To help encourage conversations and dialogue about PDF (Playtime, Downtime, Family Time), our topic/question for the dinner table is: What are you looking forward to most about summer? Enjoying Summer (Summer 2020) (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
July 1, 2020 - wow - hard to believe that July is here! With the blurred lines between home and school, weeks and weekends, etc., the typical transition from school-mode to summer-mode has not felt as stark as in past years; and, of course, the questions that we all have regarding next year in regards to school are certainly present on my mind. So many unknowns have now become a reality, and the societal unrest that is very real (impacting all of us personally, communally, and globally) certainly contribute to feelings I have not felt or experienced before, and I am sure I am not alone with these thoughts and sentiments. Although I feel I have become accustomed to the ‘relative nature of time’, given the ways in which we have all been adapting to our ‘new normal’ on a daily basis over the past few months, I still am struck by how quickly the last two weeks have gone by. It really does seem like yesterday that the ‘last day of school Zooms’ were taking place and we came together as a staff for our end-of-year check-in. With all of these feelings/experiences/emotions as a backdrop (front drop might be a more accurate description), Katie and I have been doing our best to make self-care a priority and down shift a bit to be outside, garden, and relax - some days we are more successful than others, for sure.
In my last blog post (Reflection and Action), I prefaced my ‘sharing of thoughts’ with the words below - I will continue to keep them as part of my blog posts for ‘the time being’ as I believe it is critical that I keep them at the forefront of thought, reflection, and action...
...as one who identifies as a white, heterosexual male I have been given many privileges and I have a responsibility to engage and act on my beliefs - although I have felt and known this, I know more than ever that I have an ethical and moral obligation to not only talk, but act on my anti-racist beliefs and convictions. I must continue to 'hold up a mirror', acknowledge my implicit biases, examine them, and truly listen. It is important for me/us to start, continue, and push these conversations.
In the spirit of cultivating and fostering discourse, I am sharing some recent reflections from both students and staff along with a few quotes and posts that resonate - directly aligning with our core values and areas of focus for the Blake community.
** As you will see, it has been a very reflective couple of weeks for me - I encourage everyone to make time to read through the resources below - they are important. Please know that I am always happy and eager to process, listen, discuss, and share - my door (physical and remote) is always open - and I encourage everyone to do the same with one another.
Student and Staff Reflections
For the past few years I have asked both students and staff to highlight positive aspects of the past school year. With full recognition that these sentiments are not shared by all and that challenges were faced by many, I encourage everyone to take time to read through this sampling of responses - the practice of ‘naming the good’ helps us to highlight the growth and learning that has taken place, providing a foundation for more potential as we look forward to the next school year. We must, however, also acknowledge and open up doors for the dialogue regarding the challenges our students (and we) have encountered for us to look towards improvement.
How/why was this a good year for you as a learner? (Sampling of responses)
- This was a good year for me as a learner because it gave me new experiences that could help me out in the future
- I / all of us were forced to adapt to a situation no one would have predicted at the beginning of the school year.
- It helped me realize you need to work extra hard.
- It helped me adjust to new environments.
- This was a good year for me as a learner, because I was put into a situation that I wasn’t totally comfortable with. The experience not only highlighted what techniques and strategies work best for me when I am learning, but also furthered my understanding of what learning style I prefer. This will help me next year by providing me with a stronger foundation to start my learning experience. Through understanding more about myself in regards to learning, I will be better able to study for assessments, complete assignments, and participate. It is my belief that discovering what works for you is the best way to succeed in any field. This was also a good year for me as a learner, because I acquired the skills to adapt to new circumstances. As I enter the high school, this will be important, because I am going to be in a new environment. It will be necessary for me to find my own way, so as to not get overwhelmed.
- I got to learn how to create my own schedule to follow, and learn how to stay responsible while this is all going on.
- This was a good year for me because I feel like I improved as a student, and I learned some valuable learning skills, like how to study.
- It was a good year for me because I knew where to answer my questions. It will help me by making me feel like I know what I need to know for the year.
- I learned that I can do well in school while there is so much going on in the world. I also learned all the study hacks I can use for next year.
