Category Archives: Reading Room

Do What You Love.

Read this today in the New York Times:

“But is “do what you love” wisdom or malarkey?” -Gordon Marino

It’s wisdom.  Not malarkey.  In case you weren’t sure.  Maybe you can’t do what you love straight out of high school, or maybe you can, but “do what you love” should be the eventual goal.  No one should be counseling kids to find whatever awful, miserable job they can in order to eke out a horrible existence until they die.  What rubbish!  Possibly some people have not properly explained the full meaning of “do what you love” to today’s teenagers, and boo to them, then, (spoiler: it’s not always easy, and it’s definitely not about the hedonistic pursuit of pleasure) but my goodness, shouldn’t we be urging our children to spend some time figuring out what lights them up, and then helping them find a way to pursue that, in college or apprenticeship or vocation, so that they may fulfill their potential and contribute something marvelous to this world and live a life of meaning and contentment?  Isn’t that the dream we have for our children (and ourselves) and isn’t it worth striving for?

The full opinion essay can be read here:

Note: I am including the actual weblink b/c of a recent awful personal experience with “clicking links” … please copy & paste into your browser to read the full essay.



RFL 3D printer

“All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight.” – from Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

AS220 and Rogers Free Library will present a 3D Printer workshop on Feb. 27, 2014 at 6:30pm.  See a 3D printer in action, learn how it works and what it can do.  This is a free event and open to all interested.  This workshop is presented as part of the “Reading Across Rhode Island” programming for the 2014 selection of “Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore” by Robin Sloan.  For more information, click here.

Something Worth Fighting For

I must share this:

“Unfortunately, in one way or another the world is going to tell you every day that you shouldn’t try to be an artist. But for three minutes here today, I want to tell you that you should. I hope you do it. With everything you have.” ~Blake Morgan

Read the full essay on Huffington Post’s The Third Metric – Redefining Success Beyond Money and Power, “Art and Music are Professions Worth Fighting For”.

Bookmark it.  Share it on Facebook.  Tweet about it.  Refer to it in conversations with school committee officials and policy wonks, businesspeople and community leaders.  Print it out and bring it to your holiday family dinners, to have at-the-ready!  And please, share it with your kids.

Many thanks, C.B., for reading so much and sharing the good stuff!

Turning the Summer Reading List Upside-Down

With just one week left in the Bristol-Warren school year, summer reading lists are sprouting up everywhere, provided by educators and administrators and other helpful souls intent on making sure students don’t lose any good reading habits they may have picked up during the school year.  The truth is, if a child has internalized a love of reading, then it’s highly unlikely he or she will abandon this joy over the summer (and it’s just as unlikely that any required summer reading+writing assignments will cause a child to develop a love of reading – and that’s the true goal, right?).  So then, what’s the best way to grapple with the ‘summer reading slump’?  Sixth-grade teacher Donalyn Miller has a few good ideas:

“The summer break is a marvelous time for readers, freed from the mandates of assigned school reading, to explore topics and books of their own interest. While it is challenging to require or monitor students’ summer reading, here are some suggestions for launching a school-wide summer reading initiative that encourages more children to read during summer break…” (read more)

Donalyn Miller is the author of The Book Whisperer, a compelling book full of simple practices and common-sense wisdom, and one of the books on our own summer reading list … The Arts Room’s Upside-Down Summer Reading List, a menu of suggested books for teachers, administrators, parents and other educators to read and ponder over the summer!

 The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller.  “Donalyn Miller says she has yet to meet a child she couldn’t turn into a reader. No matter how far behind Miller’s students might be when they reach her 6th grade classroom, they end up reading an average of 40 to 50 books a year. Miller’s unconventional approach dispenses with drills and worksheets that make reading a chore. Instead, she helps students navigate the world of literature and gives them time to read books they pick out themselves. Her love of books and teaching is both infectious and inspiring. The book includes a dynamite list of recommended “kid lit” that helps parents and teachers find the books that students really like to read.”

imagine_cover Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer.  “From the bestselling author of How We Decide comes a sparkling and revelatory look at the new science of creativity.  Shattering the myth of muses, higher powers, even creative “types,”  Jonah Lehrer demonstrates that creativity is not a single “gift” possessed by the lucky few. It’s a variety of distinct thought processes that we can all learn to use more effectively. Lehrer reveals the importance of embracing the rut, thinking like a child, and daydreaming productively, then he takes us out of our own heads to show how we can make our neighborhoods more vibrant, our companies more productive, and our schools more effective.”

*bonus read – Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative by Ken Robinson

 The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson.  “From one of the world’s leading thinkers and speakers on creativity and innovation, a breakthrough book about talent, passion, and achievement. The element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the element, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve at their highest levels. The Element draws on the stories of a wide range of people … With a wry sense of humor, Ken Robinson looks at the conditions that enable us to find ourselves in the element and those that stifle that possibility. He shows that age and occupation are no barrier, and that once we have found our path we can help others to do so as well. The Element shows the vital need to enhance creativity and innovation by thinking differently about human resources and imagination. It is also an essential strategy for transforming education, business, and communities to meet the challenges of living and succeeding in the twenty-first century.”

