Dear Blake Families:
I hope this message finds everyone rested and relaxed, having found some time to take advantage of the different pace that summer offers. At Blake we have been finishing up the transitional work from the 2013-14 to 2014-15 academic year, working on the master schedule, hiring new staff, plugging away at our 'to do' lists, and taking time to map out the vision for the important work that resume in late August and early September. Outside of Blake our family has been quite fortunate to have some dedicated time together at a slower pace -- beaches on Cape Cod, gardening, swimming at Farm Pond in Sherborn, and get-togethers with family and friends. Over the next few weeks we are looking forward to our annual trip to the Berkshires with extended family, the Falmouth Road Race, reading, and some time away from devices (always a noble goal for me, but certainly a worthy one!).
An essential part of summer, and one that I truly look forward to and relish, is time for reflection. As educators, down time is a precious commodity and this natural break allows us to take a step back, breathe, and reflect upon our profession. I truly cherish the opportunity to clear my head, chip away at the 'must reads', and to foster connections with other educators. These connections feed me as an educator, parent, spouse, and friend and I appreciate the communal approach to learning that exists here at Blake and in the Medfield community. This shared reflective process is one that I value - with staff, parents, and students - and, I appreciate the resources that are shared with me. With this in mind I am sharing several posts that I hope you will find of interest. As is often the case with education, there are both direct and indirect implications for our work...
What Kids Can Learn From a Water Balloon Fight
by Anya Kamenetz on NPR
This post by Kamenetz relates to a story I heard on NPR at the end of June on All Things Considered about Dr. Lawrence Cohen's book, The Art of Roughhousing. By no means am I endorsing or encouraging kids to harm one another, but I found this piece interesting as we look to provide opportunities for growth for our children in both structured and unstructured times. The days of summer are ones that should have free play, unstructured time, water balloons, and time to simply mess around. Again, the intent is not to create harm, but rather to let the children lead the play.
"This kind of play serves vital emotional and physical needs for kids. It helps parents and kids bond, resolve conflicts, practice setting limits and deal with aggression...While it's not the main point, this play has academic benefits as well. Children learn resilience and other cognitive skills by responding in the moment to rapidly changing situations."
How to Trick Your Kids Into Reading All Summer Long
by Daniel Willingham in The Atlantic
The title of Willingham's post is one that will draw many parents in, and although I do not believe in 'trickery' with learning, I do appreciate the idea of drawing them in and finding 'back doors' to engagement.
"Reading improves your vocabulary, makes you a better writer, and enlarges your breadth of understanding. It’s too much to hope that kids will take that long view, but parents can make some small adjustments to their homes that might make reading seem a good choice in the moment."
Should We Unconnect from Our PLNs During Summer Break?
post by Matt Renwick
This post by Matt Renwick is one that spoke to me in regards to the balance we are all trying to find with technology. As I noted above, the quiet and change of pace are welcome and important for summer. However, I also believe in lifelong learning and the power of connections as part of this process -- "So where is that fine line between that much needed time to recharge and my equally important desire to be a lifelong learner? Is there truly an off switch? I am still trying to figure it out." I particularly liked the three points made by Renwick at the end of his post, and hope to apply these principles to my work this summer and throughout the year.
"I would not be half the educator I am if it weren’t for those that I have met online... I have to build in time to disconnect...Finding balance requires intention...Most importantly, I know I could be a good, even a very good educator without being connected. But in our pursuit for excellence, in our now connected world, I believe it is essential that we have a healthy personal learning network. So my learning doesn’t stop when June arrives. To be a modern learner demands nothing less."
Talks to Watch With Kids
Kelly C. shared this post with me and I have enjoyed watching them at various points of down time. Full disclosure - I have not watched every post and some are better for older children, so it is important to preview them before watching. However, I so enjoy the talks and the active, engaging spirit of innovation and discovery - characteristics that we should welcome and foster.
Distance Creates Clarity
post by Jon Harper
With vacations and travel to distant lands taking place during these summer months, I enjoyed reading Jon Harper's reflection upon his return from an excursion with his family. It often does take a geographical shift, or simply a change in routine, to help center oneself as to 'what is important'. For me, that is what summer is all about - providing a little distance to find clarity.
One beacon of clarity that always comes forth for me during the months of summer is the reality of how fortunate I am to work at Blake and in Medfield - a true community of students, parents, and staff with a shared interest of improving the educational experience for all. Feedback and honest dialogue is a key aspect of the reflective process, and my door is always open as we look to adjust, continue, and simply enhance our practices for improvement. I will be the first to say I am biased about Blake and our efforts, but I know we can always listen, reflect, and grow. Adapting and the process of change is difficult and it is not always necessary or justified, but our 'default mode' should be one that shows a willingness and openness to change. We expect this of our students and should hold ourselves to the same standard.
With August a little over a week away I hope to hold on to the days of summer, spending time with my family, reading, and simply 'being'. Katie and our kids are great about reminding me to ignore the 'back to school' flyers and commercials, as we still have plenty of summer left! I will do my best to work on the 'balancing act', while also feeding my professional growth. In the past I have shared a quote from Mark Twain about summer, and I believe it is worth passing along once again, along with one from Henry James (passed along to me by Sandy Ayers, a former teacher at Blake). They both capture the essence of summer, evoking memories of the past and reminding me of the present...
"Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life." -- Mark Twain
"Summer afternoon-summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." -- Henry James
I sincerely wish everyone a second half of the summer full of wonderment, relaxation, and joy. My intention is to update the blog again in mid-August with the 'Opening Letter' to all Blake families.
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