- More tech
- This was a good year for me as a learner because it helped me see how school helps my mind stay active and healthy. This information will help me next year because it will teach me to not procrastinate as much, and to do a portion of my work every day, instead of just on one day.
- During quarantine, I was able to work at my own pace which helped me a lot. I am a learner who goes at my own pace and it’s hard to do in a classroom with 15+ other kids.
- I feel like I learned a lot of new stuff that I will most likely be using in my adult life. It will also help me understand a lot of the new topics that we will learn next year.
- I feel a schedule is important for my learning.
- I learned and improved in my work a lot this year and hope to use those skills next year.
Why was this a good year for our students? (Sampling of responses from our end-of-year Zoom check-in on 6/16)
- The relationships they built with peers and teachers
- Students were put in a position where they had to take more ownership over learning
- We grow from adversity
- they had adults that were supporting them no matter what
- Lots of opportunity to think about how to be themselves
- Learned about themselves
- They learned what true independence means.
- They learned the value of being flexible and quick to adapt
- it was a chance to practice resilience and flexibility!
- they had the opportunity to overcome a big challenge
- Many of them learned that they can be more independent than they believed.
- They found out they could do something difficult, and how important community is.
- Many were able to really demonstrate their resilience and independence.
- They learned a lot about themselves. They learned how to learn.
- What we've been through gave students a new perspective on learning
- They knew they were cared for and could make strides in learning
- They have been challenged academically and emotionally. What you expect is not guaranteed to happen.
- Connections and perseverance was ever present
- I have to imagine they learned more about themselves this year than in any other
- they showed what true courage is
- it prepared them in ways to take ownership of their learning and grow in independence
- learned in a new environment, persevered
- They definitely learned a lot and maybe appreciate being in school now more than ever.
- They saw teachers learning and struggling at times.
- This was a good year for our students because they learned some valuable life lessons/skills.
- As difficult as things were it was the most authentic way for them to learn some important life lessons; resilience, patience, kindness, respect and see them in practice every day in their own lives
- They found our what works and doesn’t for them. Some of them learned to ask for what they need.
- They learned what they are truly capable of, despite challenges, and that our community really cares for them.
- worked as a team with parents, teachers, and other students
- Learned what they are capable of - tried a level of independence
- Students learned what they are truly capable of
- a different perspective
- the challenge created opportunity for grit-growth
- Students had an experience like none other
- They were brave, flexible and showed resilience in the face of so many unknowns.
- Independence immersion
- They learned how to be successful in an entirely new situation, a situation with no playbook.
- They got to experience a whole new way of learning that I think helped some of them learn some independence and resilience
- Learnied problem solving, independence and resilience
- they were able to overcome a difficult challenge
- they learned to be resilient and flexible and they got to watch the adults around them do the same
- They had to take more ownership of their learning while we were remote - I saw growth in them in some life skills
- They were challenged in a completely new way
- They learned to appreciate what they have
- I think they learned most about themselves. How did they each face this challenge?
- For some students, they were given an opportunity to shine when they sometimes can’t…they had an opportunity to learn about themselves.
- They learned that they can succeed even when the world is changing around them.
- they can feel good about what they had to overcome
- Our students were able to see (sometimes forced by circumstances) how much they were capable of, even when they doubted themselves
- They will walk away with a common uniting experience (positive or negative…they did it together) - and have had a difficult experience through which they’ve persevered.
- They were able to become more independent people and learners but also feel the care and support of adults from school, they probably tried a lot of new things that they never would have— more time outdoors. . . etc
- They had to learn how to adapt.
- They learned that school is essential and that connections and being present with their peers and teachers may mean more than they realized. We all took our connections for granted before this!
- the lessons in adapting and evolving and perseverance were so valuable to students and all of us
- So many of them showed up and engaged these past few months- knowing that things were different (grades, etc.)- There was a connection and buy-in
- They put their strength to the test with fabulous teachers
- It was unforgettable and so many showed great resilience in the face of adversity. A quality they will continue to develop!
