Catholic School Matters

December 18, 2016

The "Best Of" Issue

One of my favorite hobbies is reading and one of the popular features of the newsletter is my reading list. I think it’s about time that I listed the best 10 books I’ve read this year. One of my 2017 resolutions is to publish a blog post every Wednesday about a book. Right now, I have 5 book blogs written so I’ll be challenging myself to keep up! In no particular order, here are my best 10 book experiences of the year (in alphabetical order):


1. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. Bruce was the music of my twenties and his memoir was beautiful, entertaining, and engaging. Couldn’t put it down and led me back to his music.

2. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. It had been many years since I had read this seven-book series and was a great experience to rediscover these books along with my 7 year old daughter. Over the course of the fall, we read these books together—me reading the left side out loud, Lucy reading the right side. What a great experience!

3. Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. Recommended by the youth minister Doug Tooke, this book challenged my mindset about approaching leadership, raising kids (especially sons!), and supporting healthy school cultures.

4. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. Not your typical airport/business read, the book challenged my priorities and helped me clarify how I’m spending my time and energy. I often try to do everything and end up doing nothing very well. This book gave me a framework for approaching work and life in order to find contentment.

5. The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey. The book’s premise is simple (we’re not allowing our children to fail) but Lahey illustrated the damaging effects on parenting, education, and our culture.

6. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. I missed the Harry Potter phenomenon and hadn’t read a single page nor seen one of the movies. This served as one of my New Year’s resolutions. My 8 year old son, Henry, and I read these books together this spring (I read the left pages aloud, he read the right page). After reading each book, we watched the movie and immediately started the next book. I can’t think of a better way to experience the books! They are great stories and served as great discussion points for us.

7. Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman. I knew Seligman was the originator of the learned helplessness theory but had no idea that his influence was so far-reaching—grit, mindset, and cognitive psychology all begin here. This book challenged my paradigms.

8. Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam clarified the crisis in America right now—disenchantment with our political and economic situation, despair over education, etc. In one short volume, Putnam clarifies the problem of economic disparity alongside the economic, familial, and community factors.

9. Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions by David Quammen was the most unusual choice on my list. A scientific treatise, this 20 year-old novel was an intellectual stretch for me but caused me to reexamine the problems of Catholic schools in a new light. I enjoyed his writing style enough to contact him and arrange for an enjoyable coffee conversation in Bozeman when we talked about writing, interviewing, and life.

10. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip & Greg Heath was a great study of how to affect change in organizations and offered great advice on how to nudge people to change behaviors.

Those were the highlights of my book journey this year. To be fair, I enjoyed every book I read. I’m careful and deliberate about what I choose and believe there is something valuable to be learned from every author.


Here are a list of other “Best Of” book lists from which I have drawn my upcoming selections:

· Shane Parrish’s (Farnam Street) Bookworm list

· A.J. Juliani’s Best Books for Teachers (and Learners)

· Bill Gates’ Favorite Books of 2016

· Bruce Springsteen’s 28 Favorite Books that Shaped his Music

· Ditch that Textbook’s List of Books by Teachers, For Teachers

· Derek Siver’s Books I’ve Read

· Edutopia’s Books to Read Right Now

· Peter DeWitt’s Books that Every Educator Should Read Right Now


Dr. Tim Uhl, Superintendent

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"Catholic School Matters" Podcast

Tomorrow, Episode #15 will drop. An interview with Terry Shields, the Executive Director of the Nativity-Miguel School network, will explain the origin and purpose of this innovative model. Last week, Episode #14 included an interview with the incomparable Superintendent of the Diocese of Phoenix, Mary Beth Mueller. A veteran educator, she shares her wisdom about leading and mentoring.


Here is the link to the podcast on iTunes. Please subscribe to the podcast so new episodes will automatically download. The show is also available on Stitcher and Google Play. If you don't have accounts with any of those content providers, here is the link to my basic page with the podcasts.

The Week Ahead

Monday 12/19: office (Helena)

Tuesday 12/20: office (Helena)

Wed 12/21: Great Falls meetings & School Board (Missoula)

Thurs 12/22: office (Helena)

Fri 12/23: office (Helena)


Next week: 432 miles

Last week: 255 driving miles; 2,264 air miles

2016-17: 17,301 driving miles; 14,376 air miles

What I'm Reading 2016-17

  1. Why Don't Kids Like School by Daniel Willingham.
  2. Tom Clancy: Commander in Chief by Mark Greaney. (finished)
  3. Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam (finished)
  4. The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. (finished)
  5. Reading with the daughter: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (7 books, finished).
  6. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni (finished)
  7. The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey (finished)
  8. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen (finished)
  9. The Purple Goldfish by Stan Phelps (finished)
  10. The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen (finished)
  11. Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman. (finished)
  12. Reinvention: Accelerating Results in the Age of Disruption Cragun & Sweetman (finished)
  13. Cultures Built to Last: Systemic PLCs at Work by Fullan and DuFour (finished)
  14. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown (finished)
  15. Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time by Margaret J. Wheatley (finished)
  16. The Orange Frog by Shawn Achor (finished)

For Principals & Teachers

  1. OPI has released its preliminary plan here. Notice there is no mention of private schools! Here is a short video explaining the OPI draft plan.
  2. National School Choice Week is Jan 22-28. Click here to receive your free materials. Catholic Schools Week is the next week (Jan 29-Feb 4).
  3. Montana Catholic Schools now has a new Facebook page. and Pinterest board. Please like them so I can share marketing material there.
  4. On the Horizon:
  • Virtual Leadership Meetings Jan 24th 9 am and/or 1 pm
  • 7th/8th grade days at the legislature Feb 24th

My Favorite Links Since August (one per issue)

This is the one article/link which stayed with me from each of the 17 issues this fall.
What Teenagers Want You to Know | Roy Petitfils | TEDxVermilionStreet

The Most Popular Link from Every Issue

These are the most "clicked" posts from each of the 17 issues this fall