Kim's Corner - Recommendations from Head of Lower School
In each of her division newsletters Head of Lower School Kimberly Kaz shares a curated list of the books, articles, podcasts, and more that she has been exploring. A treasure trove of great recommendations is collected below!
Normally, I enjoy sharing with you articles, books, and podcasts that have pushed my thinking. I admit that recently, I’ve been intentionally trying to introduce levity into my personal reading and listening, as well. So, while a departure from my norm, please enjoy these recommendations!
I’m several years late to the party, but I was thoroughly enraptured by the three-season story of “Anne with an E”. In my opinion, it honored the spirit of the original books but enhanced them with critically relevant modern plot lines and characters. I also love that the actors really were kids, playing kids… such a rare thing in film, and it contributed to the overall youthful spunk and charm of the show. And to boot, the cinematography and the natural setting is absolutely gorgeous, and did wonders for my wanderlusting soul. I recommend this for young adults and young-at-heart adults.
Thanks to a Lower School parent for introducing me to “James and the Giant Peach Reading Raises Funds for Global Health Initiative” on the Roald Dahl Channel. On this channel, an amazing cast of A-List celebrities reads aloud the classic Roald Dahl story. Light-hearted, silly, and fun for the whole family.
The 4th grade Book Club readers and I have been thoroughly enjoying Michael Buckley’s “The Sisters Grimm” series. It’s a twisted fairytale novel series that includes mystery, suspense, action, reimagined nostalgic characters, and great opportunities for hatching hypotheses about characters - are they heroes or are they villains? I love recommending series to students, because if the first book catches their interest, there are automatic next books to enjoy! One fifth grade student shared that she “loved the series so much, [she] read all 9 books in a week!” I recommend this for grades 3-6… though I have definitely enjoyed them, myself!
May 14, 2020
Author Priya Parker reflects on “How to Create Meaningful Connections While Apart”in this TED series podcast, perfect for the socially-distant times in which we find ourselves.
This New York Times article, entitled “Turn Your Demanding Child Into a Productive Co-Worker”, bounced around my social media network for days following its publication, with friends citing it as both refreshing and practical in tone and advice. In it, the author describes how, “I feel like I must fill every minute with an enrichment activity or educational entertainment. And in a matter of days, I have transformed from a productive writer into an event manager for a 4-year-old.” As she works to find balance in this new world order, she shares, “Children are built for autonomous learning, [anthropologist David] Lancy says. They are born knowing how to create their own toys, design their own games and to settle their own arguments. They need surprisingly little interference from adults. Children have spent their days learning this way for thousands of years. Surely, one 4-year-old in San Francisco can do it for a few months while we fight this pandemic. With that perspective, I revamped my whole approach to sheltering in place with Rosy. I stopped being her event manager… Instead, I am training Rosy to be my co-worker.” It’s a great read.
If you are looking for a novel to enrapture your imagination, look no further than the gorgeous storytelling of Madeline Miller in her novel, Circe. The audiobook is masterfully narrated by Perdita Weeks, and I am not exaggerating when I say it is a true treat for the ears to listen to. It is described on its Amazon page as: “With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and pause-resisting suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, and love and loss as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world,” and I couldn’t agree more. I’m halfway through and can’t wait to listen again this evening…
May 4, 2020
“Dear Independent Schools. This is Your Kodak Moment. Will You Seize It?” by Dave Mochel is the article I alluded to at the start of this newsletter. In its closing, he writes, “Education has a real opportunity to pivot in this moment. There is a chance to claim the ground from which we can transform the world. The word education comes from the Latin educere, which means “to draw forth the wholeness from within.” Let’s do that. Let’s unapologetically focus on wellbeing and wholeness. Let’s address the mind, the heart, the body, the soul, and the community…” It’s a lovely and inspiring article, well-worth the three minutes it will take adults to read.