- Flexibility, adaptability... Some students learned new things they wouldn't have had a chance otherwise.
- A new appreciation of how school/teachers/peers that aren’t “friends” enriches their lives
- Anytime we/our students have to adapt to changes, challenges, we grow stronger and develop new perspectives. We also learn a lot about ourselves and come together!
As we end the year, these quotations are ones that hold particular meaning as we look ahead to the coming year for our students, staff, and community...
There is no real ending. It's just the place where you stop the story. -- Frank Herbert
You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. -- William Faulkner
We are going to make the path by walking it. -- Colby Swettberg
The students watch us, all the time. We must honestly ponder what they see, and what we want them to learn from it. -- Ted and Nancy Sizer
Some Posts that Resonate
As we end the year (and look ahead to next year)…
Just because we didn’t teach it, doesn’t mean they didn’t learn it
by Katie Martin (@katiemartinedu)
Martin’s brief post offers her perspective as a mother and educator, as she reflects on the period of remote learning for her students and daughter. Within the post she offers three steps we can take to shift both our thinking and practices away from coverage and towards mastery...
1. Move from a deficit mindset to strengths-based mindset
2. Teach the skills needed to be independent learners
3. Use a mastery approach to learning to move forward
In this article, Shining the Competency Education Light on Education in the Time of COVID-19 Chris Sturgis reminds us, “That is true, every student will start the next school year in a different place. As they have every year. What’s different is that they may have received different exposure to the curriculum and spent different amounts of time on task. The pandemic is forcing us to look at a truth that has always existed. Our traditional system mistakenly equates the delivery of curriculum with learning.”
What any teacher will tell you is that these gaps have always existed in our classrooms and as we go back to school in the fall, we now have wide acknowledgment from families, administrators, and policymakers that students will be in different places. As we redesign systems, policies, and curricula for remote, hybrid, and in-person instruction, this is an opportunity to shift our thinking about pacing guides and curriculum coverage to demonstrations of learning.
If we shift our focus from teaching to ensure learning and mastery of key knowledge, skills, and habits are at the heart of our work, we can acknowledge where students are and help move them forward. Or more simply in the words of a Hayden, a high school student, “Less assigning, more learning.”
3 Different Approaches to Teaching When Schools Reopen
By Peter DeWitt (@PeterMDeWitt) in Education Week
I have always admired DeWitt’s work for his honest, student-centered approach. This post highlights the elements of the 3 modes of instruction we are planning for (In Person, Hybrid, and Remote), providing a description and a vision of ‘what instruction may look like for each’. His focus on PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) and the opportunities we now have to benefit our students are inspiring, centering, and necessary.
Everyone can still be creative in their own way, but PLCs will be vital to make sure instruction is tighter and that each grade and content area is offering equitable ways to engage all students. PLCs also need to remain to be the venue teachers use to gather evidence about what is working in both in-person classrooms and remote learning experiences. We have to get past the trauma that the pandemic has caused to our teaching and look at the ways this whole experience will enhance what we do in the fall, and PLCs are the places to have those conversations.
Many people have remarked about how the past few months have "sucked." One thing is for sure, if we go into the fall with the same attitude (and yes, I understand why it happens), it will certainly continue to be the same way. Although all of this is hard, it is providing us with an opportunity to imagine school a bit differently, which is good because public schools must stay competitive considering how many online schools, charter, and private schools are already available to students.
If we have learned anything over the last few months, it's that we do not have to do as much talking as we do in the classroom (which is not new), and we do not have to have as many activities to entertain students. We can go deeper with fewer activities, and this may be the time to do it.
Seventeen reasons why football is better than high school
By Herb Childress in Phi Delta Kappan (1998)
Brian Gavaghan shared this post and it is a ‘must read’, in my opinion - the title (as noted below) does not represent the intent of the article, as it is not focused on football. Rather, the focus is on what we should be learning from activities outside the context of the classroom that provide a true model for learning different skills. It is eye-opening to me that it was written 22 years ago. As I have shared - the research supports changes in our structure of school, and we should lean on this science to provide a more meaningful and relevant experience for our students.
