To help encourage conversations and dialogue about the ways we can ‘live our mantras’ and put our beliefs into practice, our topic(s)/question(s) of the week are: What is one belief you would like to put into practice? Be specific. Putting Mantras Into Practice (Week of 5/26/19) (This is an anonymous Google Form)
Blake's Guiding Lights
Blake's Core Values: Respect, Responsibility, Resourcefulness, Reflection
Our Essential Question: How can we cultivate and curate the progression of student learning and growth?
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.
We thoroughly enjoyed the gorgeous weather this weekend and did our best as a family to embrace the intent of Blake’s ‘No Homework Weekend’ for Memorial Day - getting outside for planting and gardening, bike trips, walks, and s’mores. My annual ‘post-D.C. trip’ naps also took place, reminding me of the importance of letting myself give in and just be. Monday consisted of ‘more of the same’ after enjoying Holliston’s Memorial Day parade.
Feedback is critical (being sure to match traditions with relevance) and through both formal and informal means we will be taking some time to gather thoughts as we look ahead to next year. A question for both students and staff I have come to truly value is this - ‘What is the biggest 'takeaway' that resonated with you - whether it was a certain site/memorial, museum, experience, or interaction?’ There have been two themes emerging from the responses from staff - relationships and connections. The same has been true for me - the experience has provided opportunities for relationships and connections to be made, fostered, and examined. I so appreciate the importance of vulnerability, connections, and listening - getting to see the students in a different light, letting them see us in a different light, and the same with one another.
Along similar lines, the experience naturally prompts us to truly put some of the beliefs, mantras, tenets, and our mission into practice - #leantowardsyes, curious not furious, relationships matter, empathy, diversity, the importance of agency, a culture of discourse, flexibility, and a willingness to adapt (the list could go on and on). At various points of the trip these are made evident through history as well as on ‘the ground level’ with one another. And, from a ‘40/40/40’ perspective (Which Content Is Most Important? The 40/40/40 Rule), reflecting upon this question will help us hopefully assess its import…
The question was simple enough. Of all of the academic standards you are tasked with “covering” (more on this in a minute), what’s important that students understand for the next 40 days, what’s important that they understand for the next 40 months, and what’s important that they understand for the next 40 years?
These words from the Library of Congress certainly hold up to the 40/40/40 ‘test’...
The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.
Knowledge comes but wisdom lingers.
One of my favorite exhibits at the Newseum (unfortunately closing at the end of 2019) is the Edward R. Murrow room/space (see some quotes below) and the quote above speaks to this idea/premise of matching our beliefs/mantras with our practice. The words remind me that we need to make sure that we are not stuck in theory, quotes, policy, and practice - we need to be having face-to-face conversations and listening. The trip with the 8th grade gave me (and hopefully everyone) opportunities to foster connections and relationships at the ‘face-to-face level’ - a mantra/belief/practice that I aim to live as we move forward as we have much unfinished work to be done.
In reflecting upon the trip I want to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to all of the chaperones for helping to provide and foster the learning and experiences that took place this past week for our 8th graders: Emily Alland, Stacey Balardini, Maura Batts, Kaylie Bourgeois, Susan Cowell, Ann Marie Fratolillo, Jason Heim, Chelle Manganello, Deb Manning, Matt Marenghi, Cynthia McClelland, Matt Millard, Diana Mileszko, Jillian Shaw, and Tricia Williams. And, of course, a very special thanks to Debbie Avery for helping with all of the preparations for the trip and to Tricia Williams for taking care of all of us!
The post below along coupled with responses from last week’s topic/question are directly connected (everything connects, right?) to the importance of intentionally naming our beliefs putting them into practice, and reflecting upon our progress and shortcomings...
Five Guidelines to Make School Innovation Successful
by Katrina Schwartz (KSchwartz) in MindShift
I first met Chris Lehmann (@chrislehmann) from Science Leadership Academy back in 2012 at a conference and his words and beliefs deeply resonated with me - it sparked our examination of our mission statement. Within this post, Schwartz highlights ‘five areas that leaders need to consider for change to be successful’ - they are areas worthy of consideration and reflection.
This laserlike focus on a simple mission and vision can help make sure every person in the building is focused on putting into daily practice the things the school says it values.
