Non-Fiction

Book Review of Positive Education: The Geelong Grammar Journey

Oxford_PosEd_coverThis was wonderful work read charting Geelong Grammar’s journey to embed positive education into their curriculum and school ethos. It’s wonderfully done – laid out in a way in which those of us who are interested, could follow their steps and hope for the same kinds of wonderful outcomes.

I’m really inspired by what I read here. It covers details on the PERMA model, character strengths and all the things I would love to embed in my current workplace.

A worthy investment.

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Book Review of Angela Duckworth’s Grit

gritThose of you who know me, know that I generally prefer fiction to non-fiction when it comes to my reading.  Although there is plenty of great non-fiction out there, and I have certainly been enjoying the books on Positive Psychology I have been picking up lately.

But when it comes to Grit by Angela Duckworth, I have no hesitation in saying that this is a book everyone should read.

Duckworth’s work was of interest to me as the longer I teach, the more aware I become that talent isn’t enough.  Time and time again, especially in my Year 12 classes, the most ‘talented’ student – the one with the greatest natural affinity for language – is trumped by one who works hard and works SMART.  The question I had was – how can I help each of my students to become that smart worker?  The one who succeeds in a way that surpasses their expectations?

Duckworth’s key mission here is to break down for us how some people achieve high levels of success – much higher than the average person.  She is particularly interested in understanding how they were able to do this, and how we can actually teach this to young people.  So it’s a great book for teachers and parents.

The bottom line is – Grit.  Those with Grit go further and do better than those that don’t.

But Grit does not just mean perseverance.  To truly have Grit – Grit that will lead us to success – she concretely discusses four things we need. The first is interest – high levels of interest.  We can only be truly gritty about things that deeply matter to us. But she tells us we can stimulate and develop interest, giving terrific advice for how to do this with children and even as adults.

After interest, we need to practice.  But we need to practice purposefully and strategically.  It’s not enough to work hard – we have to really consider what strategies will actually lead to improvement.  As a teacher we often see students working hard, but completing tasks that do not develop the needed skills.  Instead, Duckworth talks honestly about how painful practice can be and how to do it well – how to embrace negative feedback and seek coaching and set powerful goals.

After practice, she suggests that purpose helps separate high achievers as well.  If you have both passion and a sense of purpose about your work – if you love your chosen field and thin that you are making a difference – you are almost unstoppable.  Your motivation levels cannot be higher.  Sometimes even a few tweaks in thinking can assist us to re-evaluate and find the purpose in our work.

The final quality is hope.  This links in pretty strongly to Carol Dweck’s work about the Growth Mindset. We have to have hope – the belief that we can improve through the strategies that we have put in place.

Each of us will find some of these things difficult.  For example, having hope at times is hard.  Overcoming failure with a positive attitude sometimes relies on self-talk rather than a natural response.  I like how Duckworth acknowledges this – it’s all part of the process.  You don’t just HAVE Grit, you can learn to be grittier.  And that’s the message for us all.  We can all be better at those things we care about.  And what is more empowering than that?

 

Book Review of 10 Conversations to Have With Your Son

This is a work read – a book used by some high profile schools as part of their pastoral care programs.10 convos

Helping boys to be confident, caring and aware young men who aren’t held back by fear or stereotypes is a big ask – but a worthy one.  And Dr Tim Hawkes recommends some crucial conversations men really should be having.  You can see in the image attached to this post, that it covers everything from love and intimacy, to financial literacy.

There are also some great activities throughout.

My only real concern here is how conservative and hetero-normative it is.  All mentions of sex and romance are male-female – and we know that this approach is now going to alienate a significant proportion of the young population.  Something a little more open about gender identity and sexuality would address a few more issues and be more modern and appealing to all.

Book Review of The Bonsai Child

finalcover7-31-15Clinical psychologist Judith Locke is visiting my school next term, so I figured it would be a good idea to read her book.

After doing so, I’d have to suggest it is very good reading for anyone who has, or who works with children.

The Bonsai Child of the title is a child whose growth is hampered by over-parenting – or in the case of teachers, over-reliance on others instead of themselves.