WE DEFINE SCHOOL as a place of learning. But as I visited classes in the high school in which I was an observer for a year, what I saw mostly - and what the students told me about most frequently - was not learning at all but boredom. I saw students talking in class, not listening to lectures, having conversations instead of working on their study guides, putting their heads on their desks, and tuning out. Teachers talked about what a struggle it was to get students to turn in their homework at all, much less on time. Students picked up enough information to pass the test, did their work well enough to get the grade, and then totally forgot whatever it can be said that they had learned.
In the school that I observed, I saw striking - and strikingly consistent -- differences between the perfunctory classroom sessions and lively extracurricular activities. The same students who were emotionally absent from their classes came alive after school. We say, "If only she'd spend as much time doing her algebra as she does on cheerleading..." with the implication that students blow off algebra because they're immature. We don't usually think to turn the question around and ask what it is about the activities they love that is worthy of their best effort. We don't usually ask what it is about school that tends to make it unworthy of that kind of devotion. But if we're interested in looking at places of joy, places where students lose track of how hard they're working because they're so involved in what they're doing, places where teenagers voluntarily learn a difficult skill, places that might hold some important lessons for schools, football is a good choice.
Let me give you 17 reasons why football is better for learning than high school. I use football as my specific example not because I love football; I use it because I hate football. It's been said that football combines the two worst elements of American society: violence and committee meetings. You can substitute "music" or "theater" or "soccer" for "football," and everything I say will stay the same; so when I say that football is better than school, what I really mean is that even football is better than school.
No single one of these 17 patterns taken individually constitutes a magic potion for a good learning environment. But when we look at these patterns taken together, we can see that football has a lot to recommend it as a social configuration for learning. I'm not going to argue that we should give up on school and focus on football. What I am saying is that we have a model for learning difficult skills - a model that appears in sports, in theater, in student clubs, in music, in hobbies- and it's a model that works, that transmits both skills and joy from adult to teenager and from one teenager to another. We need a varsity education.
What too many white people still don’t understand about racism
by Linda Chavers in The Boston Globe
This post is one (among many) that I hope will continue to guide my and our work with ourselves, our students, and one another. We must engage in these conversations and make sure that we are acting on them as well.
What I’ve learned teaching a course at Harvard on African-American literature is that society at large considers Black history to be this, and only this: slavery – Abraham Lincoln – Martin Luther King Jr. – President Barack Obama. Those four topics are what’s collectively taught, discussed, and shared as the entirety of what took place and continues to take place in this country. By the time students reach me — and my course, like many of the same nature, is an elective — their knowledge about this country’s past and present terrorization of Black people is grossly insufficient.
After all, we’re supposed to have moved beyond race — slavery-Lincoln-MLK-Obama is supposed to be a progression. But white Americans cannot deny the truth and reality of lethal violence toward Black people. They cannot say, “Oh, that doesn’t happen” or “That’s only a few bad apples” or “Let’s wait until we have all the facts.” We have literal bodies of evidence now in plain sight, a grim parade of them so large that to deny its occurrence becomes ridiculous.
Here is where I see some hope: When my students realize how little they actually know, they don’t take it lightly. They get angry, righteously so. I’ve had students write to me months and years after my course to express their continued outrage that they didn’t know and that, as they walk through life, most folks still don’t know. And they feel compelled to take the extra time and energy to make it known. This is what I tell them: Keep going. And for the rest of you, start listening instead of arguing, and be ready to live with being uncomfortable.
** The two posts below are ‘annual shares’ - good reminders as we ‘close out’ a school year together.
We've Said Goodbye to This Year's Students. Now It’s Time to Take Care of Ourselves
by Justin Minkel in Education Week Teacher
Minkel's post is a great one for all educators, no matter the place in one's career. The suggestions within are good ones.
All teachers have experienced that odd interlude after the end of the school year but before the beginning of true summer: a moment comprised of equal parts finality, sorrow, and release. For 10 months, we have existed in relation to our students. Our own time, talents, wishes, and wants have bent again and again in service to theirs. Teachers are notorious for taking care of everyone but ourselves. The coming summer provides a perfect chance to change that.