Common Language Matters
...because change work is hard, every teacher and student needs to know what values guide the work. “If your ideas don’t add up, if you’ve got beautiful flowery language, but it doesn’t serve anything,” then you’re doing nothing, Lehmann said. And worse, students usually see through inconsistencies like those and choose not to buy in.
The values also extend to the adults in the building -- inquiry, research, projects, collaboration, reflection and a culture of care don’t exist only for students. They are part of how teachers interact with one another and how they go about their work, and they are central to how leadership treats teachers...much of what happens in school is a negotiation between the needs of students and the needs of teachers, and that’s fine. But he doesn’t think schools should hide that fact, and they should be transparent about how tricky that balance can be.
Culture, Talent and Instruction Must Align
Any great school has a strong school culture, talented teachers and a powerful instructional program that all overlap to create a sweet spot for learning.
Startup Is Hard, But So Is Sustainability
Sometimes the all-encompassing nature of the work is OK because passionate people are excited at its potential and know it will end at some point. But Lehmann said the schools that have been successful in their transitions intentionally plan for the moment when the hectic startup mode turns to sustainability mode.
...it is clear that even though they open their doors to visitors from all over the country and share their approach at this annual conference, they don’t feel finished or all-knowing. Teachers here are constantly pushing to improve, try new things, and balance the demands of school with a fulfilling personal life.
Topic/Question of the Week (Week of 5/12/19): How have you improved as a learner? Be specific.
Sampling of responses...
- I have improved as a learner by recognizing there is so much still to know. As soon as you think, "well, I know all there is to know about that" you stop making progress.
- I have become more efficient. I take what is useful, and apply it!
- Have slowed down a bit myself to allow things to come instead of trying to force - doing same with students,
- Over time I have learned to create an environment at home that helps me learn. Right type of light, music, pens, technology,...it all makes a big difference. For example I like to type with music loud in my earbuds but have found just having my ear buds in makes me think I’m listening to music and can have a similar effect.
- I want to share that Michelangelo had beautiful handwriting in his 90s!
- I think I have improved as a learner by listening a lot more to people and asking questions.
- My study skills are getting better and I am improving at not waiting until last minute to study for a test or complete a project.
- In Mandarin this year it has been easier and easier to learn the keywords for the current lesson, even though it’s been a similar format all year. I have been able to use other sources that help me study the current learning material. I feel like having an environment that you are comfortable in is easier to learn in.
From a ritualistic perspective, one of my favorite parts of this annual trip with our 8th graders is the viewing and experience of the 'words of history' (observed and/or heard at the memorials, monuments, and museums). Below is a selection of ones that stood out and resonated with me this year...
May the lives remembered, the deeds recognized, and the spirit reawakened be eternal beacons, which reaffirm. Respect for life, strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom, and inspire an end to hatred, ignorance, and intolerance. - excerpt from the National September 11 Memorial Mission Statement
No day shall erase you from the memory of time. - Virgil
Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech. - Benjamin Franklin
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, you are no wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar. - Edward R. Murrow
Let the people see what I have seen. I think everybody needs to know what had happened to Emmett Till. - Mamie Till-Mobley
Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome. - Rosa Parks
The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth on them. - Ida B. Wells
The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned. - Maya Angelou
Let us gear ourselves to the great task of mapping out a pathway that will truly lead to a better world for us all. - Mary McLeod Bethune
Education...enabled all my dreams to come true. - Ben Carlson
The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it...History is literally present in all that we do. - James Baldwin
I cherish my own freedom dearly, but I care even more for your freedom. - Nelson Mandela
There is but one destiny...left for us, and that is to make ourselves a part of the American people in every sense of the word. - Frederick Douglass
We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. - MLK, 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. - MLK, Jr.
I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. - MLK, Jr.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. - MLK, Jr.
I never forget that I live in a house owned by all the American people and that I have been given their trust. - FDR
We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all our citizens, whatever their background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization. - FDR
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 too little. - FDR
Unless the peace that follows recognizes that the whole world is one neighborhood and does justice to the whole human race, the germs of another world war will remain as a constant threat to mankind. - FDR
The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one nation...it must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world. - FDR
More than an end to war, we want an end to the beginning of all wars - FDR
Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans. - JFK, Jr.
For the dead and the living we must bear witness. - Elie Wiesel
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