After our first full week of school together, I hope that everyone was able to breathe a bit and find time to relax over the weekend. As has become the norm, our weekend was full of sports activities for the kids and trying to find time to take care of the things that the week has not allowed. One of the highlights was our annual block party with the neighborhood Sunday afternoon - a chance for everyone to catch up and have the kids just play together without any formal structures in place!
Our first five day week was certainly a busy one, establishing routines and lessons amidst summer reading activities, faculty meeting, #TechattackThursday in sixth grade, 7th grade parent night, preparation for field trips, and our day-to-day lessons. As we embark upon the various initiatives (Common Core, department goals, Progress reporting, technology integration, study skills, to name a few), it can certainly feel as though we, as educators, sometimes lose sight of the forest for the trees. Quite often it appears as though we are on a cycle of pendulum swings (see post below) and are simply waiting for the next idea to come forward and then potentially pass. I know I have felt that way and I am sure I am not alone. However, each day when walking into the building I find myself rejuvenated and recharged by the banner that greets each us with our mission statement: 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. These words help remind me of the work we are doing and keep me centered on the growth, learning, and development of our students.
This week I am sharing a couple of articles that resonated with me this week and I found to be particularly important. The first highlights the phenomena of cyclical challenges in education and the incredible importance of holding a positive mindset. The second post helps to frame two important tenets that will I know will help me and hopefully everyone on a day-to-day basis.
Are We Recycling the Same Conversations?
by Peter DeWitt (@PeterMDeWitt) in Education Week
"We seem to recycle the same conversations when it comes to education. I guess it's human nature to talk about the same topics from time to time, but we seem to have the same issues in education that we have had for decades...It's not that we never have answers. We just don't happen to like the answers that people give, so we continue to ask the same questions until we get the answers we want."
DeWitt references 'Throw Back Thursday' (#TBT) and emphasizes the importance of mindsets and a positive frame of reference - I see this every day at Blake and am proud to be a part of this community. I particularly like the quote from educator Michael Fullan: "Just because you're stuck with their policies doesn't mean you should be stuck with their mindsets."
'Do No Harm': A Hippocratic Oath for Schools
by Courtney Stewart in Education Week
Continuing the thread of the importance of mindsets, Stewart's post reminds us that we can apply two principles from the medical field (Hippocratic Oath and lessons learned from 'necessary fallibility') and focus on what is in place at Blake - a willingness to do what is right for students. I appreciate the honesty in Stewart's post, acknowledging challenges and also not resignation to failure, but rather acceptance of some aspects of failure.
"The Hippocratic Oath is solemnly taken by every medical doctor. It is a statement with relevance to educators as they consider their interactions with every student. The phrase should remind them that they work with individual human beings, and that they are in positions of influence with the potential for making a lasting impact on others’ lives."
"We must embrace the reality of what failure means and learn from it. Education in its very nature is about learning. Should we not then learn even from the errors and failures we suffer?"
Towards the end of last week one of our Blake parents shared an article with me that I found valuable and pertinent as an educator and parent. As we embrace this world of technology and integrate the devices into our work with students, we must always remember that 'unplugging' is incredibly important as well.
Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent
by Nick Bilton in The New York Times
Bilton references the approach that Jobs and other technology executives took and have taken in regards to 'device management' and 'screen time' with their own children. With this in mind I am re-sharing the 'tablet family contract' with strong encouragement for all families to consider, discuss, and endorse.
Tablet Family Contract from Common Sense Media
I hope we can help keep each other 'centered' each day at Blake with a positive mindset as we continue to share resources and support our students and one another. Our mission will serve as a great compass to navigate our work together.
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