 The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing by Alfie Kohn.  “Death and taxes come later; what seems inevitable for children is the idea that, after spending the day at school, they must then complete more academic assignments at home. The predictable results: stress and conflict, frustration and exhaustion. Parents respond by reassuring themselves that at least the benefits outweigh the costs. But what if they don’t? In The Homework Myth, Alfie Kohn systematically examines the usual defenses of homework – that it promotes higher achievement, “reinforces” learning, teaches study skills and responsibility. None of these assumptions, he shows, actually passes the test of research, logic, or experience. So why do we continue to administer this modern cod liver oil – or even demand a larger dose? … Kohn shows how we can rethink what happens during and after school in order to rescue our families and our children’s love of learning.”

*bonus read – Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Dan Pink

Drive by Dan Pink

A Whole New Mind A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink.  “In this insightful and entertaining book, which has been translated into 20 languages, Daniel H. Pink offers a fresh look at what it takes to excel. A Whole New Mind reveals the six essential aptitudes on which professional success and personal fulfillment now depend, and includes a series of hands-on exercises culled from experts around the world to help readers sharpen the necessary abilities. This book will change not only how we see the world but how we experience it as well.”

*bonus read – You’re Smarter Than You Think by Thomas Armstrong

You’re Smarter Than You Think

Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons by Howard Gardner.  “Howard Gardner’s brilliant conception of individual competence has changed the face of education in the two decades since the publication of his classic work, Frames of Mind. Thousands of educators, parents, and researchers all over the world have explored the practical implications and applications of his Multiple Intelligence theory—the powerful notion that there are separate human capacities, ranging from musical intelligence to the intelligence involved in self-understanding. This new edition of Multiple Intelligences covers all developments since its original publication in 1983, and stands as the most thorough and up-to-date account of the theory of multiple intelligences available anywhere.”

 Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education by Lois Hetland, Ellen Winner, Shirley Veenema, and Kimberly M. Sheridan.  “You do not have to read very far into Studio Thinking to feel that, like Lewis Carroll’s Alice, you have stepped through the looking glass into a fantasy world where the colors are brighter, the scenes richer, and the adventure altogether more engaging that what you recall about school. …So, having stepped through the looking glass into this strange world of studio learning, how do we make sense of it all? Here the pathways branch. Maybe the visual arts are a special sort of undertaking, some might say. Or maybe these are very special teachers and very special students. Or maybe this is the sort of messing around we can afford when we’re not dealing with high-stakes core subject matters. But what if none of these answers leads anywhere worthwhile? What if, far from a fantasy world, studio learning turns out to be much more realistic regarding the way learning really works than most typical classroom settings? …Here at last are the results of the first in-depth research on the habits of mind that are instilled by studying visual art – habits, the authors argue, that could have positive impacts on student learning across the curriculum.”

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change The World  Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner.  “From a prominent educator, author, and founder of Harvard’s Change Leadership Group comes a provocative look at why innovation is today’s most essential real-world skill and what young people need from parents, teachers, and employers to become the innovators of America’s future. …Wagner identifies a pattern—a childhood of creative play leads to deep-seated interests, 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.” 

Reading Room: A Whole New Mind

Today marks the opening of the Reading Room, a new feature of The Arts Room – and our first recommended book is Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind.  Many of us have an intuitive sense of the importance of the arts in education, but reading Pink’s book will deepen and clarify your understanding.  To be clear, A Whole New Mind is not a book about the arts in education; it is an engaging treatise about our changing world economy and the revolution in thinking about how the world works that we’ll all need to grasp in order to find success and fulfillment in the new millenium.

This is not a new book; it was published in 2005.  But its message has only become stronger and more urgent as over the past several years too many people have lost their jobs and discovered their skill-sets are now considered ‘obsolete’, too many new graduates have found themselves underprepared to enter the job market, and countless parents have struggled to figure out how best to guide their children through our troubled pK-12 education systems.  From the introduction,

“The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind – computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind – creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers. These people – artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers – will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.

This book describes a seismic – though as yet undetected – shift now under way in much of the advanced world. We are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computerlike capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age. A Whole New Mind is for anyone who wants to survive and thrive in this emerging world – people uneasy in their careers or dissatisfied with their lives, entrepreneurs and business leaders eager to stay ahead of the next wave, parents who want to equip their children for the future, and the legions of emotionally astute and creatively adroit people whose distinctive abilities the Information Age has often overlooked and undervalued.”

I hope you’ll join me in reading, or re-reading, Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind this winter.  The book is divided into two parts.  Part One delivers a lot of profound information, but in an engaging and entertaining style that feels like a spirited conversation over drinks with a good friend.  Part Two is more hands-on, describing six essential abilities and taking the reader on a series of trips to see these abilities in action.  You’re left wanting to learn even more, and Part Two includes a portfolio of opportunities to do just that, a welcome resource as we kick off the new year!