Every teacher, even those of us in the throes of summer school and professional development, should make time to answer an existential question: Who are we when we’re not teaching?
1. Become the learner instead of the teacher.
2. Hyphenate yourself.
3. Be your full self with your loved ones.
4. Join a new tribe or two.
Most of us love what we do. If we didn’t love teaching, we’d find a gig that paid better or demanded less. That doesn’t change the reality that this job is hard. We need deep rest and renewal if we’re going to keep doing it well. Summer has come. For the next two sacred months, no one will demand a Band-Aid for a scratch so faint it’s barely visible. Nobody will come up to tell us that Alexis laughed at their drawing or Ethan just threw up on the class couch. Our hours will be our own. This time between school years can be a gift. Let’s ignite or rekindle a passion. Take up a new hobby. Spend a whole afternoon building a Lego castle with our daughter. Let’s show ourselves a little of the kindness and nurturing we extend in abundance to our students all year. We have to make sure our bodies are rested, our minds are clear, and our spirits are strong. Too soon, the season will turn and the time will arrive to do it all again.
The Hidden Gems In Our Schools
by Kris Felicello (@kfelicello)
This post by Felicello is simply spot-on and wonderful - speaks to many of the experiences I am so fortunate to have at Blake. It serves as an important reminder for all of us.
The best part of being in the field of education is that when I am feeling stressed, when I need a pick me up, inspiration, support, and hope always seem to appear, even when you set unreasonably high expectations on yourself and your team. I would like to think that this happens in all schools, in all places, but I am not that naive; I know I am blessed. I know the District I work in is a special place. I know this to be true even in June, even when our patience has run thin. The fact is, after a long demanding year, we get on each other’s nerves despite the mutual respect we feel for one another. One of my favorite parts of my job is when I find or am reminded of those hidden gems, those staff members who make our District a special place, giving to our profession not because they want accolades, not because they want or need my or anyone else’s praise. These are the people that do special things because they are passionate about kids, education, or just simply want to make a difference. This past week I was lucky enough to discover a few hidden gems and was reminded of some others.
It is not that I don’t know how inspirational our teachers are, how much they do, how much they give. But, to see it on display, to see the tears of the students, parents, to see the teachers brimming with emotion is an emotional reminder that there is no more important job in the world than being in the field of education. I am how lucky I am to work with some of the best! It is easy to slip into jaded negativity as a central office administrator. You often deal with the problems. Every profession, every organization has that 5% who make all the good people look bad. These are the people, if allowed to, will be the loudest voices, and the only voices you hear for days on end. The complaints, the negativity, the fear of change, the abuse of sick time, the criticisms of those who put themselves out there or take a risk. If you are not careful these will be the voices that will poison your culture, that will dictate how things are done. They will impede progress.
Are there times I get jaded, cynical, times I let these naysayers get me down?
It is also important to stay grounded. Are there times when I get disconnected and forget how fast paced our schools are, how draining it can be to support students and the ever evolving emotions and hormones
That is what made opening my eyes to those hidden gems so therapeutic, so motivating, helped to keep me grounded, and remind me why I love my job, my profession, and my District so very much.
As you close out another year, I ask that you try to remember to open your eyes, look around, and search for all the amazing things that are happening in our schools every day. Finding those hidden and not so hidden gems I suspect will fill your heart with joy as they do mine.
Areas of Focus…
Feeling Nostalgic for In-Person Schooling? That May Hurt Our Chance to Rethink It.
by Sarah Pazur in EdSurge
Pazur’s post addresses a dynamic that is very real as we look at our ‘return to school’, keeping in mind the paradox of nostalgia - I like the premise of practicing ‘critical nostalgia’ and I hope that is something our community can embrace in all contexts for our students, school, and community.
Around the world, people are mourning. For loved ones, principally. But also for the rituals and rites of passage from our former lives. Students and parents grieve for lost promotion ceremonies, prom and high school graduations. Yet, in the midst of this widespread longing for school-as-we knew-it, educators are equally relishing the opportunity to reimagine education post pandemic. We seem to be simultaneously mythologizing the past and the future of schooling—or, rather, experiencing a serious case of collective nostalgia.
