School Administrator Must Reads for Personalized Learning Communities

Topics: Building Capacity, Vision and Culture

Here are short reviews of five resources for school administrators who are looking to expand knowledge about personalized learning, design thinking and leadership and helping to build a thriving school culture.

Teach with your Strengths by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller.

1. Teach With Your Strengths by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller

This book makes the connection between the popular Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment and the education world, has the power to transform how you leverage your staff. It comes with a StrengthsFinder code to take the assessment online but goes one step further by helping you understand what to do with that data as it related to education. Authors Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller dive into the differences between talents, knowledge, strengths, weaknesses and skills. Chapters three and four are the meat of the book and break down the educational talents as well as opportunities for forming complementary partnerships amongst staff.

Design Thinking for School Leaders by Alyssa Gallagher and Kami Thordarson.

2. Design Thinking for School Leaders by Alyssa Gallagher and Kami Thordarson

Authors Alyssa Gallagher and Kami Thordarson make the case that design thinking can impact the culture of a school, even when a “culture of powerlessness has been accepted as the status quo.” Throughout Design Thinking for School Leaders, school leaders are challenged to use design-inspired leadership, rather than defaulting as the head problem-solver of the school. The more I learn about Design Thinking, the more applications I see for when I was a school administrator, and how things might have gone differently had we approached things with a design thinking mindset.

3. What Makes a Good School Culture? By Leah Shafer

Leah Shafer keeps it simple but dives right in to school culture and its essential elements in her article, What Makes a Good School Culture?. “In a weak culture, sparse interactions make it difficult for people to learn the organization’s culture, so its character is barely noticeable and the commitment to it is scarce or sporadic,” she says. This is why it is so important for a school leader to be out of their office as often as possible so that they are getting a constant pulse on the school culture. Readers should pay close attention to the five interwoven elements of culture that school administrators can influence.

Work Simply by Carson Tate.

4. Work Simply by Carson Tate

You can tell I have read Work Simply multiple times because it is covered in tabs, post-it notes and highlighter. It’s a self-help book on organizing your work life…but the author has personalized it! Carson Tate has figured out that we are all different and a one-size-fits-all approach to becoming more productive does not help. Included in the book is a productivity style assessment to determine if you are a Prioritizer, Visualizer, Arranger or Planner. Once you’ve figured out your productivity style, Carson gives you tips based on your style to help you improve things like setting up your office space, maintaining your email inbox, paper management and delegation. As school administrators, we know that work is fast-paced and unpredictable at times; we need to be able to maximize our productivity so we can get out of the office and spend time with staff and students.

5. The Biggest Obstacles to Innovation in Large Companies by Scott Kirsner

This article from Harvard Business Review was not written for the education world…but has everything to do with it. In it, Stacey Butler from NRG Energy says, “And big companies, like elephants, have long memories. Many long-timers can remember — and will happily detail in meetings — all of the ‘historical attempts [at innovation] that didn’t pan out – and it may just not have been the right time.’” As a school leader, it’s our job to help break through those barriers. Readers should pay special attention to the section on culture.

Continue your reading with the Back-to-School Culture Toolkit for K-12 Leaders and uncover insights from other district and school leaders on parent and community engagement, school culture, SEL skills as readiness development and aligning budget decisions to your learner-centered vision.