Book Reviews

by Thomas J. Sergiovanni

Reviewed by Zach Kelehear
Associate Professor of Educational Leadership, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Given the accountability challenges offered by No Child Left Behind, by local and national media and by local and national policymakers, sometimes it appears schooling has assumed responsibility for issues raised outside the school environment more than the individuals inside the halls.

Managing expectations from competing constituencies outside the school culture can have the unanticipated consequence of draining the energy of teachers and school leaders alike. Thomas Sergiovanni, in Strengthening the Heartbeat, acknowledges this reality and compels us to remember that successful schools give priority to sustaining the culture of the school community. When we do that, we are prepared to meet the many challenges from within and without.

Sergiovanni, a professor at Trinity University in Texas, adroitly balances the theoretical and research components of his work with the practical realities found in today’s schools. Superintendents and principals will find his discussions of Adlai Stevenson High School in Illinois and Gompers Elementary School in Detroit familiar and uplifting. They are familiar in that these schools face the same challenges of so many other schools. They are uplifting in that the work at these schools offers hope for those who try to create learning places built on trust and community.

On a personal level, readers will find Sergiovanni’s discussion of the virtue of hope especially enlightening. The author reminds us of the significant difference between hope and wishing. “Wishful leaders are just … wishful,” he writes. “They take no deliberate action to make their wishes come true. Hopeful leaders, on the other hand, react actively to what they hope for and deliberately strive to turn hopefulness into reality.”

In this vein the author carries us through his discussion of how to move from “what we have” to “what we would hope to have.” The result is a reading that offers moral and ethical guidance to real and complex issues in today’s schools.

(Strengthening the Heartbeat: Leading and Learning Together in Schools by Thomas J. Sergiovanni, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2005, 195 pp. with index, $27 hardcover)