The Principal's Principles

A Middle School Principal, striving to make the world a better place, one day at a time.

Must-Reads for Educational Leaders

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Harry S. Truman

The above quote, commonly known from the 33rd President of the United States, was shared with me by one of my mentors before I became a school administrator. I have taken his advice to heart, and find that as a leader, having a wide base of books and articles that I am familiar with is always helpful. The challenge becomes, with so much information out there and accessible, how does a busy school leader navigate the web of books, journals, and newsletters that arrive via email or are placed in a school mailbox every week? What are the “must reads,” and what can wait?

For me, I have found success in staying current by using the following approach:

Daily reading:

I subscribe (for free) to the ASCD Smartbrief. They take the liberty of pulling together relevant articles about supervision, curriculum, and staff development and send them via email each day.

I take full advantage of Twitter, which is also free, and always filled a lot of relevant articles and blog posts being passed around. When I think to check it, I check it. The beauty of Twitter is that there will always be information available when I am ready, and quality pieces are so often “retweeted” that it is hard to miss the highlights.

Weekly reading:

I read two newsletters, one motivational, one about productivity. Both are free. Dan Hickey publishes his Monday Moanin’ Thoughts and it is often how I start my week. He offers some motivation, as well as a tangible goal for a building leader each week. Justin Baeder, from the Principal Center, publishes a weekly newsletter about being more productive that always has a concrete tip to make your workflow smoother.

Monthly reading:

I belong to a book group on Twitter that meets at #edfocus. We select one book a month, and connect educators and authors for a chat on the topic. #edfocus is open to all and I’d encourage you to join us to learn and grow.

Sometimes, I get emails asking about what I believe to be “essential reading” for Principals. If I were to list my top 5 for working with people, they are:

Drive, by Daniel Pink

Influence, by Robert Cialdini

Trust Matters, by Megan Tschannen-Moran

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni

Great Leaders GROW, by Ken Blanchard

I also think the work done by the VitalSmarts group (the people who wrote Crucial Conversations/Crucial Confrontations) are pretty key. Love Works, by Joel Manby was also pretty good and pretty quick, and gave me a few key ideas to use every week.

For thinking about instruction, I recommend:

Focus, by Mike Schmoker

A Framework for Teaching Poverty, by Ruby Payne (not sure on your demographics, but this has been key for me.)

Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching, by Charlotte Danielson

Making Thinking Visible, by Ron Ritchhart and others

The Will to Lead, the Skill to Teach, by Anthony Muhammad

Muhammad has another book about PLC work, and the Marzano/DuFour book “Leaders of Learning” from a couple of years ago has a ton of great ideas in it. The Marzano 9 are also worth looking at, but you don’t need the book, just a summary.

As leaders, it is our job to model our learning, and to also be strong reading role models for students. By keeping up with and sharing our own reading, we stay current and provide an important lesson for our learners.


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4 thoughts on “Must-Reads for Educational Leaders

  1. Exactly the list I was looking for, thanks for sharing this!

  2. billburkhead1 on said:

    great post John! I appreciate you sharing some great reads- summer is the perfect time to catch up on reading while staying sharp!

    • Thanks Bill! I agree, the summer is the perfect time to get caught up. It’s also a good time to come up with an intentional plan about how each of us will “keep up” once the pace of the school year returns.

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