In response to overseeing their children’s e-learning, one counselor writes, “Don’t Stress, Parents. Let’s Just Keep it Real.” Phyllis Fagell is currently the counselor at a school I used to teach at in Washington, DC, and she offers some helpful framing and tips for parents in supporting students at home.
I have read and listened to her previous memoirs, but Glennon Doyle’s latest book, Untamed, rises to the top for me. I highly recommend listening to the audiobook, which is read by the author. In it, Doyle discusses the recent changes to her family structure and articulately, evocatively narrates her thoughts on parenting in America today. I find her brilliant prose to be deeply poignant, a real call to arms for contemporary society.
I can’t recommend highly enough Episode 1, “FFTs” and Episode 4, “Comparative Suffering” from Brene Brown’s “Unlocking Us” podcast. Both episodes are about our current situation in the time of COVID-19. They were extremely orienting to me during this surreal time of firsts. As we each navigate different emotions, stressors, and joys, I wanted to take a moment to simply share something that helped me, in case it helps you, as well. The other episodes are also excellent listening, though unrelated to COVID, featuring incredible interviews with Tarana Burke, the founder of #MeToo, and Glennon Doyle, a NYTimes best-selling memoir author.
Guiding Daily Questions
One of the most heartening things for me professionally throughout this new normal has been the incredible way that colleagues across dozens of schools have been coming together in the spirit of camaraderie to share resources and support one another, with a team-oriented, competition- and ego-free energy that I can only describe as, “Yes! That was me yesterday! Here, use my template so you have a launching off point!” I have been a part of weekly Zoom calls with 60+ other California independent school leaders, as well as recurring Zooms with 20 Bay Area Lower School Heads, and we are all sharing our evolving practices and strategies for how to continue to best serve our students and families. It has been phenomenal to know that all schools are in this together, and we are taking cues from one another as we design, intentionally, in real-time. On one of those calls, someone shared their personal daily quarantine questions, which really resonated with me. I have them on my laptop each morning now, and I share them here with you:
I did not know what to expect when I first stumbled across this absolute gem of a podcast, Dolly Parton’s America. An educator friend of mine, the amazing Dr. Katy Swalwell, introduced me to the production when she wrote, “This podcast is amazing. It made me laugh, it made me cry, I learned a ton… it touches on so many social and political issues from gender violence to cultural appropriation to creating space for queerness and tells stories from around the world and throughout time that somehow all connect to the music and philosophy of Dolly Parton. I know that sounds bananas. Trust me. It’s so good.” I couldn’t agree more! I’m four episodes in and have been so moved by this storytelling. Give it a listen!
Read or listen to this interview called, “How To Talk To Your Kids About Race And Justice”, which includes some great insights, a host of recommendations for more resources, and skillful facilitation by a journalist I’ve come to respect over the years, Meghna Chakrabarti.
In “Reckoning with Kobe Bryant’s complicated past”, Roxane Gay so eloquently brings compassion, clarity, and nuance as she articulates the feelings I and many others navigated when confronted with the tragic death of Kobe Bryant (who was killed in a helicopter crash alongside his daughter, Gigi, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, John Altobelli, Christina Mauser, and the helicopter’s pilot, Ara Zobayan. While many Americans know the name Kobe Bryant, I believe the other passengers’ names ought to be memorialized and honored, as well).
Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion: My oh my, did I tear through this whip-smart collection of nine essays by Jia Tolentino. Tolentino (whom I actually knew through a cappella singing during my college years, and whose face is now featured on a poster on the side of the Sydney Goldstein Theater that I pass each day on my way to CAIS!), is a cultural commentary writer at The New Yorker who has been described as “the best young essayist at work in the United States” by Rebecca Solnit. In the City Arts and Lectures’ description of her upcoming talk, she is described as “covering everything from the viral video app TikTok, to the ubiquitous upscale activewear brand Outdoor Voices, to Edith Wharton’s heroine and the new norm of begging celebrities to run you over with a truck. Her essay collection Trick Mirror examines religion, psychedelic drugs, weddings, the internet, and everything in between, tied together by the logic of an immensely sharp cultural critic observing and thinking hard about the world she exists within.” I found this book on President Obama’s Favorite Books of 2019 List, and in my opinion, it’s a winner!
