Dear Blake Families:
I hope that this update finds everyone well and the first several weeks of summer vacation have been full of what you had hoped they would be -- the time off is certainly well-deserved. Here at Blake we have been working on finalizing the transitional work from the 2011-2012 to 2012-2013 academic years. We have spent time working on the master schedule, hiring new staff, and planting the seeds for the important work that will continue in late August and early September. Beyond the summer work that has taken place, it has been wonderful to slow down a bit and spend some more dedicated time with my family -- Cape Cod beaches, trips to Farm Pond in Sherborn, an excursion to the PawSox, and cookouts with extended family and friends.
I have always found summer to be an energizing time, as we as educators can take the time to decelerate, breathe, and truly examine one's work. The change in pace allows me time to catch up on reading journals and articles that have been set aside for just this time, as well as reading the contemporary literature that may come across my desk. For your interest, I have posted two articles that I read that I believe directly speak and relate to the inherent values of summer. The first article, 'Let the Children Play, It's Good for Them!' (located on the Articles tab of this blog) from Smithsonian magazine, highlights the importance of play for our children. In this brief piece, Alison Gopnik highlights studies showing that the practice of pretending helps foster 'counterfactual thinking', or simply thinking about different possibilities. As both an educator and a parent, I was reminded of the importance of allowing our children to have 'down time' and 'free time' so that this practice of pretending is encouraged and given room to grow. I believe that it also has implications for the manner in which we, as adults, approach our down time. Gopnik notes at the end that pretend play is not only important for children, but for adults as well: "...pretend play is not only important for kids; it's a crucial part of what makes humans so smart."
The second article, 'When Is Comfortable Too Comfortable?' (located on the Articles tab of this blog), is from the May 2012 edition of Educational Leadership and is written by Thomas R. Hoerr, the head of school at the New City School in St. Louis. Hoerr's article highlights the importance of renewing over the summer - taking the time to explore avenues and possibilities that may not be ventured during the academic year. In essence, Hoerr is encouraging educators to go outside of one's comfort zone, whatever that may be for each individual. His article highlights examples from a cohort of friends, indicating different ways to get out of one's comfort zone in the summer. The example that most resonated with me was to 'unplug' and find a healthy sense of quiet over the summer!
As I have shared throughout the year, I have greatly appreciated the Blake staff and community's willingness to collectively reflect and examine our practices, school, community, strengths, challenges, and areas for growth. Your feedback and honest dialogue is greatly appreciated, and I welcome the discussions about how we can continue to enhance the learning environment for our students, both building upon our strengths and addressing the shortcomings we have identified. My door is always open and the input you share and the conversations we have help me to reflect upon my own growth, and I value the community's insight, sincerity, and feedback. In this regard, I look forward to examining the parent and student surveys from the past year as we look to continually improve the education and learning environment for our students. You have heard me say it many times that we have an excellent school, but it is my strong belief that we can always improve and grow. We certainly do not need change for change's sake; however, it is always of great value to examine the need for potential change. The 'down time' of summer allows us, as educators, the time for this examination.
As I look ahead to the next five weeks before we officially begin the 2012-2013 school year, I hope to be able to take aspects of the articles noted and practice both 'pretending' and 'renewing outside of my comfort zone', hoping to also find the time to live by Mark Twain's words: "Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life." May you all enjoy the rest of your summer vacation. My intention is to update the blog again in mid-August with the 'Opening Letter' to all Blake families.
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