To Teach and to Lead, From This Day Forward, for Better, for Worse

The Edcamp Foundation supports teacher reading over the summer. Dristay Torres offers a number of books here that have inspired her call to teaching. Read more of their posts at https://knowledgeforeternity.wordpress.com/

There are a lot of marvelous books out in the world. Unfortunately, no one will ever be able to read them all. One of the main reasons is that reading requires time and time is finite. For busy educators, this time cost of reading typically means reading is left for the summer when school is not in session. Most educators will concede, though, that, although school is not in session, they are still working; especially year-round educators. Year-round educators only have about seven weeks of summer break, in most cases, to both relax and prepare for the next school year. 

The continuous time constraint for both traditional and year-round educators means educators have to be picky about the books they invest in. Here are two excellent book recommendations:

1. Kristi Hedges’ The Inspiration Code: How the Best Leaders Energize People Every Day

Although it is tailored for business leaders, The Inspiration Code is a must-read for anyone in the education profession: from teachers and coaches to aspiring and current assistant principals to aspiring and current school district leaders. The book showcases readers how to not only inspire, but empower others to inspire others.

Hedges’ main claim in The Inspiration Code is that people are inspiring when they are: present, personal, passionate, and purposeful. The book breaks down each of these four components which Hedges calls “the inspire path”; all of which are pivotal for educators to know. The investments educators make in their student and colleague relationships take time to become visible, and sometimes a lot of time. Hedges’ ideas, hence, show educators how to make the correct investments, so they do not later regret what they did or did not do or say to help a student, fellow colleague, or our Professional Learning Community.

For example, one specific idea Hedges discusses that is particularly relatable to the education profession is potential. Hedges explains that one way to invest in and inspire an individual is by sharing the potential you may see in her. Saying something, such as “I see __ in you” or “Let me share what is possible for you”, can be highly uplifting (Hedges 92). The leader’s statements show the other person she has a champion who supports her and that she has inherent worth. In other words, the statements promote what Albert Bandura termed self-efficacy and increase motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000); things that can highly benefit students.

Another nice feature of The Inspiration Code is that it is structured in a way that supports educators’ overscheduled calendars. At the end of every chapter is a bulleted summary of the main ideas. The end of chapter summaries make the book digestible and easy to return to if you only have time to read at sporadic intervals. 

2. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Meditations is a very influential stoic text that has inspired generations of leaders. For example, according to The Atlantic, it is one of Bill Clinton’s favorite books. If you want to take that next big step in your teaching career and enhance your leadership presence among your students, staff, district, and greater community, this book is for you.

Essentially, Meditations is a series of journal entries that Aurelius wrote to himself in his later years as Roman emperor. His entries cover things from responding to loss to education to dealing with people one dislikes. They help readers reflect on how to maintain equanimity and remain humble when presented with both defeat and victory.

Here is an excerpt from the first paragraph of chapter five:

At break of day, when you are reluctant to get up, have this thought ready to mind: ‘I am getting up for man’s work. Do I still then resent it, if I am going out to do what I was born for, the purpose for which I was brought in to the world? Or was I created to wrap myself in blankets and keep warm?’ ‘But this is more pleasant.’ Were you then born for pleasure - all for feeling, not for action? Can you not see plants, birds, ants, spiders, bees all doing their own work, each helping in their own way to order the world? And then you do not want to do the work of a human being - you do not hurry to the demands of your own nature. ‘But one needs rest too.’ One does indeed: I agree. But nature has set limits to this too, just as it has to eating and drinking, and yet you go beyond these limits, beyond what you need. Not in your actions, though, not any longer: here you stay below your capability.

Needless to say, helping you gain perspective and reevaluate your approach to life are some of the many responses Meditations catalyzes in its readers. 

As the wedding vows in America go, hopefully all the educators in the field are better equipped to teach and to lead, “from this day forward, for better, for worse,” with these two books.

Dristay Torres earned her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.) and her teaching credentials in California.