The Nian Monster by Andrea Wang is my favorite picture book about Chinese New Year, and the one I personally choose to read to my nephews over FaceTime! With its combination of sensitive teaching of Chinese culture and the brave heroine who uses her wits to save the day, it ticks all the right boxes for me. If you’d like, head on over to the CAIS Facebook page for a video of me and Ms. Hsia-Wong reading this story aloud!
With Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, I recently indulged in rereading a favorite novel of mine by one of the authors I most adore. This book is, in my opinion, an absolute literary force: it’s a transcendent and tragic drama that centers itself around the theme of music. It’s suspenseful, beautiful, and shocking all at once, and I know it won’t be the last time I return to this one.
“SF Opera Makes Eun Sun Kim first Asian Woman to Lead American Opera Company”: Representation matters, and hopefully she is the first of more to come!
“Meet the First Chinese American Woman to Fight for Voting Rights That History Almost Forgot”: In school, I learned about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, and I’m grateful that I’ve now learned about Mabel Ping-Hua Lee. I think it would have enriched my childhood to have learned about her earlier, but nonetheless, I’m delighted to read and share her story today.
Anyone who knows me well knows my favorite TV show of all time is The West Wing. It certainly played a role in jumpstarting my interest in politics, and I find myself returning to it annually. If anyone else is a West Wing fan like me, you might be interested in the “West Wing Weekly” podcast, which does in-depth discussions of each episode of the series, oftentimes featuring stars, producers, or writers from the show. One of my favorite episodes from early in the series is covered here, with a guest spot from Richard Schiff (Toby Ziegler): “West Wing Weekly: Season 1, Episode 10, In Excelsis Deo”.
“The Forgotten History of America’s Radical Asian Activists” - This is a fascinating dive into an oft-forgotten subset of American political and social history. Because Asian erasure from news and history is not a new phenomenon, I think it’s important that we each do our part to educate ourselves on those stories that don’t often make the mainstream.
“An Asian American Therapist’s Guide to Asian American Mental Health” - The topic of mental health and the silence and stigma surrounding it within many parts of the Asian diaspora is ripe for deeper engagement and discourse. This article resonated with me on many levels as I considered my own upbringing and the experiences shared with me by many others in my social spheres.
“Don’t Ignore the Asian Vote in 2020” - This new episode from Hasan Minhaj’s series The Patriot Act covers the Model Minority, the Electoral College, the disaggregated data of Asian Americans, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965, and cultural references like hot pot & banh mi! It’s an easy video to “geek out to,” as a friend of mine said, and it also has the added benefit of raising several noteworthy issues while providing quick and accessible information!
“3 Lessons of Revolutionary Love in a Time of Rage” - At the People of Color Conference, I was honored to be in the presence of Valarie Kaur, a visionary thinker and masterful orator. I found her words to be deeply meaningful, and if you are looking for a video that may bring tears to your eyes, I highly recommend learning more about this impressive human.
“PBS KIDS to Launch MOLLY OF DENALI, First Nationally Distributed Children’s Series to Feature Alaska Native Lead Character”: This is an utterly delightful and inclusive podcast I’ve enjoyed, which is geared towards children aged 4-8 (but this doesn’t stop me)! It features an Alaska Native lead character who goes on adventures around her rural town. The podcast also helps children develop literacy and informal learning skills. The New York Times wrote, “WGBH, which produced the show, involved more than 60 people who are Alaska Native, First Nations or Indigenous in writing the scripts, advising on cultural and linguistic issues, recording the theme song and voicing the characters… The production had cultural advisers from each region of Alaska that the show addresses, and for each animated Native character, they hired a voice actor who was of either Alaska Native or First Nations heritage. It’s a scope of inclusion rarely seen in children’s television, one the show’s Native writers and advisers hope becomes a new standard for how TVproducers handle specific cultural identities.”
