To help encourage conversations and dialogue about the traits that help us learn and what has influenced us, our topic/question of the week is: What qualities and characteristics in your teachers help you learn? Articulating Influences (Week of 1/27/19) (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.
It is hard to believe that January is coming to an end this week and we are approaching the midpoint of 18-19 year! Our weekend ended up being much quieter than usual as we laid low to stay healthy with a sick child - so much going around, so basketball games were something we had to miss. On Sunday we enjoyed Grayden’s piano recital and a nice dinner as a family by the fire.
- What is our ultimate goal?
- What does ‘preparation’ mean?
- What does innovation really look like?
- If we want to meet the needs of our students, have we defined the needs?
- How do we foster and articulate coherence?
- What is it that we should be talking about?
- What are ‘the things’ we need to talk about at school to improve the learning environment for our students?
- How are we measuring our work?
- What’s next?
As I reflect on the big questions, I know it is important to continue to ‘zoom in and out’ from the big picture to the ‘day-to-day’ - if I’m being honest (thinking about John D’Auria’s ‘truth serum’ lens), one of my worries/fears is that I will lose sight of the ‘day-to-day work’ in the classroom. And, I believe this is true for all of us - continually going back and forth on the ‘zoom settings’ so that the day-to-day work is always in context of the bigger picture. At the heart of both lenses (wide and close zoom) is the foundational work we establish in the relationships we have with our students and one another.
As caring adults, whether we are parents or educators or both, we are in roles of influence. And, as such, we need to continually ask and reflect upon what ‘influences the influence’. In other words...What is it that impacts influence? What fosters positive vs negative influence? Have we asked this of our students? Our ultimate goal is learning and growth (and I think that’s something we can all agree on), but to get there or make progress on that path we need to keep naming and asking of our learners these questions. In essence, we need to build and establish a practice of and space for reflection.
Last week’s topic/question of the week and blog post (Supporting and Serving Others) connects to the factors that influence our learning, and the posts below help to both broaden and hone perspectives on our role as both educators and learners...
Topic/Question (Week of 1/20/19): What does it look like to support and serve others?
- Always being open to lending a helping hand and having a mindset that leans towards rising to opportunities when they present themselves.
- Giving them the means to succeed and making sure they do.
- Supporting and serving others can take two forms: it can bring calm or it can create frenzy. Either way, it is active toward the goal of happiness.
- Asking people what is wrong, being approachable.
- Help the person problem solve but don't do the work for them. Coach them with verbal and visual and ask questions to the person that needs support so you can clearly understand their support needs.
- Making sure that people we see every day are being taken care of with basic needs--be aware that people in every community struggle.
- To forgive and help someone, no matter how they behave towards you. To always be there for them. The small things matter.
- I think it is finding a way to help others, by finding your own interests and passions. That may sound selfish, but if you have a passion for what you are doing to help. I think one is more likely to go all out and start to change the world.
- To help people when there struggling
- Being there for them if they are going through a tough time.
- It looks like helping, and caring for others.
- It looks like helping people out when they are in tough times.
- Help others in their day to day lives as well as long term dreams by being interested in a caring about them in word and action - make suggestions if they ask but don't criticize and potentially kill their dreams - be kind and never forget to adhere to the Golden Rule!
- It looks like people helping out their community and always putting others first before yourself. It looks like people working together to achieve a goal, and always being there for each other.
- Helping other people.
Teaching: Just Like Performing Magic
by Jessica Lahey (@jesslahey) in The Atlantic
This post from a couple of years ago highlights an interview with Teller (of the magician duo, Penn and Teller), who was a Latin teacher prior to his career change. Within the post Teller shares his views on education and ‘performance’, influenced by Alfred North Whitehead’s ‘rhythm of education’ and three stages of learning: romance, precision, and generalization.
Education, at its most engaging, is performance art. From the moment a teacher steps into the classroom, students look to him or her to set the tone and course of study for everyone, from the most enthusiastic to the most apathetic students. Even teachers who have moved away from the traditional lecture format, toward more learner autonomy-supportive approaches such as project-based and peer-to-peer learning, still need to engage students in the process, and serve as a vital conduit between learner and subject matter.
When I go outside at night and look up at the stars, the feeling that I get is not comfort. The feeling that I get is a kind of delicious discomfort at knowing that there is so much out there that I do not understand and the joy in recognizing that there is enormous mystery, which is not a comfortable thing. This, I think, is the principal gift of education.
Students Learn From People They Love
by David Brooks (@nytdavidbrooks) in The New York Times
This post from Brooks is one that has been tweeted and retweeted by many over the past week - I have come back to it several times and have received it in my inbox from several colleagues. It holds true on many levels and gets to the foundation of our work: The bottom line is this, a defining question for any school or company is: What is the quality of the emotional relationships here? Within the post Brooks references ‘A Nation at Hope’ - worth checking out!
That early neuroscience breakthrough reminded us that a key job of a school is to give students new things to love — an exciting field of study, new friends. It reminded us that what teachers really teach is themselves — their contagious passion for their subjects and students. It reminded us that children learn from people they love, and that love in this context means willing the good of another, and offering active care for the whole person.
Even when conditions are ideal, think of all the emotions that are involved in mastering a hard subject like algebra: curiosity, excitement, frustration, confusion, dread, delight, worry and, hopefully, perseverance and joy. You’ve got to have an educated emotional vocabulary to maneuver through all those stages.
The good news is the social and emotional learning movement has been steadily gaining strength. This week the Aspen Institute (where I lead a program) published a national commission report called “From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope.” Social and emotional learning is not an add-on curriculum; one educator said at the report’s launch, “It’s the way we do school.”
Principal (Teacher?): “Everyone a leader, everyone a learner.”
by Jonathon Medeiros (@JonMedeiros)
In this insightful post Medeiros explores the word ‘principal’ and aims for a shift in thinking to that of ‘principal teacher’ - emphasizing the importance of everyone learning in a collaborative fashion.
A principal is different than a principal teacher, who is the first to understand something while remaining a practitioner, in Schatz’s version and in my vision. That person, the principal teacher, is best positioned to lead through experience, through teaching, and through continued learning.
As 2018 National Teacher of the Year Mandy Manning, NBCT writes, rigid education systems forget their paramount purpose, a purpose that is in theory shared by all of us in education, to serve the needs of our students. Flexibility in the public education system is necessary. Schools and districts need to become more flexible, need to return to the older sense of the word principal, need to embrace Mr. Schatz’s sense of the term principal teacher.
We need to find the flexibility to re-embrace the ideas inherent to principal teachers. We need to do the difficult things required of real change, which would have us break our rigid ideas and structures, and start over. We cannot continue to snip and adjust around the edges of an inflexible core, our teacher and administrator prep programs and school systems. We need to do those difficult things and recreate a more flexible education system that values learning and leadership from all and requires leaders to be expert practitioners.
Our roles as educators, parents, and caring adults are complex, nuanced, and to put it simply - hard. The more we connect and talk with one another, and more importantly listen to one another, the more progress we will make. Channeling the words below from Justin Reich (@bjfr) and James Ryan (@presjimryan), I believe our unique and individualized strengths and influences will help to bridge the gap between ‘aspirations and reality’ in a coherent manner for our students and ourselves.