To help encourage conversations and dialogue about fostering connections within our community, this week's topic/question for the dinner table is: Who do you 'lean on' for support within our community, and why? Please see link to Google Form to share your responses: Connecting a Community (5/22/16) (This is an anonymous Google Form)
The weather as of late has been wonderful and I hope everyone has been enjoying it. Our weekend was full of sports, gardening, and plugging away at the 'to do' lists - we all enjoyed a relaxed Sunday afternoon/evening with the kids!
Last Saturday morning was a particularly reflective one for me...
This morning we are leaving Blake and Medfield to head down to New York City and then Washington, D.C. with our 8th graders. This endeavor is certainly a big undertaking and I am so grateful to all of the staff who have helped prepare and plan for a safe and successful trip. Saturday morning I headed to BJ's to pick up some supplies for our buses, and while driving I had a nice chance to reflect upon the week ahead. To be honest I am always a little anxious before the trip - going over the details, assuring we have everything in place, and wanting the best for our students. As I walked through the itinerary in my head I was reminded of the connections and experiences that our students will hopefully make and have while we are there - connections with one another, our staff, our history, and with themselves. When I think about the mission we have for all of our students - 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 - I know that this trip is giving our students an authentic opportunity to work, experience, and make growth towards living it.
Recognizing that this trip may not be one that all of our students and staff take, I started to think about the experiences we want for all of our students and the connections we hope they make. Our students are going through a challenging developmental stage and these connections (personal, interpersonal, academic, experiential) are critically important. As shared last week, we were fortunate to have Dr. Martha Murray, an orthopedic surgeon at Children's Hospital, come and speak to our 8th graders last Thursday. A number of students and teachers shared that they were inspired and 'sparked' by her story, accomplishments, and passion. Her accomplishments are certainly commendable, but for me the message of 'finding something you love and have a genuine interest in' was what struck me most - we just never know what might ignite that spark in a student. Taking this idea forward,
we need to make sure that we are continually looking and providing the structures for authentic learning, growing, and true 'experiencing' to happen - they do not need to be 4-day trips, presentations, or large 'bells and whistles' experiences; they can happen in our classrooms each day and I know that they are.
It was so great to see Martha talk to both our students as well as some of the students from Medfield High School. She is a family friend from growing up in Sherborn, and although the visit was brief, this idea of 'connections' and supporting one another held true in our conversations. When I reached out to her about a month ago about coming to Blake, I knew it may not work with her busy schedule - but, she gladly accepted! She shared that she felt honored to be asked and loves sharing her passion and interests with others. Having known her my entire life, I was not surprised at all - it simply reinforced the importance of connecting, leaning on one another, and giving of oneself to create a community.
So, what do these reflections from Saturday a.m. mean for me? Why am I sharing these thoughts? Blake is a community and is one that I am so glad to be a part of - I am challenged, supported, and nurtured each day. I know I am biased about our community and also recognize that we are far from perfect. We have many things to work on, and I include my own weaknesses and areas of growth in that list. That said I am confident that our community (staff, students, and parents) has a willingness to support one another and create meaningful learning (broadly defined) experiences for all.
As we all know the middle school years are a challenge, and as the adults in their lives who are helping our students navigate these waters, we must be sure that we continually communicate, share, and learn with and from one another. Below I am sharing a post that speaks to this 'need' along with a couple of reading lists that you may find of interest...
Moms’ Middle-School Blues
by Sue Shellenbarger in The Wall Street Journal
Although the title of this post is 'mom centered', the information within the post is pertinent to all parents and those who work with adolescents. Shellenbarger highlights some research that has been done, emphasizing the need for adults to make connections with one another for support.
Mothers feel more anxious, dissatisfied and doubtful about their own parenting skills when their children are in middle school than at any other stage, new research shows.
Researchers knew from previous studies that parents of teens have less confidence in their parenting ability than parents of younger children. To explore when and why those declines occurred, they recruited parents of 11- and 12-year-olds from two middle schools and had them complete interviews and written questionnaires at three one-year intervals. Among triggers for parents’ loss of confidence, the study says, were puberty-related physical changes in the children, a decline in the quality of parent-child communication and a parental belief in negative stereotypes about teenagers.
Summer Reading Recommendations: a Dive Into Young Adult Fiction
by Elena Aguilar in Edutopia
Reading is a wonderful means of fostering connections with adolescents and one another, and the suggestions within the post are worthy of adding to the summer reading list.
If you're looking for some good summer reads, consider diving into the world of young adult fiction. For those of you who teach grades six to nine, these novels will equip you with reading recommendations for your students, and they're also great for starting book discussions with your students. Some of you may also have your own young adult living in your home -- or soon-to-be young adult. In that case, do some reading together, or preview these books and make suggestions. And if you're just looking for something engrossing and compelling to read, these will fit that bill.
Summer Reading List: 5 Books on Professional Development
by Ross Cooper in Edutopia
In the spirit of fostering connections, Cooper 'starts a conversation' by suggesting some books to further our own education and professional development.
I firmly believe that the connections we make and the support we offer one another each day, intended and unintended, are what defines a community. As we 'lean towards yes' with our learning for our students, let's be sure to lean on one another as well.
I look forward to the work that lies ahead for all of us.
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