Monday, January 7, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

      It is Monday! What Are You Reading is originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts host a kidlit and YA version as well. 

Seven days after New Year's resolutions have been made and\or broken is a perfect time to share what I am reading! Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath is the book you need today when resolution and goal setting abounds, not just personally, but for us, professionally, with our students.  I would declare it to be the book that had the most profound impact on me in 2012, as a teacher, leader, and learner.  Is this a book for teens? Absolutely! When I think about engaging nonfiction such as Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers or Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation that I have enjoyed with students, I would add this title. I see this book fitting well into a physical education course or psychology course too.

My big aha was that teachers are change agents! We ask kids to make changes every day as readers, writers, and learners.  Often we feel frustrated when they don't.  You won't, however, find this book under areas traditionally classified educational professional reading.  Although Switch is classified under business management, it provides insight to help you be a better agent of change in not only your classroom, but also in your life.  According to Heath and Heath, the big idea related to change that sticks, is that you have to influence not only the environment, but the hearts and the minds by directing the rider, motivating the elephant and sharing the path.

The Heaths shares Jonathan Haidts' analogy of two sides that work concurrently in people, the emotional side, the Elephant, and the rationale side, the Rider.   For change to happen, the Rider is in need of planning and direction and that is what a leader or teacher can bring to students.  The Rider is the thinker or planner who can help you plot a course, but is also in danger of getting caught up in what I describe as "paralysis by analysis" or over-thinking. The Rider carefully supervises the change. To avoid exhausting the Rider, the Rider needs to understand why it matters.  In my classroom, I share the research with kids about my instructional choices.  It lets them know the logic of my decisions. The Rider also needs to be connected. Perhaps in teaching, the personal learning network (PLN) or the Professional Learning Community (PLC) are the supports that help the Rider enact change. That is only one part of the process as the Elephant must be nurtured as well.

When I think about teaching, the heart or the Elephant signifies the power of relationships in our classrooms.  That adage that kids have to care before they will learn, applies here.  The teacher must inspire the Elephant The Heaths believe that the Elephant supplies the crucial energy needed to negotiate the ambiguity that change often brings. Elephants lead the charge.

As you consider Haidts' analogy and the Heaths' interpretation, ask yourself who are your riders and elephants? As individuals, we don't act with balance here. Listen to your students and listen to yourself. What are you?  Are you providing enough support for changes to happen in your students?  Are you getting the support for the Rider and Elephant within needed to make change. Of course, you don't stop here! Where are you going?

Sharing the path is a crucial step.  Where you want to go and how you aim to get there matter.  To share the path, people need a specific goal and an understanding of why it matters. When people set goals, the most successful set behavioral goals. The Heaths believe that the key here is to change your big ideas into specific behaviors that will point to a destination. To figure it out, you must ask yourself questions. How will you know when the change is happening or has happened? What are the tangible signs? This visioning is an important step in the process. If you don't know where you are going and what it might look like when you get there, you will have a hard time establishing the path.  Time spent developing timelines and planning for milestones work here.  You will spend more time upfront building it, but it is a template or a path to follow that can be revisited and re-visioned and your success may hinge upon it.

Remember knowledge alone doesn't change behavior.  So just reading my response or the book itself, won't help you make the changes.  Practice matters too, which a read of Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers will reinforce. But you and your students must have ample opportunities to approximate or practice without punishment according to Brian Cambourne's Conditions for Learning.  Making change is exhausting.  I don't offer this as a reason to give up, but more so as a reason to be more gentle or forgiving with yourself  and more patient with your students as you work together to make changes this year.

P.S. I have more to share about this book, but am saving it for another posting!


  1. Hi, just coming from It's Monday by Teacher Mentor Texts.
    That sounds like a book I should read.

    1. There is so much more. Would love to hear your thoughts after you finish! Thanks for the feedback!

  2. Thanks for the recommendation! This is perfect for me as I have been quite frustrated with my inability to inspire change. It is difficult when you rarely see or speak with the people you work with, but I know it can be done better than what I'm doing.

    Btw, I am currently reading Notice & Note by Beers and Probst and Flight Behavior by Kingsolver (I've finished about 10 YA books since starting this one, but I like it).

    1. Both of those books are on my TBR. I think you will find tips to help make your work better! Thanks for the reply!

  3. sounds a good one for me now:) coming from teacher mentor texts

    1. If you pick it up, let me know your thoughts! I think it would be good to share with leadership team. Thanks for your reply!


Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Your words matter!