To help encourage conversations and dialogue about self reflection and the notion of 'chefs and cooks', this week's topic/question for the dinner table is:
"A cook is then considered a follower. They can even be a creative follower, but they’ll never create from their own understanding, but instead always build on what others have done. They are often doing old things in new ways. Chefs, on the other hand, are experimenting and doing new things in new ways." ("Are we preparing students to be chefs or cooks?" by AJ Juliani)...
"I believe it is ____________ to be both a cook and a chef" What word/words will you use to fill in the blank?
"We should _____________________ after failure." What word/words will you use to fill in the blank?
Please see link to Google Form to share your responses: A 'Protean' Coin (This is an anonymous Google Form)
With the hype of this weekend's weather going back and forth, hopefully everyone has enjoyed the weekend and been able to do some things to relax and have fun. Katie has been away with friends for the weekend, and so it has been an nice couple of days with the kids - dinner out Friday evening, Maggie's swim meet and Owen's basketball on Saturday, and Gray's basketball on Sunday! We then enjoyed (although did not enjoy the outcome) watching the Pats game with friends.
This past week was one full of rich conversations and discussions about teaching and learning, both in the more traditional sense (in the classrooms and structures of the school day) as well as in the philosophical/theoretical sense (dialogue and interactions about the direction we are 'heading' for and with our students). The four days were busy with many influences on this week's reflection - follow up observation conferences with teachers, classroom observations, professional development committee meeting, sitting on a panel at LearnLaunch, follow up conversations to last week's Professional afternoon about Learning Skills vs Content, Homework/Feedback Study Group discussion, Jessica Cox's wonderful presentations for the community and our students, visiting a class for a discussion about grades and stress, hosting students/guests from MIT and Harvard as they work to help establish effective environments for STEM, and discussions with parents and colleagues. Each of these 'events' certainly are worthy of its own reflection and 'sharing out', but one common element (that I hope holds true for all of our work) was that they each were driven by and focused on the search for answering these two questions:
- What is most important for our students?
- What are the key conditions to provide the greatest opportunity for students to access those keys?
As we begin and continue these discussions I find it is important to listen to all perspectives, try and better understand opposing viewpoints, listen, and engage in the conversations on a frequent basis. One principle/frame of thought that has really resonated with me is the 40/40/40 framework for our work - Is this (fill in the blank - assessment, curricula, test, fact, etc.) that will be remembered and applied 40 days from now? 40 months from now? 40 years from now? The increments can change (i.e. minutes, days, months), but the idea remains the same. My steadfast hope is that we are not limiting our work to the first increment of 40 - rather, I hope we are working towards the larger increments as our overarching goals. And that can bring us full circle - how do we get there? From my perspective we need to make sure we focus on the 'learning skills' of our students, and helping one another to not get too focused in a myopic manner on the content and scores as we aim towards the skills. Don't get me wrong - I care about the frameworks, content, and standards - they are incredibly important as they establish a fount of knowledge and understanding. But, what I care more about is what skills the the students will acquire and hone to better understand, synthesize, and apply that knowledge/understanding.
Do these ideas connect? Let me try and make the connection - when I think about this past week and reflect upon some of the conversations with students, parents, colleagues, and myself I have to share that I am concerned for the pace, expectations, and messages that we (and I include myself in this 'we') place on our students. I would be lying if I didn't share that I am worried about the focus on achievement/grades and perceived 'perfection', but I get it. I understand the influences and external (and, yes, internal as well) factors that can certainly make one feel the pressure of defining success from grades, scores, high marks, wide involvement, etc. But, we need to keep making sure we stop, reflect, and engage in the conversations to keep us honest and on track. We need to really think about what skills are truly important, transferable, and meaningful and emphasize them. We want our students to have a good understanding of who they are (strengths and weaknesses) as learners and individuals and to embrace that authentic identity. The acquisition of those key learning skills will help. And, we need to listen to one another and talk to the students. I am sharing three posts this week that have really stuck with me (I have already shared with some of you). Although the first two are certainly written with an upper secondary level focus in mind with 'college' in the title, I vividly see and hear loud and clear the connections to our students at Blake. I am not intending to project my worries, but the key is that we all care about our kids and it is important to communicate and reflect...
