Before teachers scatter for the summer each June, they are given a copy of a book that will be the basis of a "book club" discussion when they return to campus. Some summers everyone reads the same book. Others, like this year, there is a choice of titles. Reading and discussing a common book is fulfilling as well as an excellent facilitator of open dialogue and intellectual exchange. Following is an overview of "faculty reads" and each group's response to their book.
I. "Educated: A Memoir" by Tara Westover
"Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind. I had come to believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, was at the heart of what it means to self-create."
In this best-selling memoir, the author grows up in a survivalist family under an iron-fisted father who doesn't believe in formal education and experiences extensive trauma on her determined path to escape her upbringing and ultimately earn a Ph.D. The large number of teachers who read this book were touched by the story and engaged in personal discussion of what their own educations have meant to them. An aspect of the narrative that stood out to many was expressed by crafts teacher Lizzie Wright: "It's not just a self-made story -- there were people helping her all along." Rick Geismar had a similar take-away: "We are all broken in ways and need other people to help us through our brokenness. We don't do it alone." Luise Linder related to the book's message with the reminder that as teachers "We can't judge a student by their history. Histories change."
II. "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain
"We have two ears and one mouth and we should use them proportionally."
"Everyone shines, given the right lighting."
The group of teachers who read "Quiet" found direct connections between the book's message and new ways they can approach their classroom and certain styles of learner. Tyler Wood, 7th Grade English, commented to the group: "This book highlighted how we tend to reward one type of behavior over another and presented a lot of ways to re-think." Another clear message was that introversion is not something that needs to be cured. Peter Zaloom experienced a powerful moment over the summer after reading the book where a friend indicated that he was very worried about his quiet son. Zaloom was able to assure his friend: "You don't have to be."
III. "The Road to Character" by David Brooks
"We don't become better because we acquire new information. We become better because we acquire better loves. We don't become what we know. Education is a process of love formation. When you go to a school, it should offer you new things to love."
This was the least well-liked book selection. The group who read "The Road to Character" acknowledged being fans of David Brooks' writing in The New York Times and other books, and surmised that his famous name rather than quality of content led to the publication of the book. The structure consists of a series of brief biographies of historical figures that are roughly tied together in the end "in a way that's formulaic, as if you're a 5-year old" according to Natalie Hatami. In the words of Liz Nugent: "It was trying to be like a Malcolm Gladwell book but without all the data and context." Martha-Julia Renderos acknowledged that some of the biographies were interesting historically, but not necessarily in the realm of character suggested by the title.