To help encourage conversations and dialogue about forward-thinking practices and innovation, our topic/question for the week is: What problem(s) do you want to solve? Problem Solvers (Week of 9/17/17) (This is an anonymous Google Form)
Blake's Guiding Lights
Blake's Core Values: Respect, Responsibility, Resourcefulness, Reflection
Our Essential Question: How can we cultivate and curate the progression of student learning and growth?
Our Mission: Blake Middle School believes in a living mission statement, based on the concept that our community seeks and respects knowledge, integrity, character, wisdom, and the willingness to adapt to a continually evolving world.
After our first 5-day week of school, it was great to go for a run on Friday afternoon with the MHS cross-country team - it felt like a vitamin boost and I always get a kick out of being called 'Coach Vaughn' (a stretch of a title, if there ever was one!). Saturday was a full day with soccer games, taking the events at Celebrate Holliston, and our annual block party. We then enjoyed a relaxed (if we can pull it off!) Sunday afternoon, watching the Patriots and having family dinner.
"Don't ask kids what they want to be when they group up, but what problems do they want to solve. This changes the conversation from who do I want to work for, to what do I need to learn to be able to do that." -- Jaime Casap, Google Education Evangelist
I first heard Jaime Casap (@jcasap) speak at EdTech Teacher's Innovation Summit last November and his message is one that has stayed with me. Beyond the fact that I think he has the coolest job title that is out there, his clear and thoughtful approach towards innovative practices are student-centered, realistic, and practical. We watched one of his talks (Jaime Casap - Extra Yard For Teachers Summit 2015) at our closing staff meeting this past June and began the year with a brief clip (Jaime Casap Discussing How Learning is Changing). In an effort to continue to break down the walls between home and school, parents saw this last referenced clip at our parent nights over the last two weeks.
Casap is one of several educators (George Couros, Peter DeWitt, AJ Juliani, James Ryan, and Justin Reich to name a few) who inspire and push me to examine and shift my own thinking. I would be lying if I said I am always ready or open to being pushed, but I have come to embrace Robert Kegan's wise words - 'If we are successful, we are all going to get a little uncomfortable'. Couros also encourages all of us to embrace a spirit/mantra of 'relentless restlessness'. The key, I believe, with these educators and in examining and reading about successful schools/organizations across the country is that a core set of values and beliefs guide their work. Bringing it 'back home' to Blake, the guiding lights noted above (our students, core values, essential question, and mission) will be those guides to steady our course through the natural discomfort of learning with a spirit of relentless restlessness.
Referenced below are four posts that I hope will elicit questions, conversations, and potential shifts in thinking. They did so for me, and I would welcome conversations if the same holds true for others. The theories and beliefs outlined within certainly do not present a linear path and that is important to consider. As educators we are continually planting seeds and looking to open minds to help shift thinking. Hopefully these posts will help us move forward in this regard...
The Power of Story
by Aaron Hogan (@aaron_hogan)
Hogan's post aligns with the discussions we have had at Blake about the role that the lens of stories can play in the growth of our students and ourselves as learners and professionals. Within the post he encourages the reader (students and staff) to reflect upon these questions - What is your story? Who are you listening to? How is that going? - as well as how stories can be shaped for ourselves and others.
If we are truly wired up so that something outside of us tells us who we are, we need to ask ourselves the same questions I posed to my students. We need to identify the story we are living out. We need to identify the voices who we are letting in, the voices that influence on our journey. And we owe it to ourselves to honestly ask how that is going.
Odds are that it’s no work at all to bring back a hurtful comment or a time someone went out of the way to pay you a genuine compliment. Both inform your story. Be the person who speaks truth and encouragement to others. You have no idea how powerful an impact it may have on someone’s story! As you move throughout your week, I hope you seek out opportunities to speak life and truth into the lives of those around you—both those closest to you and those you’ve not even met. It’s your responsibility and your privilege to invest in others in this way.
Why Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, Google, and a Harvard Expert Say Colleges and Universities Are Broken
by Joshua Spodek in Inc.
This is a brief, thought-provoking read that sparks and highlights a conversation worth having at all levels of education.
While traditional education challenges students intellectually, it is often socially and emotionally passive. If you look at the behavior it teaches, it's compliance, when our world demands leadership skills.
Learning From One of the Most Innovative Schools in the Country
by AJ Juliani (@ajjuliani)
Juliani is an avid blogger on the topic of innovative education practices, and this post highlights the work of MVPS (Mount Vernon Presbyterian School). I respect, admire, and espouse Juliani's approach to be open to all models of schools (public, private, and charter), knowing that we can learn from them. I am intrigued by MVPS's concerted dedication to 'inquiry, innovation, and impact' with a PreK-12 focus on empathy and design thinking.
I’ve always worked in a public school. I love public school and believe it is our best chance as a country (USA) and every nation to empower the next generation to make the world a better place, and have a great life while doing good work. I’ve been around folks who have said, “Well that’s a private school, we could never do that!” And some others who only want to focus on public schools and the work they are doing. For me, I want to see what every school and the academic institution is doing for their kids. For me, I want to see what every school and the academic institution is doing for their kids. Because we can learn from every type of school of what is going to work best for students.
Transcending the Status Quo: How Do We Know We've Arrived?
by Dr. Sonny Magana
This is the last post in a 5-part series and Magana's overarching question is one we wrestle with every day in education. By encouraging schools to employ the T3 framework (translational, transformational, transcendent), he believes it will help us in measuring the efficacy of our work and approach the 'arrival point' as an ongoing process towards mastery. Within the post he poses a proposed shift - moving from 'Professional Development' to 'Organizational Development', a shift I think we should consider with an open mind.
...an actual point of arrival at such a lofty destination is an artifice. It’s a myth. There is no “final attainment,” no proverbial mountain top from which one can rest on one’s pedagogical laurels and proclaim, “I’ve made it!” Letting go of the myth of final attainment is the first step into the much larger world of mastery.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote that we must embrace a constant state of becoming in order to reach the optimal realization of our human potential. A reasonable implication of this philosophy implies that mastery is not a final destination, but a lifelong process of continuous growth and development. The journey’s the thing. As we travel along the road towards mastery, it is critical that we receive meaningful feedback to help us determine if sufficient progress is being made towards our desired future state, while simultaneously enacting course corrections as needed.
Building collective efficacy with educational technologies will not only help guide our work at hand, but in the aggregate, will move the needle of technology impact forward. Embracing a mastery mindset will help school systems realize their potential collective efficacy—and model that process for students.
Looking ahead to the week ahead, with the pace of school naturally revving up as it always does, I am hoping to take mindful steps to intentionally come back to some of the thinking embedded into these posts. It's important to keep talking, questioning, and challenging our own thinking and the thinking of others - students, staff, and community. Keeping the 'mastery mindset' will help us to focus on the process of learning and growth, rather than on a fixed 'imaginary' and finite point. Maybe that's what we need - a 'mastery mindset' to guide our individual and collective stories.
I look forward to the work that lies ahead for all of us.
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