To help encourage conversations and dialogue about the connections we make, learning, and 'meaningful adjacencies', our topic/question for the dinner table is: What new 'connections' did you make or learn during this past week? Meaningful Adjacencies (Week of 5/28/17) (This is an anonymous Google Form)
Despite the rainy and cold weather that we had on Memorial Day, I hope that the three day weekend gave everyone some time to relax, regroup, have fun, and/or simply just be. It is hard for me to believe that we have three weeks left in school! As predicted, my annual nap on the Saturday after the D.C. trip came to fruition - I started out strong Saturday morning with a run before Owen's soccer tournament games, but the post-lunch 'crash' came on strong! Katie and I had a nice dinner out on Saturday and have enjoyed a nice couple of low-key days with the kids.
Last week I shared these words at the end of last week's blog update (Considering and Reconsidering), as a means of mirroring and reflecting the need we have as educators to continually consider and reconsider our roles, actions, efforts, and beliefs as educators...
One of my 'broken record' questions at Blake is this one: Does this endeavor tie into the mission we have for our students and community? As we plan and evaluate this 8th grade trip, it as the heart of our thinking and we want to make sure that this long-standing tradition is still relevant (another 'broken record' question). With this being my sixth trip to D.C. with Blake, I was once again struck how much there is to learn and relearn - about students, our history, the memorials, the museums, the designs, etc. The list could go on and on. This year, though, I think it was the 'design thinking' element of the museums and memorials that really hit home and truly kept me in a mindset of awe and wonder. The thoughtful design of the structures, coupled with the geography and symmetry of the exhibits are deeply layered and inspiring. Our first official stop on the way down Tuesday morning is in New York City, as we visit the 9/11 memorial and museum. This is an emotion-evoking site and experience for students and adults alike, and a big take-away for me at this memorial is the 'placement of names'. As described below, the placement of the names on the 9/11 memorial is intentional, employing an algorithm and concept of 'meaningful adjacencies'...
'Meaningful Adjacencies' Shape Design of 9/11 Memorial
from the 9/11 Museum and Memorial Site
Commemorative Calculus: How an Algorithm Helped Arrange the Names on the 9/11 Memorial
by John Matson in Scientific American
At first glance—and even after deep scrutiny—the names on a new memorial to those killed on September 11, 2001, seem randomly arrayed. The names are not arranged alphabetically nor, for the most part, are they presented in labeled groups. But the memorial's layout is anything but random.The 2,983 names—etched across bronze panels surrounding two memorial pools of water, one north and one south—are strung together in a way that reflects thousands of complex interpersonal relationships forged before the attacks and, on at least one occasion, during the immediate aftermath...The planners of the memorial...where the Twin Towers once stood, solicited requests from victims' loved ones for "meaningful adjacencies"—names that should appear together on the memorial.
The memorial—and the online guide that helps visitors find their way through it—freezes into place the events of that day a decade ago. In its overarching structure, the arrangement of names preserves the order behind the victims' lives—their work, their friends, their families. "You have this enormously organic, complex, human web of meaning," Barton says. At the same time, the seeming disorder in the arrangement of victims' names preserves the chaos and randomness behind their deaths. "You get this incredibly powerful sense of undifferentiation," Barton says of viewing the long chains of names on the finished memorial. "Based on the event, all these names are equal."
The beauty of the memorial is impressive in and of itself, but upon learning of the algorithm (and, to be honest, simply hearing the beauty of the term 'meaningful adjacencies') enhances the beauty and meaning in an immense fashion. It leads me to reflect more upon the things we may not or simply are not seeing every day - all important questions, for sure, and certainly ones that are aligned with our mission statement: What are we not seeing in our own students? ...in each other? ...in our own learning? Are we allowing ourselves to see students in different lights and giving them the opportunity to show us a different light? What meaningful adjacencies are we fostering and seeing? What ones are we not seeing?
In a similar vein, my mother recommended Peggy Noonan's post below to me - certainly timely, having just returned from the 8th grade trip. Noonan highlights David McCullough's recent book, The American Spirit, and I hope you will find the connections and meaning that I found - motivating me to continue the work we are doing for our students, by pushing one another to learn, listen to, and tell the stories of our past to improve our future - and, in so doing, affirming our efforts and our mission.
Why History Will Repay Your Love
by Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal
For Memorial Day some thoughts on historical memory. We are losing it. We are less versed in the facts of history, not only of other countries but of our own. It is a crisis, and much has been written on it over the years. “We are raising a generation of young Americans who are by and large historically illiterate,” observes the historian David McCullough in his latest book...History to him is “a larger way of looking at life.” It is “a wonderful way to enlarge the experience of being alive.” It is as mind-expanding as any drug. The American story is our strength, “our greatest national resource.” To preserve it is to save America. Once, introducing him to a college class, I called Mr. McCullough the Great Rescuer, a historian whose work has been to save the reputation of individuals who were essential to the American experience and yet have been insufficiently appreciated.
Here, gleaned from the book, are some of Mr. McCullough’s observations on history...It is a story...What’s past to us was the present to them...Nothing had to happen the way it happened...We make more of the wicked than the great...America came far through trial and error...History is an antidote to the hubris of the present...Knowing history will make you a better person.
Thinking through the lens of Noonan's post and the concept of the 'meaningful adjacencies', our 8th grade trip certainly aligns with 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.
One of my favorite aspects of the trip is reading the quotations at the memorials and museums, discovering and finding new meaning and connections. Below please find some of my favorites - I hope that they do the same for all of you, fostering connections and meaningful adjacencies...
For the dead and the living, we must bear witness. - Elie Wiesel
I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture of their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits. - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. In reality, this is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant. - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in. - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith. - Franklin Delano Roosevelt
“We have faith that future generations will know that here, in the middle of the twentieth century, there came a time when men of good will found a way to unite, and produce, and fight to destroy the forces of ignorance, and intolerance, and slavery, and war.” - Franklin Delano Roosevelt
I never forget that I live in a house owned by all the American people and that I have been given their trust. - Franklin Delano Roosevelt
The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little. - Franklin Delano Roosevelt
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. - Thomas Jefferson
Knowledge is power, knowledge is safety, knowledge is happiness. - Thomas Jefferson
I am not afraid of new inventions or improvements. - Thomas Jefferson
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility - I welcome it. - John F. Kennedy, Jr.
Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization's radical voice. - Paul Robeson
If it makes you laugh, if it makes you cry, if it rips out your heart, that's a good picture. - Eddie Adams
Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn't mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar. - Edward R. Murrow