One of my fondest memories is of my summer days sitting at the beach with my mom, a life-long educator and administrator.  My beloved mother, Gina Vance, who passed in March of 2017 could not sit still.  That’s one of the things that made her the amazing leader she was.  She was constantly in classrooms, walking the halls, and greeting kids as they got off the bus and wishing them well as she sent them home each night.  She made her secretaries crazy, especially when one of her four children would call in distress and no one could find her.  One of her secretaries claims she half raised us on the phone! 


There was one place where my mom could be still, however.  The beach.  She could sit there all day, it was amazing.  A true Jersey Girl provided for me countless college credits in teaching and leading during our summers on the beach sitting in our chairs as the tide rolled in and out.  She’d dive into her books and educational leadership magazines and come up for air hours later.  I just soaked up anything and everything I could.  Often she’d invite her teachers down and they’d reflect, plan, dream, envision and reminisce of their students.  Smiles and laughter always, always filled these days.   


As summer hits, whether it’s a beach, your yard, or in bed – hunker down with a great read.  Inspire yourself.  Educate.  Learn.  Reflect.  Grow.  And if the chance presents itself, head to the beach with a colleague and reflect on your students.  Somehow I always find we can see all the good in our kids when we are at the beach. (Maybe that has more to do with our state, than theirs, but that’s a different conversation…)

Check these out! 

Pre-School/Elementary:  The Whole Brain Child, by Dan Siegel. 

To be honest, I’d recommend any of Siegel’s books; if you haven’t gotten your hands on any of them, you’re missing out.  He’s a leader in the field in bringing the light to how the brain impacts learning, behavior, mood, attitude. 

His style is friendly (comics included), he’s super grounded (sections on how he and colleagues have screwed up); he offers tons of easily to implement, practical strategies (name to tame, the conditional yes – are some of my go-to’s with my toddler), and he breaks down the science on the brain so it’s easily digestible.  

In The Whole Brain Child, you get a really good sense of the development of your child’s brain, but more importantly how that manifests in conversations, arguments, behaviors and problem solving and memory.

It also serves as a reference book since it can be easily indexed by issue.

Middle/High School:  Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, by Dan Siegel

This longer read is well worth the time.  Siegel introduces us to concepts that truly explain how the adolescent brain is developing and the impacts on their learning, choices, moods and behaviors.

Through a deeper understanding of the ‘restructuring’ of the brain, you are empowered with information that literally shifts your mindset, your perspective and consequently your actions and interactions.  Brainstorm is inspiring and really interesting as we come to understand why in fact the brain must develop this way in order for our species to survive- quite literally!  


Parenting Elementary, Middle, High School:  Raising Human Beings, by Ross W. Greene

I read Greene’s book in two days and it quickly moved to the top of my must reads. 

Predicated on the fact that 1) kids do well if they can; and 2) kids prefer doing well, Greene equips parents with a process that helps them to dig deep into the real issues and challenges kids are having, moving beyond the behaviors that result.  It’s also super applicable to schools.  His other book, Lost In School, explores this further and offers tools for school.  And, yes, another great read!

He argues we often try to address the behavior and not the root causes.  By  setting ourselves as partners with our children to problem solve, Greene shares how we can actually change the behavior with them.  His work is founded on the principle that all problems and challenges a child faces is an incompatibility with his/her characteristics and the expectations at hand.

He challenges us to dig deep into our expectations and assumptions, yet allow space for our intuition.  With cases woven throughout the book, you can explore the variety of issues with kids of all ages.   


All Educators/Parents:  Positivity:  Top Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life, by Barbara Fredrickson

Seems most of us are attracted to positive people.  We enjoy their presence and can feel energized when in their company.  They inspire us and make life, well… seem a little more manageable and actually enjoyable.  It often appears that they seem to really enjoy life more

In Positivity, Barbara inspires us with her research that shows how positivity enhances joy, creativity, innovation, resilience, compassion and our health!  (And, consequently does make us happier and more content with our lives.)  More importantly, she shares the tools that enable each of us to increase the positivity in our lives and tips for overcoming the negativity that comes our way. 

The book is grounded in research, yet shared through interesting and funny stories; it’s eye-opening and inspiring.  A powerful read to empower both our personal and professional lives.

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