Locke gives really sensible advice on how much help to give in order to raise – or help foster the talents of – young people, in a way that helps them to be self-sufficient and empowered young adults.

It gives concrete strategies to accomplish this, and clear discussions of the ramifications of what happens if you do not take her advice.

Easy to follow and something parents and teachers can easily look back on.

Book Review of Carol Dweck’s Mindset

You’ve no doubt heard about this book, that promises that sudweckmindsetccess is all about our Mindset.

Dweck’s research looks at parenting, coaching, teaching, the workplace and interpersonal relationships and how a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset, can lead to a range of improved outcomes.

This is interesting reading – forcing you to observe and perhaps recognise some of the less helpful patterns of thought in yourself and those around you.

The fixed mindset does a couple of things – it makes excuses for why things are not your fault.  It promises you nothing will ever change.  It laments a lack of perfection and will never encourage you to try harder or at least, try things differently. It’s an easy way to move through life – but not one hat promotes growth.

The growth mindset is all about learning.  It values challenge and looks at errors as an opportunity to do better. Sometimes that ‘better’ is ‘even better’ – even champions need a growth mindset to really reach their potential.

As  teacher, it has made me rethink how I frame learning and feedback to my students.  On a personal level, it promotes a much more positive approach to all areas of my life, which will no doubt be useful with the areas that I feel need a bit of work.

Definitely worth a read, for whatever reason it inspires you.

 

Book Review of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

life-changing-tidying-upIt’s hard to not be curious about Marie Kondo’s now famous book about how to tidy and what the benefits of tidying are.

Again, I suppose this was a bit of a speed read – the type of book where you can really enjoy some sections that are of relevance to you, and others that are not.

I like the idea of being less cluttered and less attached to unnecessary material items.  Kondo asks us to completely de-clutter, keeping only those things necessary to life and that “spark joy”.  She also talks a lot about how this can improve our lives – making us less stressed and more at peace. There is a lot to be said for that.  And as I look around my decidedly un-Kondoed lounge room writing this, I could certainly imagine how that would be true.

There are many practical tips for the correct way to de-clutter, to pack away items and to resist the urge for expensive storage solutions.  But there is also a lot of discussion about gratitude and showing gratitude for your belongings and how being tidy does this.  As a person who recently began a gratitude journal (New Year’s Resolution and all that), some of this resonated.  It is hard to appreciate things when we have too many.  Or we are too tired, stressed and cluttered to do so.  But Kondo seems to spend a lot of time sorting each day.  She also discussed the energy and purpose of items and how we need to respect them – which may or may not resonate with everyone.

I’d encourage you to pick and choose – but some good food for thought here in an increasingly materialistic world.

Book Review of The Princess Diarist

IMG_9947.JPGPurchased on the day of her passing, Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist did not fulfil on the promise of my expectations.

Marketed as a memoir of making Star Wars, The Princess Diarist is in fact mainly a study of Fisher’s never discussed affair with Harrison Ford (then married) whilst making the original film.  There is some discussion of how she got the role, and the difficulties of dealing with a sudden rise to fame.  But these lack depth.  The relationship with Ford is the centre of the text, and even this lacks real self-awareness.

There are three voices – all Fisher’s – in the memoir.  The first is her telling the story.  Although occasionally witty and always self-deprecating, I can’t say I am a fan of Fisher’s writing style, no matter how big a fan I am of Fisher herself.

Then, we have extracts of the journals that she kept at the time.  These are the most clever writings, experimental and playful, but the voice is very adolescent – the young girl caught up in a desperate affair with an older man who seems to care little for her in reality.  We’ve all been there, but it is painful to read.

The third voice is explanatory – going over the journals and attempting to explain away her descriptions of Ford and their relationship.  This is contradictory – all of a sudden it was a harmless rite of passage and no-one’s feelings were hurt.  I found this confusing – it’s as if Fisher herself has not quite come to terms with the relationship itself.  And while this is often true in life – and we don’t always understand the reasons how and why people come into our lives – it’s difficult to base a memoir on it without having reached some kind of conclusion.

I wanted more from this – perhaps I expected something more in line with Cary Elwes’ highly entertaining memoir of making The Princess Bride which I read last year.  I felt I missed out on the fun here.