To help encourage conversations and dialogue about the ways that we can help ourselves and others learn and grow, our topic/question of the week is: How are you fostering and furthering learning for yourself and others? Fostering and Furthering Learning (Week of 1/28/18) (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.
After a very full 5-day week with a few nights out, it was wonderful to come home on Friday and enjoy some take-out by a fire with the family. It was also nice to have a relatively non-scheduled Saturday, as we have a pretty full Sunday morning and afternoon. We enjoyed a nice family dinner and watched the Grammys before we 'got back at it' for the week. I hope that others have been able to find some ways to relax, rejuvenate and recharge as well!
So, what does that mean and what are the implications for ourselves and for our students? Well, I take it to mean that we should work to find ways to truly live our mission and to strive to seek new learning and foster growth. How can we do that? I think we need to lead with our own learning, in essence by empowering ourselves - allowing ourselves to be empowered - to learn. Ask ourselves some questions...How can I grow? How can I make my own learning tangible? What works for me? What works for others? What do I need to do learn a little more? What resources can I use? What help do I need? And, then...dive in. It may sound simple, but I know it is not - it's a simple outline, but learning is hard and takes intentional practice.
I shared at the outset of this post that it was a full week with a few nights out - including the informational night for incoming freshmen at Holliston High (I can't believe that Maggie will be in high school in the fall) on Monday and Owen's concert Tuesday evening (so fun to see him dressed up and on stage). Amidst the busyness of both work and personal lives - they intertwine often, as I have shared before - I was so glad I made the decision for a 'third night out' on Thursday, attending an event at Natick High with my mom. Julie Lythcott-Haims discussed her latest book, Real American: A Memoir - her own memoir about growing up as a biracial black woman in America. The evening was wonderful on many levels and I look forward to sharing some of my learning in the future. I was thrilled that Heather G. had passed this event along to me - an authentic learning experience that furthered my own learning. And, that is what I hope we are doing for our students - fostering the conditions for students to further their own learning. The posts below are ones that also furthered my own learning and have encouraged me to continue along this path of self-accountability and reflection...
“Passive Learner” to “Active Creator”
by George Couros (@gcouros)
As noted above, Couros's post encourages educators to shift the goal from engagement to empowerment - this is true for our own learning and the learning of our students. I've always appreciated his honest self-reflections and acknowledgement of growth. The semantics of language are critical and 'subtle shifts', as noted by Couros, are enlightening and empowering as well.
...now I cringe at the fact that I set my students up to count on me to “engage” or even “entertain” them than to empower them to learn on their own. If the students needed me to be interested in learning by the end of the year, I did more harm than good.
This is important to state…engagement and empowerment are not mutually exclusive from one another, but you can be engaged without being empowered, but if you are empowered, you are definitely engaged...My point is that if the learning in the classroom is all about what the teacher does, and less about what the students create, then what is the long-term impact that this will have on our students?
As you read any new book or attend a new workshop, continuously ask the question, “Is this more about what the teacher can do for the student, or about empowering and finding ways so that the student can eventually do things for themselves?” This subtle shift will be needed for our students to create their futures, instead of hoping someone else will do it for them.
We’re in the Learning Business, Yet...
by Michael Bostwick (@M_Bostwick)
I came across this post last Thursday evening and it spoke to me - urging all of us to balance and stretch our own learning, with an underlying emphasis that it is learning that leads to innovation. I could not agree more and hope that we can actively foster that culture of learning and growth as a community.
There is a deeply rooted paradigm strangling our students with a knotted mess of siloed learning, knowledge acquisition, and regurgitation of facts and memorization in a process we call testing. Education in the year 2018 should be so much more than that, and the great news is that so many of us get it. We truly understand what, how, and why we need classrooms with progressive and flexible approaches. The bad news is that I think we are outnumbered. Not by those who don’t agree, but by those who are not taking the steps necessary to make those big leaps of change for students.
We must balance our learning with a steady and consistent diet containing variation. Remember that when we are in our best health professionally, it’s our students who reap the fruits of our labor. I’m not concerned with the educator who is constantly eating from one or two food groups, but rather the ones who are not eating at all. Starved educators have no means to feed our students, who ultimately pay the price of our lack of motivation to be better.
I don’t believe in a business model for education, but I do think we could learn a thing or two from the private sector about the urgency for innovation...We need to lead this student-centered discussion with inspiration so learning is desired not a chore.
Learning is not a chore - yes!!! Let's make that part of our practice for ourselves, and I am thinking about how we can do that for staff, students, and the community. By opening up, discussing with one another, asking questions, and continually trying to improve I believe that we will move from engagement to empowerment and a culture/spirit of innovation. As I left my office on Friday evening, before popping into the gym to watch some of our students play in the basketball game against Ashland, I took a minute to read (reread) the quotes I have posted on my door. Although I see them every day, I don't always read them. These were the ones that stood out and I thought I would share as they speak to this idea of empowering learning through questions, mistakes, and a willingness to grow...
Always make new mistakes. - Esther Dyson
If you haven't made any mistakes lately, you must be doing something wrong. - Susan Jeffers
It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers. - James Thurber
I look forward to the work that lies ahead for all of us.
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