Dear Blake Families:
I hope this mid-summer update finds everyone well and that the first month of your summer vacation has been full of relaxation, rest, and reflection - essentially 'exactly what summer should be'. At Blake we have been busy wrapping up the 2012-2013 academic year, planting seeds for the 2013-2014 academic year, and simply plugging away at our summer to-do list (a list that never seems to cease growing!). Beyond the academic and work-based aspect of summer, we have been fortunate as a family to experience and take advantage of time as a family -- Cape Cod beaches with my family, swimming at Farm Pond in Sherborn, time in the garden, and simple down time with Katie and the kids. As we look ahead to the next few weeks, we are looking forward to a trip to the Berkshires to be with extended family, the Falmouth Road Race, and more time to hopefully 'unplug' (a challenge for me, but a challenge that is always worthy of pursuit!).
As you know, reflection is at the core of my belief system as an educator, parent, and friend. Summer is a true gift for educators in this regard, as we are given time to slow down, take a step back, and truly reflect upon our work with students. I always look forward to these months as an opportunity to clear my head, stay up-to-date on summer reading and journals, and to take advantage of the quieter time to make connections and allow thoughts to come forward in a different mindset. In the spirit of my belief in passing along and sharing resources, I have posted four articles that I hope you will find of interest. The first two articles - 'How to Have a Healthy, Brainy, and Fun Summer' from Edutopia and 'Ten Mostly Offbeat Ways Teens Can Learn Something This Summer' from The Washington Post - are quick reads and offer some nice suggestions for parents as to how their children can be actively engaged in a productive and enjoyable fashion throughout the summer. The suggestions are simple and are nice reminders of the importance of fostering authentic learning experiences. I particularly like Roger Schank's suggestion for students to 'be bored': "Sit quietly. Turn off all electronics. See what happens to your mind. Let it go while you are doing nothing - absolutely nothing - for an hour. You will be amazed at what happens when you shut it all down and let your mind wander. You will find out what you really think about things." In the busyness of our 'always on' pace, both at school and at out of school, this reminder is one I hope to carry forth for students and staff alike. On a similar note, I have posted an article by Jane Brody from The New York Times entitled 'Cheating Ourselves of Sleep' as a reminder of the importance that rest, true rest, plays in our overall well-being and learning. Speaking first-hand as an individual who likes to accomplish a great deal and often puts sleep and rest 'on the back burner', Brody's article served as an excellent wake-up call (no pun intended) regarding the detrimental effects of insufficient sleep: "Some of the most insidious effects of too little sleep involve mental processes like learning, memory, judgment and problem-solving. During sleep, new learning and memory pathways become encoded in the brain, and adequate sleep is necessary for those pathways to work optimally. People who are well rested are better able to learn a task and more likely to remember what they learned." Summer is a great time to 'catch up' on sleep, but I believe the implications and message are equally, if not more, important to carry forth as we look ahead to the school year for our children (and ourselves, for that matter).
The final article I have posted is written by Christopher de Vinck and was published in the Wall Street Journal in November of 1993, entitled 'Why I Read to My Children'. My mother, an avid reader and former middle school English teacher, gave me this article the summer before my first year of teaching at Blake. It is a wonderful read from the lens of an educator and, as a parent, I have found a much deeper level of resonance. In the article he does make a connection between reading and success on the SAT - although I do not necessarily agree with the direct and formulaic correlation he concludes, I do strongly believe that one's reading base is critical and needs to be fostered. The benefits are many and I know that reading helps make connections, find meaning, open doors, and truly think: "Thinking is looking at experiences and making conclusions. Writing is the physical evidence of our thinking. The more we experience, the more information we have inside our minds and hearts. The more information we have, the better conclusions we can make about our own lives....reading makes possible the connection between our minds and the near magical notions drawn up from our impossible hearts." I also firmly believe that the process of reading aloud and enjoying literature applies to all ages.
During these periods of 'down time', I am also afforded the opportunity to truly realize how fortunate I am to work in a community that is willing to work together (students, staff, parents, and greater community) to improve and enhance the education for our students. The open dialogue and spirit of honest communication is critical and I look forward to the many conversations we will have as we adapt, tweak, and maintain our practices to meet the ever-changing needs of our students. My door is always open and the input shared helps me to better understand where we are and then think about where we need to head. You know I am biased about Blake and the work that takes place here, but I strongly feel there is always room for improvement. Change is hard, and is not always necessary, but we need to be open to the possibilities that the 'questions of change' may allow and provide for our students.
With August arriving next week, thoughts of the upcoming school year start to become more of a reality. That said, there is still plenty of summer left and I am lucky that my wife, Katie, is wonderful about showing me the reality of the calendar (summer is not yet drifting away!). I hope to be able to try out some of the ideas from these posted articles with the kids and to continue to catch up on reading. Last year I shared this quote by Mark Twain, and I think it is worthy of passing along once again, as I believe he captured the ideals of summer: "Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life." I sincerely wish everyone a wonderful second half of the summer. My intention is to update the blog again in mid-August with the 'Opening Letter' to all Blake families.
Please click here for Important Dates and Announcements.