The Energy Bus                          Simply Better                                           The Cage-Busting Teacher                   The Innovator's Mindset

Wooden On Leadership             School Leadership That Works                The Principal's Survival Guide              The Magic Question

Updated November 11, 2017


The Magic Question: A Simple Question Every Leader Dreams Ofthe Magic Question: A Simple Question Every Leader Dreams of Answering AnsweringThe Magic Question: A Simple Question Every Leader Dreams Ofthe Magic Question: A Simple Question Every Leader Dreams of Answering Answering by David Cottrell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Magic Question is a pearl of a book that is a quick read at just around 100 pages. The crux of the message centers on the question all leaders seek to hear: "how can I help?". There is much more to this read though. Each chapter focuses on a different question leaders should have a concise response for. I really enjoyed the perspective that the book was written from. Essentially, for people to ask the magic question, a leader needs to provide answers to the important questions that are asked of him/her. The information is not innovative, but it is presented in a way that will make sense to the leader; connecting important dots and concepts. I think all leaders, whether aspiring or in the trenches of managing change, will enjoy and benefit from The Magic Question.


The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of CreativityThe Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a great title for a book, right? George Couros proves why he has such a strong following on social media with the release of The Innovator's Mindset. Maybe I'm biased because it is the first book I read on my new Kindle Paperwhite, but books like Innovator's Mindset are why I purchased the device. I wanted an easy way to aggregate all of the quotable, rememberable (roll with it) parts of a book. Couros has it all, and along the way, cultivates a book that is imperative reading for those who aspire to bring innovation to their schools.

What you'll receive is not only a way to create an innovative environment, but a well-reasoned, well-researched case for why innovation is so important in schools today. I enjoyed the book and came away ideas to build innovative capacity, and for that reason, it's a big thumbs up for me.


View all my reviews The Principal's Survival Guide: Where Do I Start? How Do I Succeed? When Do I Sleep?The Principal's Survival Guide: Where Do I Start? How Do I Succeed? When Do I Sleep? by Susan Stone Kessler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I believe that to a point, it is possible to have too much information. In many professions, and education tops the list, pedagogy and training provides the backbone that an effective teaching career is built upon. However, one thing that I have learned heading into my seventh year as a teacher is that nothing in my teacher prep program could and would have prepared me for the daily life of this career. Similarly, nothing in my graduate program in educational leadership will prepare me for the daily life as a school administrator. The beauty of teaching and leading teachers is that you need to experience it. You need to struggle; even fail, at at times. It is these experiences where reflective practitioners are born. This cannot be taught in any university.

I tell this story as a prelude to my review of Dr. Kessler's book because there are so many resources available that can point an aspiring administrator in the "right" direction. There is theory in one direction, meta-analysis in the other, and then one can come across "The Principal's Survival Guide", which is just written from quality experience. Given the option of where I'd want to pull my knowledge from, give me the experience.

Knowing Dr. Kessler a little bit, I can hear her voice throughout this book. She is confident in her methods. You have to be as a beginning administrator and carry that through as many years as you make it. I found this book to be an invaluable resource and I am glad that I took the opportunity to read it now, before I make the transition to school leadership, so that I have time to digest it all. If I were trying to read this while I was living the experience, I would be worried I would be falling into many of the same pitfalls. I recommend this Guide for any aspiring school leader who wants to have a leg up on their future success.


Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning OrganizaionWooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organizaion by John Wooden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Coach Wooden is one of those few athletic leaders who happened to transcend his choice of career. What I enjoy so much about Wooden's thoughts is how wide ranging they are; that is, they can be applied to almost any facet of life and any leadership role. This reflected in his success as a basketball coach and success as a human being. He taught life to his players, and they applied these life skills onto the basketball court. In my classroom, I work to emulate that concept and teach life. My hope is always that my students will apply what they learn about life in my classroom.

The pyramid of success needs no explanation. Perhaps the greatest tool for articulating leadership, it is a guide for running any type of organization or school with intensity, integrity, and intelligence. I can't say how valuable this book has been as a resource in my own personal development. I reference it frequently and probably always will.


The Cage-Busting TeacherThe Cage-Busting Teacher by Frederick M. Hess
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am fortunate to receive the opportunity to serve as one of the inaugural Hope Street Group Tennessee State Teacher Fellows this year. On the morning of our first convening, I sat down in front of an impressive spread of resources that I could not wait to dive into. One of those was a copy of The Cage-Busting Teacher. Flipping through the pages, I realized that Rick Hess was speaking my language. In his book, he talks about the difference teachers can make. It is an inspiring challenge, one that led in part to "Defining my Difference". In September, Hess came to Nashville to speak to all of the HSG Teacher Fellows in what was a real treat. Hess pulls no punches and while that might not be for everyone, I loved it. Finally, a guy who gets it and has the gumption to ignore the filter to tell the truth about education. I walked away educated and most importantly, validated in how I've felt and where I want to go professionally.

As a teacher leader, this is a must read. If nothing else, the resource list at the end of the book is a great tool for teachers looking for opportunities to grow. My advice is to dig into the chapters a little bit and see what you can apply to your advocacy for our profession. There's alot to learn and Hess is willing to share it.


The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive EnergyThe Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy by Jon Gordon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I would be lying if I said that I LOVED Jon Gordon's "The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy". It was recommended to me by an elementary teacher and administrator at a leadership event last fall. They had used to as a school-wide book study. My school, needing a culture renaissance, seemed to be a perfect fit for "The Energy Bus". Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the story and found Gordon's writing to be easy reading. This is definitely a book that can be finished in one sitting. However, I just believe that it misses the mark a bit in it's ambitious efforts. I am eager to dig into Gordon's other works, but for "The Energy Bus", I believe it may be a tad overrated.


School Leadership That Works: From Research to ResultsSchool Leadership That Works: From Research to Results by Robert J. Marzano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

McRel books always offer an interesting take on student achievement. School Leadership That Works is a meta-analysis that draws from several different studies to identify the 21 leadership characteristics that correlate to improved student outcomes. Other topics that are covered are first order and second order change, and how all of these factors create schools as high reliability organizations. Surprisingly, McRel believes flexibility is the characteristic that has the greatest affect on student achievement. Rich data is featured throughout this short, but dense read. It will definitely help you develop into a more deeper thinker.


Simply Better: Doing What Matters Most to Change the Odds for Student SuccessSimply Better: Doing What Matters Most to Change the Odds for Student Success by Bryan Goodwin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was recommended reading during a conversation I shared with the director of schools in my county. It was very easy to see why. From the very beginning, Simply Better gets it right. From the emphasis on direct instruction as the most effective strategy for teaching new content, to debunking the notion that differentiation is measurable and more effective, I could relate and identify with many of the key points presented in this book. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to improve as an instructional leader.