Staff Recommended Reading List

The staff of State Support Team 4 would like to use this website space to share with you our favorite books. Each month you will be introduced to a new staff recommended book. We hope that you find something new to consider and possibly impact your personal professional development.
Happy Reading!

February Recommended Read

Poor Students, Rich Teaching: Mindsets for Change

By: Eric Jensen 


Book reviewed by: Liesl Blackwell

Book Synopsis:

The author, Eric Jensen, states, "As a throwaway kid, I was believed to be a disruptive loser who didn't care about learning. Actually, I loved learning: it was school I didn't like." The impact of poverty on the classroom is felt daily. Discussions regarding the ways in which educators work to meet the needs of children from poverty are imperative if students are to find success in a school setting.

This book is about choice for students as well as educators. Everyone gets knocked down. You have a choice about whether you are going to get up or not. This book shows how educators can give students a helping hand to get up until they can learn to do it for themselves.

Four mindsets for change are discussed: 

Relational mindset- why the types of relationships teachers have with students are one of the biggest reasons why students graduate or drop-out. If you are not good at building relationships, or you are unsure how important they are, this mindset is for you. 

Achievement mindset- learn about powerful success builders. Students from poverty can and do love to learn when you give them the right tools.

Classroom Climate mindset- strategies to create an energetic, high-performing class culture.

Engagement mindset- quick, easy practical strategies for buy-in and to build community.

This book will support educators in making smart choices in the classroom that allow students from poverty to engage with the teacher, their peers, and their learning. 


Why I Recommend This Book: 

This book hooked me from the first page. Poverty and its impact on learning is a real challenge for today's educators. The author goes beyond simply identifying problems or restating what we already know to be issues. He gives practical strategies that can be implemented immediately.

January Recommended Read

By: Barbara Fredrickson 
Book reviewed by: Krista Dickens

Book Synopsis:

What does the research say about's astonishingly useful and remarkably contagious! Dr. Fredrickson's book, Positivity, is an interesting and easy read about the research behind the effects of positivity and how to practice and promote it. We all have the power to turn our positivity on and off. When we intentionally practice positivity, we are able to broaden our ideas about possible actions, alter how we see our connections with others, and transform ourselves so we can become our best. In her book, Dr Fredrickson explains simple strategies and prescribes a positivity ratio of 3:1 which can be implemented immediately with ease. If you're looking to start 2018 inspired, energized and empowered, Positivity is the book for you!
What's your ratio??
80% of Americans fall short of the 3-to-1 positivity ratio that predicts flourishing. Click here to take Barb's 2-minute on-line quiz and see how you score.

Why I Recommend This Book:

The work we do in education can be very rewarding but it can also be tremendously draining. I am always looking for resources that motivate educators and have strategies that are easy to use. Recently, while addressing climate and culture issues with some early childhood administrators, I came across Positivity. Intrigued by the research behind it, I picked the book up and found that I couldn't put it down. I consider myelf to be a pretty positive person already, but practicing the specific strategies and 3:1 ratio has made an impact on my life both personally and professionally. Maybe even more exciting, I am beginning to see the ripple effect of my own positivity on those around me. Seldom does something so easy, make such a difference so quickly, that's why I want educators to know about Positivity.

December Recommended Read

The Smartest Kids in the World... and How They Got That Way

By: Amanda Ripley 


Book reviewed by: Steve Ramos 

Book Synopsis:

Amanda Ripley follows three American foreign exchange students to Finland, Poland, and South Korea. Over the course of nine months, Ripley charts their adjustment to the very different education systems in which they were placed. Through interviews and observations with these students, their American and foreign teachers and administrators, as well as with policy makers in all four countries, the author concludes that the rationale for high success rates on PISA for South Korea and Finland, as well as Poland's meteoric rise over a decade are results of policy decisions to set high levels of rigor for students.

Why I Recommend This Book: 

 The most important take-away in Ripley's book is that major, functional change to achieve higher results can occur and have meaningful impact in less than a generation of students.

November Recommended Read

Overcoming the Achievement Gap Trap

By: Anthony Muhammad 


Book reviewed by: Crystal Bryski

Book Synopsis:

For many educators the concept of the achievement gap is nothing new. Looking through the lenses of various mindsets and the stereotypes that define our current educational system's approach to instruction, Dr. Muhammad examines the barriers that keep the achievement gap from closing.

