To help encourage conversations and dialogue about redefining our process of growth and learning, this week's topic/question for the dinner table is: Please see link to Google Form to share your responses: Collaborating to Improve (3/27/16) (This is an anonymous Google Form)
I hope this past weekend was a nice one for all and that you have been able to find some down time for yourself. As I shared last week, the spring craze has begun in our house with sports, birthday parties, and activities - all good, for sure! Sunday afternoon we went to my parents to celebrate Easter with relatives - it's always fun to see our kids playing with their cousins and making memories (as well as evoking memories from my youth).
At the end of the day, how do you determine or assess whether ‘what we do’ is working?
This was the closing question I posed of the panelists to end the administrative panel session at #DLDMedfield on Friday. It is a straightforward question, but the answer is complex. I found myself throughout the sessions on Friday asking myself the same question and it is one that I believe we need to keep coming back to on all levels - with individual students, in the classroom, as a department, as a grade level, as a school, and as a district. To assess our progress, I believe it is necessary to keep posing the guiding question we have for our students: How can we curate the progression of student learning and growth? Moreover, it should come back to the mission we have for our students and community - are we making progress towards our mission? Our mission is the compass we need to use to assess our work: 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. And, equally important, we should look to our guiding questions to assist our self-reflective process as part of the mission...
- Will you account for the goals of the community?
- Will you learn to recognize the indicators of a strong, positive character?
- Will you know how it feels when you do the right thing?
- Will you know how to emulate the admirable traits of your peers?
- Will you know how to be the peer your peers choose to emulate?
On Thursday afternoon as I started to think about all of the work that is taking place and my to-do lists (yes, plural), I have to admit that my mind was racing (more than usual, to be honest). I was struggling to find a thread that would help to make meaning of my thoughts and items on the list and I was looking for the connection and for answers that are, at times, hard to find - How do we do all of this? What is the goal? Are we getting there? How do we know? I had a lot of ideas floating around and actually shared with a few of you that, "...the Natworthy might be a lengthy one this weekend." After the kids went to bed Thursday evening I sat down to catch up on e-mail and review my notes and prepare for #DLDMedfield. Katie had gone out to dinner with friends and the dedicated hour and a half helped to center these thoughts and provide a structure of thought. This time to self reflect, read, and focus was important to help me focus and establish a healthy and open mind mindset as we worked together as a district (and beyond) on Friday for a productive day of learning and collaboration.
At the risk of opening up the window to a collection of what could be read as 'random thoughts', this week I am sharing and, in some cases re-sharing, some quotations and posts that helped bring me back to our mission and a centered frame of thinking. Two phrases came forth as the thread I was looking for - 'permission to fail' and 'steadfast energy' - and helped to define 'the right push' for #DLDMedfield and all of our work as we hope for connections and meaningful learning for our students...
These three quotations from Kegan, Whitby, and Meehan were shared at the outset of the year and 'bookend' our faculty meetings and professional development throughout the year. They center my thinking and I hope they can continue to serve that purpose for our community as well.
If we are successful, we are all going to get a little uncomfortable.
-- Robert Kegan
The best thing we can do is prepare students to learn for the rest of their lives.
-- Tom Whitby
When teachers are working together, they can do powerful things to improve their own teaching and, in turn, improve student learning.
-- Robert John Meehan
Schools Are Fragile
by Chris Lehmann (@chrislehmann)
In this post Chris Lehmann, founding principal of Science Leadership Academy, reminds all of us that we need to think about the sustainability of our efforts and initiatives. As we look at new ideas and the prospect of change we must always remember that each and every student is worthy of our efforts and collective drive.
If the ten years of our little school has taught me anything is that we have to think as deeply about sustainability as we do about start-up. We have to recognize that doing something different, something that pushes against the dominant narrative, requires eternal vigilance. There’s never the moment you can relax and think, “Whew… we’ve arrived.” Every year brings a new 9th grade class. Every year brings new challenges. And every year, you have to work to maintain what you’ve built – while always trying to figure out how to make it better too.
Because schools are fragile – no matter how strong we build them, we have to always remember that they will take just as much energy to keep them strong.
The Art of Failing Upward
by Kate Losse in The New York Times
Referencing some of the literature that has been written as of late, Losse casts a wider net, articulating that it is important that all individuals have an equal opportunity to fail - it should not be reserved for a select few. This resonated with me as we think about providing equitable learning opportunities for all students - I also appreciate the notion of 'setbacks' and the 'art of failing upward'.
And yet, for all the flaws in the cliché, I still think it’s useful to talk about forgiving failure. Because whether you have many resources or very few, you’re almost certain to fail at some point in your career. Perhaps we should treat failures as nothing more than setbacks.
One More Reason to Create a School Hashtag
by Jennifer Hogan (@Jennifer_Hogan)
Hogan's brief post highlights the importance of branding and publishing the good work that is taking place. The school hashtag is a strong mechanism for connections, relationships, learning, and change. My continued hope is that #bmsed, #MedfieldPS, and #DLDMedfield will serve as vehicles for the mission we have for our community and network of learners (students and adults).
Share the good work and embrace the process
We all know that public education is an easy target for the brokenness in society. World-wide, we can fight the negative perceptions and images by increasing the number of positive messages about what teachers and students are doing each and every day in schools...Public education supporters can use social media to dilute the negative messages about education. Be the change.
Getting Proper Permission for Posting Student Pictures Online
by George Couros (@gcouros)
As we look to expand our network of learning and share the work that is taking place in our schools, Couros reminds us of the importance of modeling. He encourages all of us to always ask permission of students before we post their work or images and is a practice we should all keep in mind.
...each day is different and there are days where maybe a student is not up for you sharing their picture to the world...Secondly, we need to model that if we are going to post something online of someone, that we should ask permission. Even if a student is younger and may not understand the full breadth of how many people can actually see the picture, it is still a good practice to model.
In an effort to synthesize the sources shared above, I hope we can work towards continuing a culture where we provide for our students, ourselves, one another, and the greater community permission to fail (and try again), some guidance towards improvement, and the steadfast energy to move forward. The last two quotations I am sharing are the ones we highlight for parents at our parent nights...
Each and every school day will bring tens of thousands of reasons to celebrate in schools across the country.
-- Bill Ivey
I would love to see a sign on every entrance to every school that says, ‘Everyone who enters here will learn.’
-- Richard Curwin
So, are we making progress and is it working? I believe we are and I also believe we have room to grow and improve. Asking these questions of ourselves and our students is important - and, we need to make sure we are open and listening as we collaborate and communicate, continually assessing how 'all of it' fits into our mission. Thanks, as always, for 'listening' and for bringing forth the energy that is necessary for our students and each other.
I look forward to the work that lies ahead for all of us.
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