...disenfranchised students, students of color, students who were victims of bullying, gender discrimination or sexual harassment, and students oppressed by a dysfunctional system aren’t longing for the way things were. For some students, school was a source of pain or alienation. When we evoke nostalgia in a way that replaces the reality of these students’ stories of school with the abled, white, male, heteronormative version of school, we are idealizing a home that for many never existed.
Yet for educators who see the pandemic as a launchpad to educational reform and closing digital gaps, to freeing students from arbitrary and oppressive structures, the work has only just begun. When it comes time to open the doors to the building again, we can’t let ourselves be seduced by the comforts of the past or nostalgia’s strong allure of “history without the guilt,” as the late cultural historian Michael Kammen puts it.
As we are caught between the tension of longing for a familiar structure and the romance of a new and exciting future, I believe it is possible and necessary to practice critical nostalgia—to both feel the equalizing effect of confronting our mortalities together and respond to the way the disease disproportionately affects communities of color; to both support one another through profound uncertainty and hold each other accountable for making radical changes to a broken system.
When school is back in session, where will we begin?
By Tom Guskey (@tguskey) in ASCD In-Service
This brief post by Guskey (an educator who is a ‘must follow’) provides a framework for schools - focusing on the identification of prerequisite skills in a mastery learning format. This framework aligns with the work we have done (and will continue to do) with priority/power standards, learning targets, and transfer goals.
Instead of asking “How will we know what our students know?” it could be more productive to ask, “What do our students need?” Let’s admit that we can’t do everything and focus more narrowly on what will best help students succeed.
Schools face enormous challenges in planning for the next school year—and don’t have much time to get ready. Our plans must be thoughtful, efficient, and designed to yield the greatest benefits possible for all students. Making our goal to help students master the prerequisite knowledge and skills needed for success in initial instructional units will bring focus to our efforts, help shrink learning gaps, and potentially yield important payoffs for students and teachers alike.
Specific, Candid, and Helpful Responses to Expressions of Racism and Bias
By Rick Wormeli (@rickwormeli2) in AMLE
Wormeli’s post offers a set of ‘tools for rehearsing responses to expressions of bias and racism in ourselves and others’: Invite Deeper Conversations; Express Direct Desists; Avoid Blaming, Deflecting, Generalizing, or Being Dismissive; Helpful Dispositions During the Conversations. For us to ‘practice what we preach’, we must engage in intentional practice and actively address racism and bias in the service of our students and community.
To say the right thing at the right time, especially with something so urgent and affecting as bias and racism, is on conscientious educators’ daily radar, but it can be difficult without rehearsal or versatility. So, let’s rehearse our responses to expressions of bias and racism in ourselves and others so those responses are at our mental fingertips in the moment when they are needed. And let’s build that wide collection of constructive responses so we are flexible and strategic in our statements.
Dylan Thomas admonished us to not, “go gentle into that good night,” and to instead, “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Let’s draw from this welling moral outrage and our all-consuming desire for a just world and find the courage to react in a timely and effective manner to bias and racism, whether it be subtle or overt. Let’s care enough about our students and our colleagues to extend candor and to walk with them –and our own limitations—as we share the path ahead. This courage comes more readily when we have specific and practiced tools, so to simply read a few paragraphs of an article and promise to do better doesn’t cut it. Let’s say these challenging statements aloud and in front of colleagues in rehearsal and in real use, making them our own. Let’s find meaning in those conversations, and with that, the stamina to dismantle our own biases, and the strength to confront that which would oppress another. No more, would’ve-could’ve-should’ve – we’re ready to respond.
How to Raise an Anti-Racist Kid
By Tara Parker-Pope in The New York Times
This post offers an excellent framework for fostering and nurturing anti-racist children - a path that I am working on as an individual, father, educator as well.
