Reading for Innovators

During this busy time of year, I sometimes look longingly at the growing pile of books on the counter — and on my iPad — and look forward to the different rhythm of summer.

Right now, the book at the top of the stack is Dr. Tony Wagner’s Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.  Wagner explores what parents and teachers can do to help develop children’s creative capacities and fuel their innovative spirit. This is the book that the entire middle school faculty will read this summer. Just like our students, we will begin our year with a shared reading experience.

True to his topic, Wagner has designed an innovative book by teaming up with documentary filmmaker Robert Compton to embed over fifty mini-films into the text.  These clips take readers to places such as High Tech High (a California school many of our teachers visited this year), Stanford’s Design School, and MIT’s Idea Lab, and they allow readers to hear interviews with some of the world’s most forward-thinking individuals. (For those reading a print copy rather than a digital copy, they include QR codes to access these videos online.)

As his website notes, “From the research, a pattern emerges—a childhood of creative play leads to deep-seated passions, which in adolescence and adulthood blossom into a deeper purpose for career and life goals. Play, passion, and purpose: these are the forces that drive young innovators.”

Play, passion, and purpose.

Last year, we launched our Selectives program in an effort to encourage students to find or follow a passion. These playful, interdisciplinary classes have not only been a hit with our students, they have sparked the interest of our community.  When I share what we are doing here at TVS, I often hear, “I’d be interested in teaching a class like that.”  Next year, offerings will include a cross-divisional collaboration and new courses from guest teachers who will join our ranks to expand our scope. Whether we are planning Selectives, tweaking the schedule, examining our language sequence, reworking lesson plans, or preparing to introduce our 1:1 iPad initiative, we aim to encourage student innovation – because the skills and habits of innovators are the skills and habits our children will need to succeed in our 21st-century world.

This book will serve as a springboard to enrich our faculty conversations in August as we seek to deliberately create a culture of innovation in the middle. Feel free to read along with us!

Or if that doesn’t strike your fancy, here are two more books that might:

  • Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed: Grit, Creativity, and the Hidden Power of Character: “Why do some children succeed while others fail? The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs. But in How Children Succeed, Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter more have to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, optimism, and self-control.”
  • John Medina’s Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School: “How do we learn? What exactly do sleep and stress do to our brains? Why is multi-tasking a myth? Why is it so easy to forget – and so important to repeat new information? Is it true that men and women have different brains? In Brain Rules, Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist, shares his lifelong interest in how the brain sciences might influence the way we teach our children and the way we work. In each chapter, he describes a brain rule – what scientists know for sure about how our brains work – and then offers transformative ideas for our daily lives.” Note: This was the TVS summer faculty reading last year, and we still talk about it regularly!

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