Book Review: Leading with Focus

For the past five years in my career in education, I have promoted this concept of “do less better” in the face of multiple so-called requirements and initiatives that tend to distract us from doing any of them well.  Some things are tied to the money we receive, to which we unfortunately must attend.  This is sad derailment of our focus, so when I saw Mike Schmoker had put out a book about school leadership I ordered a copy before it was out.  When I read his first few lines that, “It is vital that we simplify and demystify…the primary obstacle to effective leadership is our failure to identify, clarify, and then focus on certain actions that ensure optimal instruction.”, I knew this book would bring me home!

If you’ve ever read Schmoker’s work, or read my previous reviews of his research, you’ll know that Mike Schmoker stays on message like no other mainstream education specialist.  Each of his recent books, Results Now!, Focus, and Leading With Focus, reinforce the need for coherent curriculum, solid amount of reading and writing, and effectively structured lessons.  In four short chapters, Schmoker rams this message home with subtle nuances from previous books tailored to school leadership roles, with examples of how this has worked to improve student experience and a “starter kit” for how it might work in other contexts.

The true power of Mike Schmoker’s repetitive cry for simplifying school so that real literacy learning occurs is that his recommendations are so authentic to what many of us believe about good and timeless teaching, but especially because his advice remains clear and consistent across whatever role you have in a school.  It is about learning and kids, and how getting adults to pay attention to what’s important makes their work actually easier.  I give this one 4.5 SutterStars.

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