“People are overwhelmed and think, ‘I can’t tackle that. I’m one person,’” said Ms. Coleman-Mortley, who writes about social justice on her blog, MomofAllCapes. “But there are spaces where we address racism in our lives — even if you live in a homogeneous community, you can address and attack racism.”
“Those who are striving to be anti-racist realize it’s not an identity,” said Dr. Kendi, who is the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. “It’s something they’re striving to be, to be sure in each moment they are expressing anti-racist ideas and anti-racist policies.”
“Schools are important because they enable us to reach every child, including white students mistakenly taught that race is irrelevant to their lives,” said Ms. Guo. “Don’t frame anti-racist work as an extracurricular, but rather as an integral part of life — no matter what career you choose,” said Ms. Vulchi. “Art, coding, policy, statistics — all of these can be harnessed for anti-racist work on a daily basis.”
A common mistake some parents make is to say they don’t “see color” and they want to raise their children to be “colorblind.” “To say, ‘I’m colorblind is to say ‘I have the privilege of never having to worry about color,’” says Ms. Lythcott-Haims, a former corporate lawyer and Stanford dean. “Those of us who wear skin of brown don’t have that luxury. The right approach is to recognize that humans come in innumerable varieties of color and hair texture and eye shape and noses and lips and height and weight. There are differences aplenty. The key is to teach our children that differences aren’t bad.”
Making the Grade - The Happiness Lab Podcast with Dr. Laurie Santos
This podcast is one that I recommend for all - students, educators, families, everyone! - as it speaks to the science and research behind our continued endeavor to shift away from grades and towards meaningful, action-oriented feedback in the service of learning.
From school grades to fitness trackers, we're all being ranked and rated on a daily basis. This is having a huge impact on our happiness and preventing us from living our lives to the fullest. Can giving up on grades radically improve our wellbeing?
For an even deeper dive into the research we talk about in the show visit happinesslab.fm
Can Everyone Be Excellent?
by Alfie Kohn (@alfiekohn)
Last year I shared an abbreviated version of this post by Kohn that was published in The New York Times (Why Can’t Everyone Get A’s?) - it was widely shared over the last couple of weeks and I appreciate, commend, and agree with the sentiments within. At the core of Kohn’s message is challenging the ‘macho rhetoric’ of ‘rigor’, ‘raising the bar’, ‘tougher standards’ to justify misguided policies that have come out of ‘school reform’. One of the significant challenges in our structures is that we continue to establish a ‘have/have-not’ dynamic and that is in direct contrast to our mission. A day or so after publication, Kohn shared this tweet: ‘Pleased by the discussion my piece in today’s NYT (is.gd/MUKozy) is stirring up, but wincing at the misleading click-bait headline. I don’t want all students to get A’s! (I want them to be free of grades.) Gist of the essay is that excellence isn’t inherently scarce.' This ‘expanded version’ and the article from NYT are both worth reading, sharing, and discussing. The excerpts below are from the NYT article.
The inescapable, and deeply disturbing, implication is that “high standards” really means “standards that all students will never be able to meet.” If everyone did meet them, the standards would just be ratcheted up again — as high as necessary to ensure that some students failed.
The standards-and-accountability movement is not about leaving no child behind. To the contrary, it is an elaborate sorting device, intended to separate wheat from chaff. The fact that students of color, students from low-income families and students whose first language isn’t English are disproportionately defined as chaff makes the whole enterprise even more insidious.
...my little thought experiment uncovers a truth that extends well beyond what has been done to our schools in the name of “raising the bar.” We have been taught to respond with suspicion whenever all members of any group are successful. That’s true even when we have no reason to believe that corners have been cut. In America, excellence is regarded as a scarce commodity. Success doesn’t count unless it is attained by only a few. One way to ensure this outcome is to evaluate people (or schools, or companies, or countries) relative to one another. That way, even if everyone has done quite well, or improved over time, half will always fall below the median — and look like failures.
