Dear Blake Families:
I hope that everyone was able to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather this weekend. Our family enjoyed a lovely weekend - dinner out for Katie and me on Friday night, Grayden seeing Sesame Street Live with Katie on Saturday morning, and a day of sports for Maggie and Owen on Saturday. It was also the 'Holliston Spring Stroll' on Saturday - always wonderful to be part of a community day, connecting with friends and enjoying the connections that have been made for our children.
Shifting gears after a vacation is always a challenging task, for both students and staff, but I want to thank everyone once again for their presence, professionalism, and care that was exhibited Monday morning and throughout the week. I have to admit that coming back to school after time off with family is often a 'less than desirable event' at times, but it was wonderful to be back with one another at Blake. Thank you. As has been shared in personal interactions and certainly in the greater media, many stories of hope and optimism have been very present as we all look to find ways to work through the tragic events of the past week - certainly in Boston, but also throughout the nation and world. I feel fortunate to be in an environment at Blake and in Medfield that has put forth a strong effort to support each other and maintain an optimistic lens. I have attached two articles that I found of interest, that relate both directly and indirectly to this idea. The first article, 'Cynicism is Contagious: So is Hope', from Edutopia is a brief piece focused on the cynicism that can have a presence in schools. Symptoms of cynicism are noted and strategies for overcoming the feelings are offered. My sharing is not intended at all to state that we are a cynical bunch and some of the examples at the start need more background, but I do believe that the message of 'leaning towards yes' is one that is important: "Reclaiming the power to make ourselves feel good minimizes the emotional risk that leads to disappointment and cynicism." The second article, 'Teaching May Be the Secret to a Good Life' from The Gallup Blog, highlights results from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The results indicate that teachers are ranked # 2 out of 14 major career categories (physicians are # 1) in overall well-being, and influences on the ranking index are shared. I am sharing this article as it highlights the the importance of finding, fostering, and retaining great teachers and the impact that educators have on the lives of others: "At a time when America is struggling to evolve its K12 and higher education systems to better adapt to teaching 21st century skills, utilizing technology, and competing on a global playing field, there is nothing more critical to that effort than great teachers...Great teachers, as each of us can personally attest to, can change the trajectory of an individual student's life and career. In large numbers, teachers can ultimately change the trajectory of human development, too. It is very likely that the lofty mission and purpose of teaching has something to do with teachers' high overall well-being. They have jobs that - although incredibly challenging - allow them to reap incredible rewards in the form of young people realizing their potential, overcoming hurdles, and achieving goals and dreams. They get to see these results in tangible ways almost every single day." The authors also go on to note the importance of leadership, and in particular, the role of the principal and implications of school culture, workplace, and its impact on a building. As you know, reflection and feedback are very important to me and these results are a good reminder for me to 'practice what I preach'. I continue to offer my 'open door' so that we may work together to establish a healthy culture at Blake for our students and our collective growth.
The month of May is on our doorstep, and I want to bring our focus back to the theme of 'perseverance' as we look towards the 'final push' of the school year. Over the April vacation I came across a blog entry from LifeHacker, How to Stick With It When You're Learning Something New On Your Own, that breaks down some strategies for the self-learning process. Although the nature of schooling implies a 'guided learning' process, I do believe that one of the 'paradigm shifts' from the traditional model of school is the welcoming and embracing of the various avenues for students and staff to learn and grow. The blog's structure outlines a 'self-education plan' that has interesting connections to the idea of teaching and embedding the skills of perseverance into our work: Find what you actually want to learn about; Figure out how you learn best; Learn by doing whenever possible; and Find a community to learn with. As I reflect upon the work we have done with our mission statement and also thinking about the implementation of the new teacher evaluation system, I believe this structure will serve us well. Within the entry there are two elements I have noted below that support the importance of both reflection and habits in the learning process...
"Some people prefer to learn on a defined path (syllabus) and others prefer to wing it. Winging it, for the people I spoke with, means starting with the thing you're curious about, and letting yourself follow the tangents you need in order to understand what you're interested in, or master the skills you want. So again, some self-reflection really matters."
"...learning on your own is almost like a habit that requires a schedule and your attention. Even just 15 minutes a day can ensure you're sticking with it."
As we think towards the end of this year and the scheduling/planning for the 13-14 academic year, the shifting and changing methods of education are present on my mind. The prospect of the endeavors we are exploring with our students and community are exciting, but I am reminded more than ever about the importance of balance and community outreach. Although I do not fully agree with every aspect of the posted reading from Edudemic - 'The Importance of the Evolution of Education', the idea of evolution deeply resonates with me right now in the shaping of our lessons, units, and work. As the article states at the outset: "Over the past century, the modes of both imparting and receiving education have undergone a paradigm shift. The evolution of education has become more important than ever." The author conveys that traditional learning is important (strong academic base), coupled with the means for full-time learning and continued acquisition of knowledge, in essence e-learning and mobile learning. Finally, as we think about technology's role in learning, we must also continue to work on 'meeting students where they are at' and understanding their perspective. This morning I read Peter Dewitt's latest post in Education Week (I highly recommend his work), entitled 'Should Teenagers Expect Privacy On the Internet?' As with much of our work and the readings I come across, I found this to be helpful both as an educator and as a parent, and I hope that it sparks conversations and reflection for you as well.
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