Your College Essay Isn't a Selfie
by Fiorina Rodov in Education Week
This post is about angst students experience as they navigate the college essay writing process. As students aim for portraying and conveying his/her 'best self' for acceptance into a school, the potential vulnerability in writing becomes a scary endeavor. I found her post to be centering, inspiring, and 'on point' as she tries to broaden the reader's (student's) perspective and encourages healthy self-reflection and growth.
But how to be themselves, imperfections and all, when they've been packaged as perfect people? How to write about failure when they regard it as something to be ashamed of, rather than a gift to be embraced? Do admissions committees even want to see imperfection—wouldn't it sully the image of the student body?
In his book Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, William Deresiewicz says that students at Ivy League universities, after having been admitted thanks to perfect grades, exemplary test scores, and the right extracurricular activities, are more focused on building their résumés than nurturing their souls. While they do their assignments well, there isn't passion, engagement, or dissonance in their work. Furthermore, he laments the "grandiosity and depression" wherein the self-esteem students derive from praise for high grades falls apart the moment they encounter failure.
College Admission 2.0: Service Over Self
by Richard Weissbourd in Education Week
Weissbourd co-directs a project through the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Making Caring Common, aimed to 'reverse the trend' of achievement frenzy that is often seen as synonymous with the college admissions process - 'The result of that meeting is a report "Turning the Tide," that has now been endorsed by over 75 key stakeholders in the process, including the admissions deans of all the Ivy League schools and deans and administrators from a wide array of other colleges.' This work is encouraging, inspiring, and important.
For perhaps the first time in history, a broad range of colleges have come together to send a powerful collective message that what's important in admissions is not high numbers of impressive accomplishments or long "brag sheets." Yes, academic engagement matters, but so does meaningful ethical engagement, especially as shown in concern for others and the common good.
Our report seeks to reduce this stress by emphasizing that quality matters over quantity. Rather than listing high numbers of extracurricular activities, we encourage college applicants to describe two or three activities that have been meaningful to them.
For too long we have wrung our hands—and pointed our fingers—about a college admissions system that, despite the good intentions of almost all admissions officers, parents, and guidance counselors, increasingly seems to reinforce the wrong messages to our children. Our report, we believe, is one step forward. But we will never bring about a sea change in the messages our culture sends to young people unless educational institutions at every level and parents join together to elevate and embody a healthier set of values consistently.
Are We Preparing Students to be Chefs or Cooks?
by AJ Juliani (@ajjuliani)
In this post Juliani asks this question - “Are we raising/preparing/teaching our students/children to be chefs or cooks?” Although one may use those titles interchangeably, the generalization conveyed for his post is that 'cooks follow recipes' and 'chefs invent recipes'. I do not necessarily endorse that distinction, but the ideas of 'following' vs 'inventing' is an interesting one to consider for our students. I think it is worth asking and exploring the answers we develop.
A cook is then considered a follower. They can even be a creative follower, but they’ll never create from their own understanding, but instead always build on what others have done. They are often doing old things in new ways. Chefs, on the other hand, are experimenting and doing new things in new ways. They are building and experimenting and often failing. Are we encouraging students to experiment like a chef? Are we supporting them when their efforts turn into “terrible” food? Do we only praise students for cook-like efforts?
It’s been quite apparent to me over the past 10 years in public education as a teacher, administrator, and now parent—that most of us are saying the right things. We want students to be creative. We want students to do innovative work. We want authentic learning tasks and assessments. We want to challenge our students to be problem solvers. But, when most of us look at the practices in our own schools and our own homes, it looks much different than what we want.
I don’t have all the answers. Heck, I don’t even have a few of the answers. But I want us to start asking the right questions. I also want us to challenge ourselves, our colleagues, and our staff to discuss what type of students and what types of children we are trying to raise and teach.
What I like most about Juliani's post is how he ends it by sharing that he does not have the answers. We actually may end up with more questions than answers, but I think that's ok. The key is that we are asking them, taking note of our responses, and then continue to ask the new questions that arise from our work. And, we need to give ourselves permission to start somewhere if we see the need for change that would help to address the concerns we have shared. The care we have for our students, an embedded culture of reflection, and an embraced 'willingness to adapt' are all critical ingredients as we hope to create and foster experiences that lead to meaning for our students and ourselves. We need to keep telling our stories, listen to the stories from others, and encourage our students to do the same.
Please click here for Blake Updates.
Please click here for Thursday Packet Information.