To help encourage conversations about the importance of a solid culture for teaching and learning, our topic/question of the week is: Do you believe that the more comfortably and effectively you do your job, the more you can let go of direct control?
Hopefully everyone is reading this with a refreshed state of mind, having enjoyed a nice week of vacation. After the winter we all endured, the sunny weather that first weekend was certainly a sight for sore eyes! As one who has a hard time finding balance between work/home, it was great to simply 'give in' a bit to the unstructured time with Katie and the kids - some dinners out, softball/baseball practice with the kids, bike rides (including Gray's first ride without training wheels!), a few naps, running and yoga, and a night on the Cape with Katie's mom. The time went by quickly and we are looking forward to 'holding on' to vacation this afternoon as a family!
In addition to the activities noted above, vacation is a time that I relish to just regroup - to sit back, collect my thoughts, refocus, and center myself. This is important from both a personal and professional perspective, as one who is often 'on the go'. When we are so in the midst of the day-to-day work with our students and colleagues, it can be difficult to find that wide-lens view that helps us to articulate the purpose in our endeavors. To help me find that 30,000 foot view, I take the time to read and reread certain journals, authors, blogs, and school documents - namely, our mission statement and the School Improvement Plan. Next week (5/4-5/8) is 'Teacher Appreciation Week', and with this in mind I am sharing a few of my favorite posts from this week's reading that I came across. They are not complex in nature and have common threads - the work we do as educators is critical, relationships are tantamount to our work, and the importance of finding inspiration from one another. These are tenets we hold dear at Blake and are important aspects of our culture...
What I Learned From Teachers Who Inspired Me
by David Cutler (@spinedu) in Edutopia
Cutler offers a nice perspective in this post, as he shares four principles he has learned from other educators: Differentiate instruction; Foster a flexible learning environment; Don't harshly penalize failure; Encourage problem solving and innovation. In addition to the inherent value and merit of these principles on their own, I particularly appreciate Cutler's acknowledgment that he has learned from other educators and schools - including those that are different than his own. We will be using this reading as a framework for our May faculty meeting.
"I encourage you to reach out not just to teachers beyond your own school, but also beyond your type of school."
The Heart of Teaching: What It Means to be a Great Teacher
post by Rusul Airubail in Edutopia
Katie came across this post last weekend (yes, she's a Twitter convert!), sharing it with me and encouraging me to pass along to the Blake community - great affirmation about the attributes of teachers that extend far beyond the knowledge of one's content.
"Of course credentials, knowledge, critical thinking, and all other faculties of intelligence are important. However, a great teacher should be much more than credentials, experience and intelligence...You are kind...You are compassionate...You are empathetic...You are positive...You are a builder...You inspire."
Before You Quit Teaching, Please Reconsider
by Melissa Witt in Education Week Teacher
Witt's post is in response to one written by Rosa Nam (Why I'm Calling It Quits After Six Years as a Teacher), a teacher who chose to leave teaching after six years. I think both posts are important reads, as I am sure most (if not all) educators have considered leaving the profession at one point or another. I know there have been times in my career that the thought has crossed my mind, and listening to others like Witt helped me to reset and find inspiration.
"Teachers are much like parents—when we fail we feel like we have let a child down. And that feels awful. There is guilt, there is heartache, there is sorrow. But there is also redemption. There is also grace. And there is great need for teachers who love teaching, care about kids, and are brave enough to be human and genuine with kids. Ultimately, in my experience, teaching is not a depressing profession. It inspires me. Being around kids learning inspires me. Laughing and sharing and growing inspires me."
"I hope you’ll stay. I hope you’ll find renewed vision and energy in the coming weeks. Perhaps a student, or two, will share how you've made a difference for them."
The List: 100 Best Children's Books of All Time
published by Time
Although not specifically aimed for an audience of educators, I thought that everyone (teachers, staff, parents, and children) would enjoy perusing the list and passing it along. We were familiar with the vast majority of the books and are looking forward to checking out the ones we did not know.
The next 8-10 weeks are ones that will go by quickly and the allure of summer will be sure to draw us in. I hope I can hold on to some of these readings to both feed and inspire me to stay grounded and present-minded for our students and one another. I aim to take some dedicated time each week to revisit the resolutions/intentions I set forth back in January for the 2015 calendar year...
- Expand my learning network both within the Blake/Medfield community and beyond 02052
- Push myself to stretch, take risks, and learn (among others, Instagram is on the list for 2015)
- Be open to the ideology of those who do not share my thinking and better understand those views (ask questions and be genuinely curious for feedback)
- Be a mirror for others and ask others to do the same for me
- Stay the course and keep the 'big picture' in mind at all times
- And, as always, 'lean towards yes'
In a similar spirit of a 'check in', borrowing from a letter published by retired principal Dave Weston inEducational Leadership, I will be asking all Blake staff to share their responses this week to the following questions...
- What’s going particularly well for you this year?
- What concerns/issues do you have at this point?
- What can I do to best support you right now?
- If you could get some professional development right now, what would it be?
- Anything else?
My hope is that the responses will foster more connections, keep me honest, maintain relevance, and provide feedback to guide the end of this year as we think about bridging into 2015-2016. I am eager to begin and continue this work together.
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