To help encourage conversations and dialogue about the ways we can allow ourselves to take a new perspective, reflect, and learn, our topic/question for the week is: What helps you to see something (i.e. an idea, perspective, concept, belief) differently or ‘in a new light’? A New Light (Week of 1/27-1/31) (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.
The most important attitude that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning. - John Dewey
You cannot teach today the same way you did yesterday to prepare students for tomorrow. - John Dewey
After Friday night’s 7th/8th grade winter dance, we had a quiet and relatively low-key weekend with a few basketball games, walks, and some much-needed quiet time. Thanks to Nate Walkowicz, Nancy Deveno, Jillian Shaw, Kelly Campbell, Amy Cuomo, Eileen Buckham, Susan Bycoff, and Stacey Balardini for chaperoning - much appreciated!
At the outset of each week, one of Owen’s (our 7th grade son) teachers sends an update/outline of the curricula/activities/endeavors in class along with any key information that may be helpful for families. At the bottom of the update is a ‘quote of the week’. Quotations have always resonated with me, but the one from this past week is one from Carl Jung I had never read. It is wonderful...
"If there is anything we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves."
The words and message are complex, simple, and nuanced all at the same time. This is true for much of our work - an end-goal when written down/shared often appears so very clear, yet the path to realize or actualize that goal is nuanced and complex. Starting off the week with those words helped to frame some of my own thinking and actions throughout the week. Having come off a 3-day weekend, I felt energized by the words as they served as a guide for the day-to-day efforts, challenges, and tasks that were scheduled (and unscheduled, of course) throughout the week. Our topic/question for the week (What helps you to see something (i.e. an idea, perspective, concept, belief) differently or ‘in a new light’?) is one worth keeping as a reflection checkpoint - pushing ourselves and others to identify and hopefully develop systems and space for the ‘new lights’ to be witnessed and observed. Jung’s words did that for me - it helped me to see work in a new and different light.
- Systems Thinking
- Engagement and Meaning - Authentic and Personal Learning
- Dialogue/Engagement - With Research, Families, and Community
- Openness to Reflection and Adapt
Responses from Our Last Topic/Question (Week of 1/19/20): What commitment can/will you make to support your own learning? What commitment can/will you make to support others’ learning?
- Focus in class and not distract others
- Helping others if they need it and asking more questions if I have them
- I can come to school every day so that I can learn new things.
- Setting time aside to explore my interests
- I can continue to read substantial research and philosophy about pedagogy. I will ask others what "projects" they are working on!
“Systems thinking skills are critical for developing a sense of agency”
Interview in BLOG (Blog On Learning and Development)
Within this interview, Leyla Acaroglu (a social scientist, entrepreneur, and founder of the UnSchool of Disruptive Design) shares the need for different skills to be developed and learned for both the present and future. Specifically, she emphasizes the importance of ‘systems thinking’ and fostering the true ‘iterative process’ of learning. One line, in particular, stuck with me: Teachers therefore have a tremendous influence on the way children learn.
...systems thinking is a critical thinking tool we need to transform our society from one that exploits resources into one that is a regenerative force in this world. Many of today’s problems are a result of externalities and unintended consequences caused by yesterday’s solutions, with linear thinking disconnecting people from the natural systems that surround them…
...systems thinking teaches that we are all interconnected and interdependent on natural systems. It completely changes how you see the world and how you see yourself in it. The world becomes a dynamic, constantly evolving system that you are a part of. This way of thinking therefore develops in learners a sense of agency and gives them confidence that they do have the power to affect change on themselves and the world around them.
It is important for children to learn that there is really no such thing as failure because learning is, at its core, an iterative process. When you make a prototype that does not work, instead of viewing it as a failure, children can discover how to use it as an opportunity to reflect on what they’ve done and figure out what didn’t work. Skills to solve problems such as observation, reflection, and curiosity are also important to develop
Student Engagement: Are we focused on short-term results or long-term impact?
by Katie Martin (@katiemartinedu)
Martin’s post from 2018 is still pertinent and ‘to the point’. She cites the graph from a 2016 Gallup poll (one we have looked at together as a staff as well) - for me, it speaks to the very real need to shift our focus and practices towards meaningful engagement and authentic engagement.
