To help encourage conversations and dialogue about adapting and changing to make improvements, our topic/question for the dinner table is: What adjustments are you trying to make to become a better learner/student? Adapting Our Systems (Week of 1/12/20) (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
Our Spring-like weekend has been lovely, providing a wonderful ‘boost’ for all of us. It was fun seeing the kids in our neighborhood playing outside in shorts, running around, and taking advantage of the weather! The kids and I had a nice couple of days, with Katie and some friends away for the weekend. Maggie got her driver’s permit last week, so that has been the excitement in our house!
- Monday afternoon’s Study Group on Race met, discussing the first few chapters of Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving
- Visiting MHS Sociology classes, discussing systems of feedback (traditional grades, standards based reporting, narratives) - positives, negatives, challenges, and ideas
- Hosting hosting education students from Mary Immaculate College through our partnership with the Lynch School Boston College
Responses from Our Last Topic/Question (Week of 1/5/20): What strategies do you use to help when you are feeling stressed?
- I exercise until I can't move anymore.
- I like to go for a run or walk the dog. Trying to identify what is giving me stress and making a plan to address it can also be helpful. If I carry my stress with me to bed and can't fall asleep, focused breathing exercises often help.
- Walk away from stress. Go outside and go for a walk
- Remind myself to take one day at a time.
- Take a break and paint and take deep breaths; I do stuff that I like to do.
- I take deep breaths.
- Make a list of manageable tasks and check things off.
- When I start to feel stress, I ask myself this: Is there something I can do about this situation? If the answer is "no", then I don't worry about it/If the answer is "yes" then, I don't have to worry about it either! The stressful situation is either out of my control or within my control and I can work toward finding a solution.
- I listen to music and read
- Slow down, or taking deep breaths
- Meditation and definitely reading
- Take a walk or other exercise, listening to music, or sit quietly thinking comforting thoughts( favorite people, places, things)
- Taking a warm shower or a relaxing bath or reading a good book in my room on my bed with some lights on.
- I like to read, or listen to my favorite music. Sometimes I will just relax with my friends to get my mind off what is stressing me.
2019 – Down the Rabbit Hole
By Beth Holland (@brholland)
Beth is a good friend, colleague, and my ‘go to’ for research, current practices, and educational ‘dialogue’. I look forward to her writings - this year she took a different approach (for the past few years she has done a ‘summary’ or ‘Year of…’ post at the outset of the calendar year), highlighting the ‘web of her work’. I appreciate the connections and layered nature of our work (one thing leads to another and you can’t talk about anything in isolation) - digital equity, pre-school media, science, Next Generation Science Standards, nature of science, learning ecosystems, inequities within the education system, effects of race/gender/ethnicity bias on digital equity, artificial intelligence, learning analytics, and adaptive platforms.
I realized that without following me down the rabbit hole, my year could seem disjointed instead of a fairly deep, methodical, scholarly spelunking expedition.
Spend More Time Planting Seeds and Less Time Measuring Vines
by Jon Harper (@jonharper70)
Harper’s post acknowledges the frustration we can feel and offers a nice perspective on the importance of planting seeds and letting them grow.
It is important to measure how effective or impactful our work is—in the classroom and out. But measuring takes time. Time that could be used doing other things. Like creating and thinking and working. Getting sucked into the measuring trap is very easy. Yet, what do we gain by measuring so often? Oftentimes a false sense of pride or unwarranted dejection.
Whatever it is I’m doing, I know I am at my best and I feel best, when I am planting seeds. Here’s the cool thing that happens when you spend your time focused on planting seeds instead of measuring vines; sprouts pop up all the time. When you are not even expecting them. Of course, everything you plant doesn’t flourish or even grow for that matter.
If we plant enough seeds, we eventually begin to see the fruits of our labor. But we must not ever stop planting. Because just when you’re ready to hang your head, a bud pops up. One that you had forgotten about. One that you barely remember planting. And you smile as you plant your next seed.
The Dangers of Screen Time . . . in 1440
by Douglas Reeves
This post reminds me of the oft-used phrase ‘kids these days’, as Reeves provides examples of similar concerns of ‘screen time’ going back to the 15th century. By no means is he saying that we should not acknowledge the concerns; on the contrary, it is important to keep them in perspective.
We've all heard about the dangers of excessive screen time. Students with more than five hours a day of screen time show decreased levels of concentration and empathy. This is especially true of those screen functions that require no engagement or interaction by the student with the media, but simply allow their bodies and minds to become sedentary wastelands...MIT Professor Sherry Turkle makes a compelling case for human interactions and for, on a disciplined basis, closing down electronic devices...former Stanford Professor Nir Eyal, in the wonderful book Indistractable (BenBella Books, 2019), reminds us that this is not the first time that one generation has become alarmed about the media habits of the young.
Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440, and by the late 15th century, his invention was credited with sparking literacy, along with religious and political reform movements throughout Europe. The contests of ideas that followed, along with the decades of deadly clashes they ensured, would have been unlikely without a mechanism for quickly spreading ideas. For some, this was a perfect example of technology accelerating the pace of progress. Others, including the monks who were threatened by Gutenberg's invention, railed against it, labeling the invention a "whore," as if the device, rather than the ideas, were to blame. A few centuries later, an 1883 medical journal suggested that the rising rates of murders and suicides were due to the "educational craze" which was responsible for exhausting the brains and nervous systems of children. In 1936, another new and fast-spreading technology was blamed for limiting the attention span of children who spent time listening to the devil's device – the radio – rather than attending to their studies.
...what all of these have in common is our wish to blame something else – technology, diet, and dimly understood brain development – for the failures of parents and teachers to create an environment that simultaneously accepts technology and also provides appropriate challenges for meaningful work, social interaction, and personal growth. He encourages a careful reading of the claims about technology, many of which contain sweeping generalizations about the dangers of screen time without a thoughtful distinction between the many different ways students engage with technology.
What's the Goal of Education?
by Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby)
Whitby (a ‘must follow’ for sure) always pushes my thinking, particularly when it comes to the systems and practices we employ. We need to keep coming back to the title of this post - adjusting or holding onto the answers (whatever the case may be), but being sure that the implementation of the answer is meaningful, relevant, and pertinent. The emphasis on the education of our educators should not be overlooked nor underestimated.
As a long-time educator, I am no longer convinced that we are adequately preparing our children with the needed skills to live, survive and thrive in their future life of that real world environment...I also question whether we, as education professionals, have been truly prepared for our present environment...As adults, educated in an earlier time, are we prepared to learn and discern from the information delivered to us from news sources? In an age of instant access, are we skilled enough to analyze and understand what is being delivered to us second by second? Are we prepared to critically think about all that we are bombarded with daily? Are we prepared to accept that, just because things worked well in the past, they may need to be changed in this new world environment? What was once “tried and true” may now be tried, but irrelevant.
If we as adults have a say in what we want to learn, then why is this not what we are preparing our children to do. We assume that if we load them up with pre-selected content, that they will have enough preparation to handle anything in their adult life...The world in which our kids will live as adults does not look like the intellectually protected environment of the classroom...They should only be bound by their curiosity and love of learning, and not a lack of skills to retrieve, understand, critically analyze, and assess information.
Is this really the world that we are preparing them for? Are we stressing their curiosity? Are we challenging them to be critical thinkers? Are we enabling them with relevant technological skills to access, curate, communicate, collaborate, and create using information dealing with their passion? Are we allowing them to make mistakes and learn and adapt from them without consequences of punishment? Are we maintaining and advancing our own skills as professional educators to enable us to remain relevant in a rapidly changing world?
Our goal should and must be to make our students self-motivated learners with all the skills needed to do that in their own world with their own tools for accessing information. Maybe instead of standardizing learning, we should work on standardizing teaching to be more openly supportive of teaching kids how to continue the process of learning in their lives beyond the classroom. If we are to better educate our kids, we need first to better educate their educators.
The Grief of Accepting New Ideas
by Rick Wormeli (@rickwormeli2)
As a proponent of change himself, I appreciate Wormeli’s open and honest acknowledgement of the challenges and emotions that change brings forth. Within the post he shares some concrete suggestions and offers a nice perspective - one that I know I must keep in mind at all times when working with students, parents, and staff.
The way we teach is often a statement of who we are. If someone questions our practices, it's like they're questioning our value as teachers. Our classroom instruction, including assessment and grading, technology integration, student-teacher interactions, and more, are expressions of how we see ourselves; they are our identity. Can we navigate these frequently troubled waters without invoking self-preserving egos and drowning in resentment?...Teacher leaders can cite logical, well-reasoned statistics and arguments for new building initiatives, but nothing really changes in classroom practices unless leaders also appeal to teachers' ethics and the lens through which they perceive leaders' arguments.
We are all fellow travelers, and we are all inconsistent with ourselves and one another. No one likes to have protective layers pulled bare, revealing old scars or sensitive places still raw. To survive the day, we tell ourselves that our truths are THE truths, and they form our version of reality. When we're confronted with their illusory nature, we're no longer on solid ground. We grieve for former students we may have wronged, the real or not perceived loss in status among respected colleagues, the time and energy that will be spent in changing who we are, and for the loss of self that was once so sure.
Let's help each other: Let's interact in ways that invite thoughtfulness, not invocation of self-protecting egos. Let's give colleagues time and encouragement to pushback and resist new ideas, and rather than be so self-assured ourselves, let's look for new insights we need to hear in our colleagues' arguments. And finally, let's extend the compassion to others we seek for ourselves, and honor the grief process that happens when asked to give up something we've held so tightly all these years—a truth, reality, perception, or practice—as they struggle to accept something new. Instead of leaving them to struggle alone, we can walk that path together.
Trying to synthesize and coalesce all of these ideas is overwhelming, for sure - so much so that the ideas of ‘giving up’ and/or ‘maintaining the status quo’ could appear to be a viable option. (I would be lying if I said I had never felt that way.) That should not be our answer - and it may sound trite, but that simply is not fair to our students and nor does it align with our mission. For all learners to thrive (students, educators, families), the skill of ‘adaptation’ is important to practice, model, experience, embody, and live.