“Teaching Thanksgiving in a Socially Responsible Way” is an article that is helpful not just for teachers, but for anyone interested in expanding their own knowledge base around how to have thoughtful discourse around this American holiday. The article includes links to many other helpful resources.
“A Racial Justice Guide to Thanksgiving”is a veritable treasure trove of curated resources by the Center for Racial Justice in Education.
A few weeks ago I drove down to Malibu to race in a triathlon with my husband. It was a ton of fun, and the 6+ hour drive allowed plenty of time to enjoy this two-part podcast from one of my favorites, Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History. This storyline went in-depth into the LSAT and, by extension, the American education system… by way of chess! “Puzzle Rush” and its companion episode, “The Tortoise and the Hare” are worth a listen.
Some of the most compelling reads I come across are shared by a social media affinity group I’m in with other Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi-American educators.
I found “Why It Matters That ‘Emily Doe’ in the Brock Turner Case Is Asian-American”to be a tough but important read about someone with whom I personally share an ethnic heritage as a half-White, half-Chinese-American woman. This moving NY Timesopinion piece was penned by novelist Lisa Ko, author of the fantastic book The Leavers.
This article, “‘SNL’ firing Shane Gillis isn’t enough. Asian stereotypes still support the white status quo” tackled the topic of race-based comedy in a way that I found fascinating and informative. And, as a sidenote and a shoutout to my hometown, I am super jazzed that this history-making man, the first Asian cast member on SNL, lived in my neighborhood growing up in Colorado! Proud of you, Bowen. Go Buffs (Smoky Hill pride)!
I am a huge proponent of audiobooks read by the author, and I am gobbling up Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead. I find her comments on vulnerability in leadership and her frameworks for inviting someone “to rumble” with you in dialogue to be both interesting as well as practically applicable to my personal and professional life. If you’re not sure you’d like Brown’s material, a great soft entry is her speaker special on Netflix.
Thanks to English Curriculum Director Cristina Calcagno for sharing Mindful Schools’ take on Executive Function Every Day. Lots of bite-size takeaways to demystify a skillset that gets talked about in many an education conversation.
“Andrew Yang’s Problematic Reinforcement of the Model Minority Myth” - I absolutely appreciate when deep investigation or commentary forces me to think in an evermore complex way about issues of relevance to me, like which political candidates’ platforms and stories I find most compelling. Take this article, for instance, which adds another critical perspective to a candidate who I think has made some fascinating contributions to the political discourse of late. I hope when the day comes that I feel I have a truly representative candidate, who that person shows and publicizes herself to be will hit the marks on both political and personal platforms. Until then, I’m committed to educating myself on the whole story behind each of our candidates.
I finally had a chance to read the classic, River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze Riverby Peter Hessler, which documents the author’s Peace Corps experience from 1996-1998 in the city of Fuling, China. What resonated most with me was the juxtaposition of certain of Hessler’s timeless anecdotes (I could relate on a deeply personal level to so many of the stories Hessler described), combined with the almost unfathomable speed with which other parts of his experience have become unrecognizable and anachronistic. For example, Hessler describes a scene just 22 years ago, when Chongqing was a dusty river town accessible only by slowboat. Not two months ago, while in China, I was overlooking the sprawling Chongqing skyline from the 53rd floor of the Westin Hotel. It’s moments like that, when you pause to consider the ways in which China has developed and re-invented parts of its culture and landscape in a condensed timeline, that truly take your breath away.
Recently, the New York Times began releasing podcast episodes of their in-depth investigation and reporting series called The 1619 Project, which attempts to re-educate and reframe the narrative about enslavement in America. The podcast centers on personal narratives of Black Americans as well as their contributions, many of which are often left out of historical discourse. I particularly found Episode 3: “The Birth of American Music: Black American Music Appropriation” to be a compelling listen. I highly encourage giving this podcast a listen - we can and should do better.