The lack of impact is a result of what he refers to as a focus on “shallow fun” where the focus is on games and enjoyment and rewards as opposed to deep engagement and purpose in their work...In spite of many efforts to reward and engage learners, the 2016 Gallup poll indicates, as students progress through school, they are increasingly disengaged and lack opportunities to build on their unique strengths, talents, and interests.
If we primarily focus on “shallow fun” and rewards while opportunities for creation, exploration, and developing connections between people and ideas are limited, we will fail to develop students as learners and thinkers and continue to get abysmal results in pursuit of shallow fun and “engagement”...The lack of impact is a result of what he refers to as a focus on “shallow fun” where the focus is on games and enjoyment and rewards as opposed to deep engagement and purpose in their work.
Show What You Know: A Parent’s Guide To The Global Shift To Competency
by Tom Vander Ark (@tvanderark) in Forbes
This post highlights six problems in education with systemic solutions (Portrait of success; Real work, real feedback; Progress when ready; Equitable outcomes; Better measures; Better communication) that are being implemented in schools - at the core, is the shift to competency-based instruction/learning and feedback. It speaks to the importance of engaging parents and allowing the time/transition that is needed, while also affirming our efforts at Blake.
We inherited a system of education that has six big problems: it doesn’t focus on important skills, it’s boring, it doesn’t work for most learners, it’s inequitable, it doesn’t measure well, and it doesn’t communicate well.
Letter grades are often a weak indicator of what students know and can do. They are idiosyncratic by classroom, generally inflated (especially at college preparatory schools), and include a mixture of effort, achievement and a lot of random extra credit for attending and complying. Because grades are usually averaged over a semester or year, they disadvantage learners that come in behind but work hard to catch up. (Listen to this great Harvard podcast on all the problems with traditional grading).
Teachers in leading schools provide feedback against objective standards that are recognized by the community as reflecting quality work. Like a thoughtful work environment, good schools are a ‘no surprise’ zone; students know what is expected, and they know their work will be assessed. In fact, they can assess their own progress accurately.
Even the most innovative schools in the world are still working on solutions to these six problems. Tools and policies to develop these new practices are still in development. So, be patient and look for ways to be part of the solution. Help your school develop and phase in practices that benefit students and help them better describe who they are, and where they are headed.
Why It’s Okay—Even Wise—to Let Your Child Quit
by Phyllis Fagell (@Pfagell) in Psychology Today
When I first read this post back in 2019, the title jumped out at me - the concept of ‘embracing’ or ‘allowing’ quitting can feel counterintuitive, yet Fagell provides a structure and reframing of thought/mindset with five messages: Reframe quitting; Reassure them that shifting gears can improve their well-being; Give examples of people who successfully pivoted; Come up with an alternate plan; Engage them in problem-solving. As we continue our efforts to grow and learn, this ‘allowance’ and room for reframing of thought/mindset is critical in all capacities. This is true for educators, parents, and most importantly - our students.
Whether or not your child excels or is mediocre in the particular pursuit, you may feel stopping isn’t the solution. We’ve all felt that way for different reasons. Yet, shifting gears and yes, quitting, can turn out to be a smart move for kids...there typically are no clear-cut answers, but I've come to believe that the decision-making process matters far more than the outcome.
We have a cultural bias against quitting and tend to view it as “giving up,” but that’s misguided. Quitting can be empowering and free your child to discover new passions. As Simmons says, "wrong turns are rarely dead ends."
Systems thinking, authentic/personal learning with deep meaning and engagement, engagement with parents/community/pedagogy/research, while also maintaining an openness to reflect and adjust - these are big picture approaches that beg the question, ‘How can we do this?’ I think we need to stay the course, have conversations, foster the process of learning, and allow room for growth. In essence, we must listen to and work towards our mission...