To help encourage conversations and dialogue about opening up, listening, and sharing with one another, our topic/question for the dinner table is: What are your hopes for the future? Asking and Listening (Week of 1/22/17) (This is an anonymous Google Form)
With both Katie and Maggie away for the weekend, the boys and I had a sports-filled couple of days for their games, and we then enjoyed watching the Patriots Sunday evening. Sincere thanks to all of the staff who chaperoned the dance last Friday, providing a safe and positive experience for our students: Nancy Deveno, Kelly Campbell, Brian Gavaghan, Kerrie Krah, Elise Malone, Nate Walkowicz, Eileen Hurley, Connie Doolan, Emily Alland, and Lisa Matthews. It is wonderful to have a cross-section of staff for our students at our dances and events.
On Wednesday evening I participated in the first #HollistonPS district-wide twitter chat and I felt energized by the connections, ideas, and discussions that were being shared by educators in my hometown. I have to admit that it is an interesting perspective 'putting the shoe on the other foot' as a parent in the school setting. It was fun to both observe and participate with the Holliston staff, experiencing feelings of pride and appreciation. I hope that we can build off some of the energy from both #MedfieldPS and #HollistonPS to foster more connections for the betterment of our schools.
While talking to one of the teachers in Holliston this past week, she asked me about more Twitter chats and I shared this resource (Education Chat Calendar - EduChatCalendar). It is both overwhelming and encouraging as it really does show the impressive number of opportunities for educators to foster connections and learn with and from one another. Although I have not actively participated yet (even though I am an early bird), I have been an active 'lurker' (an appropriate term in the Twitter world, I must say) on the #bfc530 chats (The Breakfast Club 5:30 a.m.). They are short chats that typically pose one question and can really serve as a spark to start the day.
In both the #HollistonPS and #bfc530 chats, as well as others including #MedfieldPS, questions about resolutions, new ideas, and goals have been posed. Given the time of year we expect (and I do the same) to both ask and be asked these questions. What struck me though is that I am not sure we are always asking - really asking and probing - these questions of our students. It is important to ask what we want for our students in terms of their growth and learning, as well as asking about our own professional growth, but I really do believe we must take more time to listen to our students - Have we asked them what they want?
By no means is my intent to say that we are not doing things correctly, but I know that I often find myself focusing the question as to what I want for our students (or my own children as a parent) and it makes me wonder a bit. Is this line of questioning helpful or should I adjust my frame of thinking? Or, is it both? I do not think it is either/or, but it does make me think about how we can better engage our students in an 'open, creative, and self-reliant' line of thinking and growth.
Last week I shared two posts and I have come back to them at several points this week as they really resonated with me. In the interest of continuing this idea of opening up (Have we asked them?), I am resharing these two posts below (Korbey and Richtel posts) along with one from Tom Goodwin. All three speak to the importance of putting oneself aside and 'opening up'.
Alicia Hunker and ‘Scary Close’: A Vulnerable Path To Confident Teaching
by Holly Korbey in MindShift
This post highlights an interview with sixth grade mathematics teacher, Alicia Hunker, as she shares the impact that a book by Donald Miller, Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy, has had on her teaching. In the interview she reveals the impact that opening up, being herself, and embracing vulnerability with her students has had.
When I first read it, Scary Close made me feel both empowered and encouraged. In a workplace that is driven by results, growth, and the ability to be as uncomfortably flexible as possible, I find myself making in-the-moment decisions, but constantly questioning whether or not it was the best one. It was incredible to realize that someone that I admire so much [the author, Miller] struggles with the same issues. People see me being me and they know I’m not perfect. This is when relationships are built and the real, impactful connections are created. When this happens, I’m guiding people through life, not just teaching math.
When I reflect on my previous nine years of teaching, if I had been taught first that it was ok to be a human in your workplace, especially when you are working with other humans who are trying to figure out what life is, and what feelings are, and what having a relationship looks like, I feel like I would have gotten many more rich experiences if I wouldn’t have been trying to fit into the cookie cutter mold.
To Encourage Creativity in Kids, Ask Them: ‘What if’?
by Matt Richtel in The New York Times
Richtel shares some thoughts about one of our oft-discussed goals for our students -- fostering creativity. The post offers some interesting ideas and encourages us to 'open up' and provide more opportunities for students to develop the traits through the prompt of 'What if...' - the implications are interesting and pertinent for all of our disciplines.
Where does creativity come from? Are there tricks they can use to be more creative, or, for that matter, that parents and educators can instill?...Scholars who study creativity say that stoking it involves helping children strike a balance between two dichotomous tools: the whimsy and freedom of a wandering mind, with the rigidity of a prepared one.
Ultimately, Dr. Dacey offered a nifty measure for how to know whether we’ve helped our child come up with something truly creative. When we see or hear or read the end product of true creativity, he said, we will experience four emotions: surprise, stimulation, satisfaction and savoring.
We Need to Teach Our Children How to Dream
by Tom Goodwin in GQ
This post poses questions about the focus of our past and current educational practices and proposes 5 key focal points for our work: Relationships, Curiosity, Agility, Creativity, and Empathy.
A 5-year-old today will enter a working world in 2030 that is so incomprehensible that we need an existential re-imagination of the very foundation of education...While unpredictability is already problematic for many, for future generations there are no signs of things calming. If we accept that the role of education is to furnish our children with the best understanding, skills and values for a prosperous and happy life, then how do we arm them for a future that we can’t imagine? Do we even need knowledge in a world of Alexa and Siri? Is the skill of agility now more valuable than the gaining of knowledge?
These are things to question, rather than easy changes to make. The future is less about what to remove, but rather what to refocus on....If we foster creativity, fuel curiosity and help people relate via relationships and empathy, then we empower kids to be totally self-reliant. They will be agile: adaptable to change in a world that we can’t yet foresee.
We don’t need to change everything now, but we do need to start forgetting the assumptions that we have made. The future is more uncertain than ever, but we need to make our kids as balanced, agile, and as self-reliant as ever in order to thrive in it.
Goodwin's post centered me and the idea of 'agility' (adaptable to change in a world that we can't yet foresee) brought me right to 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. I truly believe we can never reference our mission too many times. Our critics might say we spend too much time talking philosophy, ideas, ideals, and beliefs, but I know in my heart and mind that we need to keep talking about them as they shape our thinking. Of course we need to move forward and translate the beliefs into action, but it is continuous cycle. Let's be sure to keep these ideals in mind as it is the collective belief system that we adopt and embrace that will drive our day-to-day actions and impact our students. We need to ask questions, push one another, and take time to talk and listen - and, we need to make sure we are doing this for our students. I hope you will continue this journey with me - opening up to embrace vulnerability, foster creativity, and teach our children to dream.
And, maybe most important, let's try and foster and instill eternal hope and optimism. After picking up Owen from his basketball practice Friday night, I sat down to read The Wall Street Journal and saw a quote from Albert Camus on the front of the 'Mansion' section. Thinking about mid-January and the feelings of winter that can settle in and make me long for the lazier, more carefree days of summer, Camus's words spoke to me, reminding me of the need to find the eternal hope and optimism within...
In the depth of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. - Albert Camus
I look forward to the work that lies ahead for all of us.
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