2019 Reading Recommendations

Waking up on Christmas morning, I didn’t always appreciate seeing the small rectangular boxes under the tree. It was a clear indication that my parents had opted to give my sisters and me books rather than the drum set, Atari 2600, or dirt bike that we hoped would be awaiting us. As I grew older, I thanked my parents for giving us a portal to worlds of discovery, adventure, imagination, and wonder in the pages of those books.
My own children have grown accustomed to receiving books for birthdays and special occasions. Sometimes they react as I did, but more often they unwrap books with a look of excitement and anticipation for the adventures that await them.
Over the break, I will indulge myself by spending days reading in the California sun, relaxing with a great story, consuming new information, and learning new ways to approach my work at The Bush School.
Below are a few recommendations for you to consider over winter break or to usher in 2019.
Seattleness: A Cultural Atlas by Tera Hatfield, Jenny Kempson, and Natalie Ross
After four-and-a-half years in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve thrown away my umbrellas and purchased a Subaru, which can only mean one thing: Seattle is home. Seattleness is a look at sites around Seattle, familiar and peculiar, that will make you curious about the city and fall in love with it all over again.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 2 by Francesca Cavallo by Elena Favilli
In my travels over the break, I am bringing this lovely children’s book with me to read to my nieces and nephews. It is filled with over 100 bedtime stories about extraordinary women who made history, left a legacy, and/or changed our world. These learned, intrepid, and talented women sought out a path to greatness, often defying odds, and paved a path for those who would follow.
The New Leadership Literacies: Thriving in a Future of Extreme Disruption and Distributed Everything by Bob Johansen
I had a chance to hear futurist Bob Johansen speak at a conference in October, and was impressed with his approach to decentralizing authority in organizations. Johansen understands that we live in a VUCA world—one filled with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity—and that for organizations to thrive, leaders must embrace new ways to strategize, engage, and plan for this new reality. He encourages us to forecast likely futures, decentralize authority when possible, learn to lead even when you’re not physically present, and keep personal energy high and transmit it throughout your organization.
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
I have been looking forward to reading this book since it was released in February. Westover’s memoir is the story of her journey as a young girl who was kept out of school, and, after leaving her survivalist family, went on to earn a Ph.D. from Cambridge University. I am intrigued by how the lessons learned in her childhood drove her to embrace formal education, and how her upbringing impeded—and perhaps, contributed to—her success.
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
A classic that is now being made into a major motion picture, Baldwin tells the love story of Tish and Fonny, whose love overcomes a wrongful imprisonment. It is the truest of love stories, filled with despair, anguish, passion, and triumph. I loved this book when I read it twenty-plus years ago, and I don’t know if I can stand to see it on the screen.
On the theme of books, please read about this year’s Book Fair which raised money for Bush’s need-based financial aid program and provided books for classrooms at Bush and Madrona Elementary.
I would love to hear about the books that are on your bookshelves, your bedside table, or tablet that you are excited to begin over the break or in the new year.
Hoping you have a safe and restful break.
Warm regards,
Percy L. Abram, Ph.D.
Head of School

Independent School Education Today

It is an exciting time to be a student. As we close out the second decade of the twentieth century, schools continue to focus on developing innovative ways to keep students engaged, curious, and passionate about learning. In the summer volume of Independent School, the National Association of Independent School’s quarterly magazine, the editors take on the subject, “What Independent School Education Looks Like Today”. Throughout the issue, they feature signature programs and state-of-the-art practices from independent schools around the country that are giving students choice and voice, building partnerships with public institutions, and re-imagining how students should be thinking about their learning and the future.
As educators learn more about the science of how our children learn, they are challenging the orthodoxy of school structures, building design, and even its very purpose. Whereas educators in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries sought to prepare students for the contemporary workforce, today’s teachers understand that our role is to develop the skills and habits in learners that produce agile, creative, and critical thinkers prepared to solve the big problems they will confront, even if they haven’t yet been identified. According to a recent report, an astounding 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 — when our current First Grade students graduate from Bush, and our current Twelfth Grade students turn thirty — haven’t been invented yet (Emerging Technologies’, 2017).
This is the charge of teachers at Bush — to prepare students for a future that is unknowable yet filled with possibilities. Many of you heard this directly from our teachers at this week’s Middle School Back-to-School and Upper School Curriculum nights. They spoke clearly and persuasively about their passion for developing curricula that encourages students to ask questions and to challenge assumptions. They shared their pedagogical practices that require your children to work collaboratively — a skill that develops empathy and the ability to listen, digest, synthesize, and process data from multiple sources and perspectives. They shaped conversations around student voice, agency, and choice, which make learning not only more engaging, but relevant for them.
I was encouraged to read that some of the programs featured in the magazine are part of our curriculum and practices as well. For example, the magazine highlights Putney School’s (VT) movement to re-consider assessments and define characteristics of a Putney student (pgs. 87-91); Catlin Gabel’s (OR) place-based learning module called the PLACE program—an inspiration for Bush’s Methow Campus (pgs. 110-111); and The Willow Community School’s (CA) effort to implement the RULER program within their school community (pgs. 81-85). These examples focus on areas The Bush School has championed for years—authentic assessment and engaged learning, education outside of the classroom and in partnership with the community, and recognizing emotions as an integral part of how students learn. I appreciate that we are not only responding to these positive trends in independent school education, but finding areas to lead.
At tonight’s Lower School Curriculum night — and throughout the remainder of the year — parents will have an opportunity to hear about how science, research, play, and passion influence our teachers’ work and your children’s learning. They may not know what big problems will lie ahead for them, but Bush graduates will be prepared to solve them.
It’s a great time to be a student, and a great day to be a Blazer!
Percy L. Abram, Ph.D.
Head of School

Summer Reading

I have selected the books for for the 2017-2018 Head of School Book Club series, listed below. 

Fall Book Club
Wednesday, December 6, 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.

The Path to Purpose by William Damon
Drawing on the revelatory results of a landmark study, William Damon brilliantly investigates the most pressing issue in the lives of youth today: why so many young people are “failing to launch”—living at home longer, lacking career motivation, struggling to make a timely transition into adulthood, and not yet finding a life pursuit that inspires them.

Continue reading “Summer Reading”

Why Baseball Matters in the Classroom

Watching the 9–3 Chicago Cubs victory over Cleveland reminded me how compelling America’s Pastime can be. Baseball has the power to elevate an ordinary player to hero status with the swing of a bat, an exceptional catch, or a remarkable 9th inning save. Baseball is a statistics-driven league. Historians and statistics geeks love to compare players within seasons and across eras to determine their relative value. In the drawn-out 162-game baseball season, there are few anomalies and a player’s worth is easily measured by his stats—often in averages. Good hitters average more than three hits every ten at bats. Great pitchers average fewer than two runs per nine innings.  Continue reading “Why Baseball Matters in the Classroom”