Dear Blake Families:
I hope that everyone was able to stay warm this weekend, despite this spell of frigid temperatures! The 2013 Lip Sync was a great success on Friday night - it is always a fun scene and great opportunity to see many of our students in a different light. Thanks to all of our staff who helped out to make the night go smoothly (backstage, taking tickets, and judging). A special thanks to Jen Dondero for her organization and to Tracy Allen for helping 'pass the torch' with all of her help!
This past Thursday Katie and I attended the mid-year conferences for both Owen (Kindergarten) and Grayden (pre-school conference, believe it or not!). I know I have shared this in past years, but Katie and I always find these conferences to be rife with emotion and reflection, and to be honest a 'healthy amount of angst'. It is always interesting to be on the 'receiving end' of the school information, and as educators Katie and I find ourselves fortunate that we are able to learn and grow professionally and personally hearing about the curriculum, methodology, and experiences our children have in school. Thursday evening we felt so lucky that our children are being challenged, nurtured, and cared for - what more could we ask for? It is at these times that I am truly able to step back for a moment and think about 'what we want' for our own children and our students, both in the short and long-term. One of our guiding principles at Blake and in Medfield is that we want to instill and foster a 'love of learning'. We will be continuing to examine our mission statement as a school in the coming weeks, and this is certainly a common theme that has been woven throughout our discussions. I have posted an article (located on the Articles tab of this blog) entitled 'For the Love of Learning', in which the author, Ben Johnson, shares an allegory about the 'pearls' that exist in our schools and classrooms and his opinion about the 'fundamental pearl': "...a belief that knowledge must be shared and that it has the power to transform every student willing to embrace it...I believe that it as students are allowed to embrace knowledge rather than just listen to is, participate in learning instead of witnessing it, and discover truth instead of filling in the bubbles, students will begin to truly value the real pearl of each lesson, each classroom and each school." I believe we should continue to keep this idea on our minds as we create the learning experiences in our classrooms on a daily basis. Along these lines I have posted an article (located on the Articles tab of this blog) from Mindshift, 'Here Comes 2013: The Big Themes in Learning'. This brief article was published at the beginning of the new year and is a nice 'snapshot' that the author, Annie Murphy Paul, presents as the themes for the year: Smart Use of Tech, Advance of the Common Core, and Learning Out of School. In reading these paragraphs, it is clear that a balanced education is still fundamental, but I particularly liked how she ended her piece: "Predictions are always dicey, of course. But no matter what 2013 may bring, one thing is certain: education's reputation as a sleepy, slow-to-change sector of society is gone. Keep your eyes on education and learning over the coming year, because a lot of exciting and disruptive change is on its way."
I am looking forward to the coming week as we finish the preparations for our professional day on Friday. I am excited about the structure for the day, as we are rarely able to get together as a district, PreK-12, with a common thematic approach to professional development. Looking ahead to the topics and focus of the 'Digital Learning Day' it is important to keep in mind that the technology and tools being introduced are the 'means to an end'. As we critically examine the efficacy and practicality of the tools, the implications for the learning environment for our students should remain to be our guiding compass. Tying back to 'what we want for our students', one common goal that we have discussed is the importance of instilling a sense of 'connectedness' for our students. While the technological advances can certainly feel 'isolating' in nature, many opportunities exist to actually increase the connections for learning - participatory learning. Posted on the Articles tab of this blog you will find an article, 'How Can Teachers Prepare Kids for a Connected World?', that I believe is timely for our work on Friday. The article highlights a strategy called PLAY (Participatory Learning and You), an approach to instilling 21st century skills: "What defines the PLAY strategy are things like creativity, co-learning, engagement and motivation, making learning relevant, and thinking of education as an ecosystem, where the connections between school, home, community and the broader world are all equally important. Using these principles, the goal is to teach skills students will need in the outside world - things like exercising sound judgment." I have also listed the link to the article so that you are able to access some of the embedded links (How Can Teachers Prepare Kids for a Connected World?). I hope you will be able to find some time to read and think about the implications for our work here at Blake and outside of the classroom as well, and potentially challenge some of the theories that are presented. I do believe that balance is critical with our work, and the realm of 'educational technology' needs to be balanced as well.
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