To help encourage conversations and dialogue about recharging, staying centered, and finding meaning in one's work, our topic/question for the dinner table is: What helps you recharge and inspire your own learning? Inspiring Our Own Learning (Week of 2/26/17) (This is an anonymous Google Form)
Hopefully this update finds everyone well rested, relaxed, and recharged, having enjoyed a nice February vacation. Our week went by too quickly (as they often do!), but we enjoyed some meals out as a family, saw Blue Man Group, had a few days unplugging (enjoying - yes, enjoying - the unplugged aspect) in the Berkshires, and took advantage of the unseasonably warm and beautiful weather. This past weekend was spent trying to regroup a bit and get ready for the next stretch of school that lies ahead!
When I came home from school last Friday evening to start the vacation, I took a few minutes to clean out my backpack and 'get my bearings' - it may sound strange, but this process helps me to transition and feel settled to take a break from school. After taking care of the physical belongings, I then reread my resolutions/intentions for this school year (copied below) as a way to keep myself 'honest' and accountable during the break...
Resolutions/Intentions for the 2017 school year...
- Expand my learning network both within the Blake/Medfield community and beyond 02052 and share this network with others
- Push myself to stretch, take risks, and learn
- Be open to the ideology of those who do not share my thinking and better understand those views (ask questions and be genuinely curious for feedback)
- Increase my understanding of the 'change process'
- Explore ideas of 'student voice' (20% time, Advisory, Student focus groups, to list a few)
- Find time to take a 'mindful walk' and 'mindfully read' each day
- Be a mirror for others and ask others to do the same for me
- Articulate and focus on the 'good problems'
- Foster leadership at all levels (students, staff, parents, and community), balancing ownership with healthy delegation and growth for others
- Explore ways to publish and share the work of our students, staff, and school (carrying forth the 'networking intention' from 2015/2016) as we tell our stories
- Stay the course and keep the 'big picture' in mind at all times
- 'Lean towards yes' and maintain the mission of our mantra, 'a willingness to adapt'
The posts below are ones that held meaning for me this week and also represent some of my core beliefs about learning within our Blake community - our work is valuable, shared learning with parents and the greater community, an understanding of the adolescent is critical, and the importance of finding meaning for our own learning.
I Will Not Check My Son's Grades Online Five Times a Day
by Jessica Lahey in The Atlantic
This post shares the story of Lahey's 14-year old son and their decision as parents in regards to accessing her son's grades through the online portal. It resonated with me as both an educator and a parent as it speaks to my belief (as hard as it is to practice as a parent) that these adolescent years are the ones for students to learn, develop, try things out, navigate, and discover.
For the time being, I choose to trust in the power of open communication and my son's emerging sense of responsibility and character. When I handed him the envelope, and asked him to keep me in the loop, he thanked me and returned to his room to do his homework. He has four years of high school ahead of him, and only time will tell if my faith in him is warranted. Until then, I plan to keep my hands out of what should be his business, his responsibility, and his life.
Are Teachers Becoming Obsolete?
by Paul Barnwell in The Atlantic
This is a thoughtful reflection by an educator about the 'personalized-learning trend' and movement towards computer-based assessments. The software and applications hold great promise and fair and difficult questions need to be asked; but, that said, we (educators) are not becoming obsolete - I think it is fair to say that we are needed more than ever.
Leaving my school building the other day, I had an unexpected realization: Perhaps a computer was a more effective teacher than I currently was. The thought unnerved me, and still does as I’m writing this. I’m a nearly 13-year veteran educator dedicated to reflecting upon and refining my teaching craft. But I’m now considering the real possibility that, for at least part of a class period or school day, a computer could—and maybe should—replace me.
Developments in education technology promise to assist teachers and school systems in supporting struggling students by providing individualized instruction. But at what cost? As a teacher, it’s difficult to adapt to and embrace a machine that—at least for part of the time—takes over for me. The processes of teaching and learning are complex and innately human; I value the time I take to develop relationships with my students. But it’s hard not to wonder if that time could better be spent with adaptive learning technology.
