise and clearest explanations of the technological, economic, and ecological forces that are reshaping the world we're living in. I'm especially struck by his description of the confluence of computing power, the cloud, and artificial intelligence and its potential to dramatically accelerate the work we’re doing at New Classrooms.

— Joel Rose, Chief Executive Officer

In too many cases, the answer to a teacher's dilemma for how to teach to a class with a wide range of academic knowledge is to "teach to the middle /average." Enter Todd Rose, who writes that no one is average and discusses the problems with measuring individuals against an average. He backs it up with research, data, and science—as well as his own personal experiences as a student.

He challenges readers and provides meaningful ways to focus on the individual, in all its jagged and non-normal-distribution nature. It's refreshing to imagine that the "end of average" could be near and it inspires my work developing new learning models to meet the needs of each individual student.

— Charles Voltz, Senior Director of Instructional Design & Progressions

As I said farewell to the director at my kids' school this morning, thanking him for successfully shepherding both of them through third, fourth, and fifth grade, he shook my hand and said with genuine gratitude, "Thanks for being such a great partner!" Does he say this to every parent? Does he actually think I'm great, and not just good?

While educators are typically provided with some sort of curriculum guide or set of standards, and a culminating assessment, parents have no similar framework for evaluation. What they do have are a plethora of guide books to purchase! I recommend this one. Unconditional Parenting is guaranteed to force fresh thinking about your everyday words and actions as a parent. It makes a compelling case for doing away with any type of reward or punishment system: No more "time outs" for bad behavior or trips to the candy store for good grades. Free your family from conditional equations! It's really hard. But that hard work might pay off with nightly ice cream cones, just because.

— Jennifer Stillman, Director of Assessment and Evaluation

I first became familiar with the impacts of housing instability as a fourth grade teacher in New York City. Unfortunately, the circumstances that affected some of the students in my school are all too common; according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, each year, as many as 1.7 million youth under 18 experience homelessness for at least one night.

Evicted follows the lives of eight families living in Milwaukee, giving the reader a heartbreaking look at the daily struggles faced by a growing number of Americans in the post-recession years and examining eviction as a cause, rather than a consequence of, poverty. This book is deeply affecting for any educator whose students and families may be facing the issue of housing instability and truly, for any American seeking to broaden their understanding of inequality in this country.

— Alicia Morrison, Acting Deputy Director of School Implementation Design 

This is the story of an unlikely team of engineers and students who in the the late 60s and early 70s developed a groundbreaking computer system called PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations). They also invented things like the touch screen, plasma displays, online gaming, instant messaging, remote desktop, and much more.

Also, as the first generalized computer-assisted instruction system, PLATO just happened to be the world's very first digital personalized learning system.

— Pat Collins, Director of IT Operations

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