To help encourage conversations and dialogue about identifying and sharing how we can take care of ourselves, our topic/question for the week is: What strategies do you use to practice self-care and nurture your own well-being? Practicing Self-Care (Week of 3/23/20-3/27/20) (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.
The most important attitude that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning. - John Dewey
You cannot teach today the same way you did yesterday to prepare students for tomorrow. - John Dewey
Has anyone else had a difficult time remembering what day of the week it is? On Saturday morning (I think it was Saturday morning!) it really did not feel any different, except for the fact that there were no scheduled ‘Zoom calls’ (now a regular for me) on my calendar. This is just one of the many ways that we have been adapting at our house to our ‘new norm’. The weather this past weekend was lovely and we did our very best to get outside, go for our ‘social distancing’ walks with Lila, read, and cook. Grayden and I have enjoyed baking cookies and donuts (a first!), and we are thinking about trying pretzels today or tomorrow. This week has also brought forth a lot of mixed feelings and emotions - trying to find the good in #slowingitdown, while also recognizing the scary reality of the global pandemic with both known and unknown feelings of anticipation, worry, and fear. I know I am not alone with these sentiments and appreciate the space to be vulnerable with others. Community is important and I am so very grateful for the ones I have both personally and professionally. Needless to say, it has been a week of deep reflection...
Coupled with the new routines of Zoom calls, 24/7 parenting, and social distancing (to name a few), I have also been reminded of the importance of self-care. This has always been a challenge for me as I try to ‘do it all’ and often put myself second or third (ironically, at the cost of those close to me, if I’m being honest). I have made it a priority to start every day with yoga and/or a ride on the exercise bike - the bike has the added bonus for me of dedicated ‘podcast time’. I love learning and I find this ‘time for me’ to be an investment in myself as a learner, physically and emotionally. This morning ritual is a time to center myself (as best I can), reflect, make connections, and let thoughts flow in and out. In the spirit of sharing I’ve shared some of the notes below from some of my listening - I look forward to sharing and engaging with others - always happy to explore, dive in, and discuss...
Notes/Mindsets/Take-aways from some podcasts...
** These notes/ideas/thoughts are from different segments from the Modern Learners (The Modern Learners community was established by Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon) podcast (I highly recommend it) along with some notes taken from a Modern Learners ‘webchat’ with administrators across the country. The segments referenced below were recorded over the last year - again, timely and relevant now more than ever...
- Student-centered learning rather than Student-centered assessment
- We should practice and embrace being ‘expert learners in the community’ rather than ‘expert teachers in the community’
- The ideas and principles of Personal Learning Plans (PLP)
- We are all identifying ourselves as learners pretty quickly
- We need to establish and formalize an ethic of care
- Vulnerability - start there and move forward (scaffold up)
- We need to remove the adjectives in front of learning (take away the COVID-19 in front)
- It’s ok to give ourselves a minute…
- What makes school special (social aspect, relationships)
- What story are we telling in our communications?
- What will be the new normal?
- If this doesn’t force us to ask ourselves - ‘What the hell are we doing?’ Then we have a problem…
- Build freedom into what we do for kids…
- We need to give parents the permission to look at things differently
- The things that drove us a week ago don’t drive us any more…
- In the service of learning - a ‘compass point’ mantra...
- We now hae a culture and climate of 24/7 learning and yet our ‘norms of school’ - learning should be thriving
- A single better day in the classroom goes a long way
- Can you to no value in and include your students in your learning
- Schools are ‘central reference points’ like the Beatles or Motown
- We need to make sure that schools maintain because that’s what we have - they need to reflect our current ideas and thinking - they can and should be the central locations of hope ideals and mission
- The learning environment we need is already realized - go into a library and look - it’s just not theorized yet
Responses from Our Last Topic/Question (Weeks of 3/9/20 and 3/16/20): What support(s) do you need to help you become an expert learner? Share why this/these support(s) will help you along this path.
- Everyone’s love and compassion around you.
- I was reading an interview with Jeopardy's Ken Jennings this weekend. He was interviewed at the MIT Sloan Conference on Sports Analytics. When asked about what makes someone good at memorization, Jennings stated that there are not good or bad memories, only differing levels of interest. He cited songs people know by heart or movie lines and sports rosters people could tick off with ease. According to Jennings (and I would agree) a high level of interest in the topic allows learning to come naturally.
- Quiet classroom sometimes
- A way of moving on with topics at the pace of the student.
- I need the support of teachers to help me learn
- I think time, direction, and discussion really help the learning process.
- Pay attention to everything around you
- A quiet environment with attention and someone in the room to help if I’m stuck and me being comfortable. Because if someone is there to answer my question it’s I relax a little more.
- Succession takes help and you have to be in the right learning environment
- More time. I feel like I'm rarely able to learn as much as I want about a subject due to lack of time.
- I need to be able to ask people questions in person (or on the phone;-)
- Someone I can ask questions to in case I don’t understand something.
- Independence. The ability to try out new ideas without supports so I can come up with ownership of rationale and results.