But boy, do we love to rank. Worse, we create artificial scarcity by giving out awards — distinctions manufactured out of thin air specifically so that some cannot get them. Framing excellence in these competitive terms doesn’t lead to improvements in performance. Indeed, a consistent body of social science research shows that competition tends to hold us back from doing our best. It creates an adversarial mentality that makes productive collaboration less likely, encourages gaming of the system and leads all concerned to focus not on meaningful improvement but on trying to outdo (and perhaps undermine) everyone else. Most of all, it encourages the false belief that excellence is a zero-sum game. It would be both more sensible and more democratic to rescue the essence of the concept: Everyone may not succeed, but at least in theory all of us could.
Summer and Staying Present…
How to Entertain Your Kids This Summer? Maybe Don’t
By Alexis Soloski in The New York Times
This post offers a balanced perspective for families as we all try to navigate this unique summer for our children - often easier said than done, but the ideas within are ones worth reading and considering.
A funny thing about summer: It is long. It is also hot. This one comes in the middle of a global pandemic. And even in a changed and changing world, I have reserved some mental energy for panicking about how my kids, husband and I will make it to September without everyone’s brains turning into Haribo gummies.
Unfortunately, as Steven Mintz, the author of “Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood,” told me, “The pandemic has exaggerated and intensified the worst features of children’s play today: adult intrusion; the decline of physical, outdoor and social play; and mediation by screens.” Ow.
by Bari Walsh in HGSE’s Usable Knowledge
I have shared this post for the last few years (originally shared in 2017) at the start of summer, and although ‘downtime’ has been something we all have had more of than in past springs from March-June, the summer brings forth a different energy. I this this post is important as it highlights the work of Denise Pope and her colleagues at Challenge Success, emphasizing the importance of fostering and carving out PDF (Playtime, Downtime, and Family Time) - something we should all keep in mind for our children, students, and ourselves. Making PDF a reality is oftentimes a challenge, but a challenge worth pursuing and this post offers some concrete suggestions for families.
...the prescription for fast-track summers may be a mid-summer dose of PDF — playtime, downtime, and family time — and a reminder that children of all ages need all three, every day, in order to thrive. The PDF framework — a handy reappropriation of a common initialism — was devised by Denise Pope and her colleagues at Challenge Success, which helps families and schools restore a sense of balance in kids’ performance-driven lives. Pope and her team created the PDF shorthand after surveying the research on factors known to protect kids from risky behaviors, mental health challenges, and poor academic outcomes...The three broad categories of wellbeing that emerged — playtime, downtime, and family time — are not just extras or niceties; they’re closely connected with building “crucial life skills that kids need in order to become happy and healthy adults,” says Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. “Kids are getting to college today without a lot of the important noncognitive skills they need, without the ability to communicate and collaborate, because they’ve been so focused on resume building."
If you’ve already enrolled your child in a full slate of summer experiences, fear not. By protecting and prioritizing downtime in your child’s off hours, you’ll be providing the space she needs to rest and to sustain her growth.
The Kids Are All Fried
by Jason Gay in The Wall Street Journal
Gay’s brief post is one that I found heartening as a parent and an educator - acknowledging the feelings that he has (reads as a ‘truth serum’ reflection) and that I must admit I share - feeling tired, fried, and simply wanting my kids (and me) to have a break - namely, a summer.
I begin this column with a request: If you know any teachers, buy them a drink. Buy them all of the drinks. If they do not drink, buy them an ice cream. If they do not eat ice cream…just thank them. It’s the least we can do. Just don’t ask: What’s going to happen with school next year? Because they almost surely do not know. Teachers are wrapping up the craziest, most challenging spring of their careers, and no one has a clear idea of what’s coming in September.
...this summer I’m taking the brakes off. This summer we’re going rogue. I want my kids to do what they want to do. I want them staying up a little too late. I want water balloon fights and squirt gun holsters. I want ice cream before lunch and pizza for breakfast.
The point is I want my kids to be kids. There’s been a lot of talk over the past few months about adult anxieties, the impact upon adult lives. Every other story in the paper seemed to be about how work-from-home parents were being driven crazy by their demanding children. I wonder if we haven’t been thinking enough about the impact this has had on children, because they’ve been feeling it, too. How could they not? You think hanging out with adults is some kind of picnic? Adults are the pits!