To help encourage conversations and dialogue about caring, compassion, and relationships, our topic/question for the dinner table is: What traits do you value in your relationships? A Caring Culture (Week of 12/4/16) (This is an anonymous Google Form)
December has arrived and I can certainly share that the busyness of the holiday schedule has arrived in our house! After movie night on Friday night, on Saturday Katie and I took a 'divide and conquer' approach for the various activities, and I thoroughly enjoyed running in the Angel Run Sunday afternoon - it's always such a great scene.
At each time benchmark during the school year (end of term, annual event) or 'monthly mark' (a term I just made up, I think), I try and find some time to reflect and look back at our notes, meetings, and 'archives' from past years at that time. It can be a cathartic experience for me to simply try and 'take stock', as the reflection helps me to center and 'stay present'. We always have things going on, both personally and professionally, and I am always working on addressing the cyclical challenges/opportunities while carving out time for the day-to-day ones that arise. In looking back just one year ago, I had shared the following in the weekly blog update...
As teachers and educators (and, to be honest, just people) I feel like we are often simply 'tending to fires' that are burning - some small, some big, some urgent, some slowly burning, some productive, some emergencies, etc. We need to be continually assessing the status of these fires to determine where our energy is best served. For our content specialists meeting this week, I am asking the content specialists to reflect on this question: 'What is your brightest burning fire right now at the middle school?' In other words, what fire needs to be tended to the most? My hope in this exercise is to not place a hierarchical value on our challenges/successes, but simply to recognize where we are at and to share/reflect. I also hope that the sharing process can lend itself to support. Challenges can lead us to growth and progress and it is important to embrace the messiness that may ensue. But, we need to first name these challenges or ideas for the 'ball to start rolling'.
As I look ahead to this week, I am going to 'steal this same approach' and begin the content specialists meeting with the same question. The rationale behind my sharing this 'publicly' is that I have been thinking a great deal about the importance of trying to maintain our culture of transparency with our successes, challenges, conversations, and dialogue. I think the more that we discuss (yes, it takes time), the more we will better understand one another and make sustainable change and progress.
In order for these conversations and discussions to occur, the relationships must be solid and our environment must be safe and open. We all want our students, one another, and ourselves to succeed (and that is an interesting conversation in and of itself - 'How do we define success?') and the foundation of learning is in the relationships we establish, model, and foster in the community. The two posts below highlight the attributes of caring and compassion, along with some ideas for integrating them into our personal and professional lives with our students and children.
How to Teach Your Children that the World Doesn’t Revolve Around Them
by Jaci Conry in The Boston Globe
My mother sent this post to me a few weeks ago, and it underlines the importance of Blake's theme of empathy for this school year as we try to help children and adolescents evolve from their 'center of the world' viewpoint.
Studies show that kids who understand others’ points of view are better adjusted, more popular, and even have healthier peer relationships. Parents want to raise kind, caring, considerate kids. Yet Weissbourd cites a Harvard study he conducted among 10,000 middle and high school kids where success was deemed more important than being a caring person.
As kids get older, it’s usual for them to have empathy for their family and close friends. But they must also learn to develop empathy for the people they encounter in their daily lives: a server at a restaurant, the bus driver, the school secretary.
How to Develop Mindsets for Compassion and Caring in Students
by Katrina Schwartz (@KSchwart) in MindShift
Schwartz's post references the work and experiences of Dr. Robert Brooks and speaks to the inherent value in developing positive mindsets of compassion and care in our work with students.
...the common denominator among kids who’d overcome great hardship to succeed was the presence of a “charismatic adult” in their lives. Segal defined that person as an “adult from whom children gather strength,” and specifically said often that person is a teacher...“We have to start with the assumption that everything you do in the classroom can have a major impact on a child’s life, not only in the classroom but later, too,” Brooks said.
Brooks cautions educators not to jump to conclusions about students. No student wants to fail; humans have a natural “drive for effectiveness,” and the unmotivated affect some students show may really be “avoidance motivation.”...There are lots of reasons kids might be motivated to avoid, but calling them lazy or lacking in perseverance or grit is not likely to improve attitudes...Getting rid of the accusatory stance will actually free educators to think more creatively about how to help students find purpose, make them feel like they belong, and help them see their own strengths.
One national survey of youth across the country found that they valued their own personal achievement above caring for others and they believed that their parents did, too. Brooks hopes that if every educator and parent focuses on helping students develop mindsets for caring, they can reverse that trend.
Coupled with the discussion of these mindsets we need for ourselves and want for our students is the notion of the habits and traits we are actively fostering within our community. With these ideas in mind, along with the underlying principle of fostering meaningful relationships for learning, I am highlighting this week the three visuals we collectively created as a staff in response to the following questions...What are the attributes we want for Blake teachers? What are the attributes we want for our Blake students? What helps you learn? They follow a progressive and cyclical path of development (from what we bring to what we want foster to how we can hopefully 'get there')...
Blake Teacher Attributes - What are the attributes we want for Blake teachers?...
I look forward to the work that lies ahead for all of us.
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