How to Cultivate More Self-Compassion
by Allison Abrams in Psychology Today
As one who can be a tough self-critic, I found this post and the research and ideas within to be helpful. The five strategies outlined within are good for all: 1. Treat yourself as you would a small child; 2. Practice mindfulness. 3. Remember that you’re not alone; 4. Give yourself permission to be imperfect; 5. Work with a supportive therapist or coach.
Psychologist Kristin Neff was the first person to measure and operationally define the term “self-compassion.” She describes self-compassion as kindness toward the self, which entails being gentle, supportive, and understanding: “Rather than harshly judging oneself for personal shortcomings, the self is offered warmth and unconditional acceptance.” In other words, being kind to ourselves in good times and bad, in sickness and in health—and even when we make mistakes.
Over the last decade or so, research has consistently shown a positive correlation between self-compassion and psychological well-being. People who have self-compassion also have greater social connectedness, emotional intelligence, happiness, and overall life satisfaction. Self-compassion has also been shown to correlate with less anxiety, depression, shame, and fear of failure.
I Refuse to Run a Coronavirus Home School
by Jennie Weiner in The New York Times
I shared this post with staff and families as a check-in heading into last weekend. I am worried about the pressure being put on families/parents/guardians to ‘recreate’ school at their homes in the midst of this very stressful time for all. This post spoke to me and I have been sharing it with many - it speaks to the importance of ‘relationships first’.
Out of respect for their amazing teachers, I’m making a good-faith effort to get my kids to do the work that’s been sent home, but that does not come anywhere close to filling what would have been a school day. After accomplishing the bare minimum, the agenda is to survive and watch too much TV. We are eating cookies and carbs and hoping for the best. We are loving one another and trying not to go insane.
I want to send a message to parents, and in particular to working moms, who will inevitably take on most of this home labor along with working remotely: This is going to be messy and that is OK.
I’m also not a parenting expert — a fact that would be clear if you met our wonderful but somewhat feral children. But I do know, from often painful firsthand experiences, that trying to turn mothering into a competitive sport is straight up unhealthy. It’s not a game I want to play.
Even when everything in our life is working the way it should, and with all the privileges we have — our solid health care, our economic stability, our whiteness — we often feel overwhelmed. So this pandemic felt like a bridge too far. We had to meet it head on: holding our breath, crossing our fingers. And not judging ourselves...Maybe this is the perfect time to call a timeout on the academic rat-race that was never healthy or fair in the first place.
We love each other, we yell, we apologize, we laugh, they punch each other, we yell some more, we make up. We live, we try to be compassionate and we hope this will all be a memory soon. And when it’s over, the schoolwork will be there.
School as Fiction
by Will Richardson (@willrich45)
I shared this post right after February vacation and it resonates now more than ever. Our ‘stories’ of learning and school are rapidly changing and we need to recognize the ‘fiction’ and ‘givens’ we have been experiencing and practicing. As I noted a few weeks ago, by challenging the ‘givens’ of school that we have come to accept, we will be able to see schools as ‘stories’ that can evolve and grow.
The idea of schools as “fictions” is bracing at first. But if you flip the idea over a few times, less so. The narrative of schooling runs deep, but it is simply that: a narrative. A story. One that depends on our “communal belief” in it to wield the power it does. (And no one doubts the power of the school narrative, right?)
I think it’s fair to say that many are losing faith in the traditional story of school, primarily because it doesn’t serve all kids equitably and it’s increasingly out of step with how the modern world operates. But while there are some indications as to what the new story might look like, (more child/learner centered, focused more on skills and dispositions than content, etc.,) we’re nowhere near any “communal belief” in it. It’s not clear enough, yet, that there is a new story to fully “embrace.”
Our current fiction about schools attempts to take the very natural process of learning that is a part of all of us and make it happen in the very unnatural setting of the classroom where few of the conditions that all of us know are needed for learning to occur actually exist. It’s our greatest unpleasant truth that schools are not really built for learning.
It makes a compelling case that the true reform of the original system was the one that was driven by the consumers of education, not the creators and purveyors of it. While we say that schools and education are the most effective way to attain our highest aspirations and ideals as a society, schools are also the primary way that we accomplish our greatest individual ambitions and “stave off our worst fears.” And that last part, in fact, has become the primary motivation behind the story in schools that we’re currently living.
When we choose (or allow ourselves) to be motivated by pragmatism and individualism over idealism and collectivism, we run the risk of ignoring what’s best for our kids and for our society and world.
The vast majority of what we measure in schools, those things that count, literally, are most often quickly forgotten, never again used, and a barrier to the conditions that great learning requires. Our emphasis on “outcomes” and grades creates real emotional stress that is absent when we are learning the things that matter to us. I mean, what kind of emotional stress and anxiety do you feel when you are learning something that you find deeply and powerfully important and useful?
Our greatest challenge as educators is to write a new story of “school” that more effectively serves our students and our society given the moment in which we live and whatever future we can glean. Acknowledging that that too will be a “fiction” may actually make the work easier. But more than anything, understanding and acknowledging the motives of the current story will make that work more urgent, more relevant, and hopefully, more powerful.
As I shared with Blake families and staff last Friday evening, I so appreciate our community’s willingness to walk this path of learning and discovery together.
In keeping with the theme of highlighting words each week in honor of Women's History Month, these words from Virginia Woolf speak to the importance of finding one’s value and worth within...