To help encourage conversations and dialogue about the ways we stay 'on course' with our goals and responsibilities, this week's topic/question for the dinner table is: When you feel like your goals and responsibilities are weighing you down, what do you do to get back your energy and motivation? Please see link to Google Form to share your responses: Gaining Energy and Motivation (Week of 2/28/16) (This is an anonymous Google Form)
I hope that this last weekend in February was a nice one for all - I have to say that the sunlight on Saturday morning was lovely! After kicking off the weekend with Blake's science fair Friday afternoon, we had a relatively low-key weekend (or low-key for us with the kids' busy schedules) and enjoyed celebrating our sister-in-law's birthday Sunday evening.
During a meeting Friday afternoon, we were remarking how it was hard to believe that we have only been back at school one week! The first week back to the routine of school after vacation is always an adjustment, both physically and mentally - adjusting our internal clocks, switching paces, and simply (well, not always simple as it may sound) getting one's head back into the groove. Reflecting upon the events of the week, it certainly was full - meetings with content specialists and cluster leaders, working with a team from The Education Cooperative on a Leadership in Blended and Digital Learning course, finishing up the 2015 Town Report, discussing effective ways to recognize our students, Blake Science Fair, faculty meeting to review the data from the MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey, ... the list could certainly continue. And, I know I am not alone - if we did a poll, we could each come up with our own list of 'work-related' items, personal items, and those that overlap.
With March beginning on Tuesday and two months already complete in 2016 (wow!), I am hoping to find and take some time to take a look back at the resolutions/intentions that I set for 2016. I also look forward to taking some time at our next Site Council meeting to take a look at the School Improvement Plan for 2015-2016, as another 'checkpoint' for the Blake community. The process of setting goals is important and valuable, but it is in the practice of reflection and discussion that the real growth is nurtured, fostered, and realized. Our mission guides our work at Blake and I have come to realize that we can never bring our work back to the mission too many times - it is our guiding compass and is at the heart of what we do: 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. On a more direct level, our essential question that is tying our endeavors/work (grading philosophy, student recognition, standards-based reporting, portfolios, learning skills and content standards, social/emotional health) provides a framework of thought: How can we curate the progression of student learning and growth? All of this work takes time and requires a willingness to examine our current practices to discuss and engage in the possibility of change. Marrying our intentions/resolutions with these larger questions, while making sure that we address the day-to-day, is challenging work. And, at times I have found myself feeling unsure of next steps. But, when I can sit back, talk, and reflect I recognize it is part of the process. Learning is a messy process and is one that is essential to understand and embrace - for our students, ourselves, parents, and community.
Having trust in the process of change, coupled with a willingness to adapt and listen to others' perspectives, will certainly assist our work with the students. I am sharing three posts below that are ones that helped me to remember the process and be open to a new (or renewed) perspective...
Be Patient: Change Happens Slowly
by Starr Sackstein (@mssackstein) in Education Week Teacher
Sackstein is one of the leading educators in the quest to adjust our grading and practices of assessing student learning. I appreciate the optimism she holds and understanding conveyed of engaging in dialogue to 'move the needle'.
The American educational system has been this way for a long time and many are very comfortable with it as such, but that doesn't mean we can't challenge the structures in place and continue to push back as needed to make the necessary adjustments, especially if we put the needs of students first.
We are at a tipping point and although folks are coming around slowly, we must keep getting the word out; not just that change is important, but how we can make the change happen. The same way we work to shift the mindset with students, we must take extra care to begin the dialogue with our colleagues, administrators and parents in the community because for this change to happen, we all must be involved.
We must continue to share our stories of success and challenges as well as what we learn from them, in this way we can show others that it is possible and maybe move the needle a little bit more.
Why I Plan to Stay in Teaching
by Justin Minkel in Education Week Teacher
Minkel's post is an encouraging one and is important to read and remember when frustration kicks in. Through his reflection he shares the three reasons he will stay in teaching: the kids, the work, and the colleagues.
So to anyone considering a career in this battered, beleaguered profession that makes all others possible, I have this simple advice: Do it. It will be hard. There will be days when you stagger from the driveway to your couch and wonder how you will summon the strength to do it all again tomorrow...You will laugh when you least expect it, startled from your usual thoughts by something a child in your class just said that you have never heard before. You will work with amazing colleagues who are not only the kind of professional you strive to be, but the kind of human being you strive to become. You will get better each year.
Why Teenage Girls Roll Their Eyes
by Lisa Damour in The New York Times
This post from The New York Times was sent to me by both staff and parents over vacation and it is certainly worth passing along. As one who has little patience for the 'eye roll', it offered a different viewpoint and reminded me of the importance of slowing down, taking a step back, listening, and remembering that there is always a perspective I have yet to consider.
Eye-rolling serves a variety of purposes, and the meanings behind the mannerism tell us a lot about what it’s like to be a teenager...more often than not, teenage eye-rolling serves as an efficient solution to the typical challenges posed by adolescence. And it presents adults with a choice: We can take the behavior personally, or we can try to see things from their perspective.
With the hope that March will not enter like a lion, and more like a lamb, I hope that we will continue as a Blake community to listen and talk to one another, remember our mission, and collectively work to continue 'moving the needle' in a healthy direction to benefit our students. Our mission serves as a guide and can help bring forth the energy and motivation that we are seeking. I look forward to the work that lies ahead with all of you.
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