Readers will investigate how the achievement gap came to exist while reflecting on one's own beliefs and values about the purpose of education. Dr. Muhammad challenges the status quo and expertly defines the path that leads to greater student outcomes. 

Why I Recommend This Book: 

I appreciate the way that this book describes the reasons not only for the achievement gap plaguing our schools, but also gives solutions to this problem. It is the responsibility of today's educational leaders to champion the ability of all students and to ensure that the culture, climate, and instruction that exist in each and every setting within the school support achievement for ALL.

October Recommended Read

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
By: Gary Keller with Jay Papasan
Book reviewed by: Pam Kennedy
Book Synopsis:
 Think BIG, but focus on ONE SPECIFIC thing at a time. Other big ideas include:
  •  The Focusing Question: What's the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
  • Use the 80/20 Principle (The MINORITY of your effort leads to the MAJORITY of your results.)
  • Figure out what's most important + Give it your undivided attention
  • Iceberg-ing and living by priority
  • Time blocking, mastery, and being accountable (People who write their goals down are 39.5% more likely to succeed. People who write their goals AND share their progress with people that they've chosen to hold them accountable, are 76.7% more likely to achieve them.)
The four thieves of productivity:
  • Inability to say "No"
  • Fear of Chaos
  • Poor Health Habits
  • Environment Doesn't Support Your Goals 
Why I Recommend This Book:
This quote won me over: "Focus is a matter of deciding what thing you're NOT going to do." With so many new demands and information in my life this past year, I found it necessary to stop multi-tasking and work with a laser-like focus on one task at a time. This book, a quick and enjoyable read, gave simple advice on reaching goals. They said it was simple... but not at all easy. 

September Recommended Read

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
By: Carol Dweck 
Book reviewed by: Teresa Brown 
Book Synopsis: 
Do you have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset? The answer to this question may be different than you expect! After decades of research, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., discovered a simple but groundbreaking idea: the power of mindset. In this thought provoking book, Carol Dweck shows how success in school, work, sports, the arts, and almost every area of life can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities.
People with a fixed mindset—those who believe that abilities are fixed—are less likely to be successful and flourish than those with a growth mindset—those who believe that abilities can be developed. Mindset reveals how great parents, teachers, managers, and athletes can put this idea to use to help others rise to their full potential. Additionally, Dweck introduces a phenomenon she calls false growth mindset and guides people toward adopting a deeper, truer growth mindset. She also expands the mindset concept beyond the individual, applying it to the cultures of groups and organizations. With the right mindset, you can motivate those you lead, teach, and love—to transform their lives and your own.
Why I Recommend This Book:
This book is an excellent vehicle for self reflection. I found it very interesting how a person can have a growth mindset in one aspect of your life but not in another and how we can develop a growth or a fixed mindset in ourselves and in others by the way we talk and act . The book teaches strategies to shift our thinking in order to see new possibilities and adopt a growth mindset. Mindset teaches several lessons that are helpful in both personal and professional life.  

August Recommended Read

Leaders Eat Last
by: Simon Sinek 
Book Reviewed By: Merrie Darrah
Book Synopsis:
Sinek's second book is the natural extension of Start with Why, expanding his ideas at the organizational level. Determining your organization's WHY is crucial, but only the beginning. The next step is how do you get people on board with your WHY? How do you inspire deep trust and commitment to your organization and to one another? He cites the Marine Corps for having found a way to build a culture in which men and women are willing to risk their lives, because they know others would do the same for them. His theory is actually based on the biology of how and when people are naturally at their best. These include a sense of trust in those around you, feeling that you belong and feeling connected to the meaning in your work.
Drawing on powerful and inspiring stories, Sinek shows how to sustain an organization's WHY while continually building a culture of trust and collaboration. This supports the idea of shared leadership. In this model, instead of trying to command-and-control everything, the leaders devote all their energy to training, building and protecting their people. Sinek suggests that when a leader has the humility to distribute power across the organization, the strength of the organization becomes less dependent on one person and is thus better able to survive.
Why I Recommend This Book: 
This is a fantastic book about how leaders can create organizations and cultures that promote a sense of belonging, trust and cooperation. The educational leader has an influential role in inspiring, motivating, affirming along with extending the practice and pedagogy of educators. It is a joint endeavour which can significantly impact the important work educators do with children and families. If you enjoyed Start with Why, I highly recommend you read Leaders Eat Last.