As I write my lesson plans for next week, I chunk out the daily time needed for students to engage with their personalized learning. I tell myself I’m still needed for the 45 minutes they aren’t tracking the illuminated scrolling target. I can still do my best to impart a love of writing, attempt to spark passions, encourage curiosity, foster discussions, smile, laugh, and interact with the students in ways a screen can’t, even if Reading Plus “knows” more technical information about their reading levels than I ever could.
Why Identity and Emotion are Central To Motivating the Teen Brain
by Emmeline Zhao in MindShift
Zhao's post from 2015 is one that I have shared before and it is worth rereading. It highlights the work of Ronald Dahl, professor of community health and human development at the University of California, Berkeley and sheds some light as to what we know to be true about adolescents and learning - it is the prime time to ignite the passion and joy for learning itself.
Adolescence is a tornado of change: Not only is it the period of fastest physical change in life – aside from infancy – but also newfound drives, motivations, and feelings of sexuality are amplified. There are profound shifts to metabolisms and sleeping cycles, as well as social roles – especially in the context of schools. During these years, motivation is propelled not by a tangible goal to work toward, but by a feeling of wanting and thirst. Within the tumult of pre-teens or teens is an opportunity to enhance their desire and interest to learn.
“Adolescence is a perfect storm of opportunities to align these changes in positive ways,” Dahl said. “Learning, exploration, acquiring skills and habits, intrinsic motivations, attitudes, setting goals and priorities: There’s compelling need for transdisciplinary research to understand unique opportunities for social and emotional learning. But few people do it in fear of these challenges.”
The feelings of acceptance, rejection, admiration, among others, are all the story of adolescence. Children in this age group also seek physical sensations and thrills. There’s heightened awareness of social status, especially as they realize that acts of courage can earn them higher social status among peers. Their wildly swinging neurological systems also mean that adolescents can readjust quickly – making those years critical for educators to engage students in “the right ways,” when the brain is learning to calibrate complex social and emotional value systems that use feelings as fast signals, Dahl said.
“With the feelings that pull you to persevere, maybe [adolescence is] a particularly opportune time to fall in love with learning itself, to love that feeling of exploring,” Dahl said. “There’s a new window to create that ‘Yes!’ feeling.”
Working on “Meaning”
by George Couros (@gcouros)
As one who often finds the 'balance line' between work and home blurred and hard to find, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Couros's reflection as he speaks to the 'guilt' we may feel and the internal and external dialogue that he encounters. I am blessed to find true meaning in our work, but I also do recognize the importance of taking time off to be truly present for those I love. If you are not following Couros, you are missing out!
Believe me, I know that I am incredibly blessed to do what I get to do. The privilege of speaking to educators all over and travelling is quite amazing, and I am humbled by it often. I just love to “work”; it drives me. If you gave me the option of “seeing” the world, or changing it, I will take the latter, knowing that it is a ton of work and it will need dedication, if I truly want to make an impact
he talks about how much of a blessing it is to be able to do something you love and that you should never feel guilty that you are able to do that. I have been in positions that I dreaded work, and although sometimes I am exhausted and don’t want to do certain things, there has not been one day that I spoke somewhere that I didn’t love it by the end of the day. To love what you do to the point that it does not feel like a job anymore, is awesome.
The feeling that you are doing something you love, but also wanting to do something of value, is really important to me. I do not want to lessen what others do, but I do want this reminder for myself when I feel comfortable with someone saying, “You need to take time for yourself!”, and thinking, “I am…just not the way you want it to look like.” Sometimes I work to take time for myself.
You define your meaning and you create your path. Is not only achieving “meaning”, but the constant pursuit of doing something worthwhile (whatever that means to you), in which I am striving for. The beautiful part is that this goal is one that is both attainable and unattainable at the same time, yet the continuous journey is where the true meaning lies.
Over the next few days I hope to hear how students and staff have recharged to find meaning and connections in our work, as we stay focused on our mission and essential question...
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.
Essential Question: How can we cultivate and curate the progression of student learning and growth?
I look forward to the work that lies ahead for all of us.
Please click here for Blake Updates.
Please click here for Thursday Packet Information.