To help encourage conversations and dialogue about PDF (Playtime, Downtime, Family Time), our topic/question for the summer dinner table is: What are you looking forward to most about summer? Enjoying Summer (Summer 2018) (This is an anonymous Google Form)
Our Guiding Lights at Blake
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.
- What was meaningful this year? What made teaching worthwhile? What mattered?
- Describe a positive interaction or experience you had with a student during this academic year.
- Describe or explain an accomplishment you attained or something you are proud of taking place during this academic year.
- Describe a particular student or situation during the school year who or that you feel you could have handled in a way that would have resulted in a more positive learning experience.
- How have you 'lived' our mission statement in your work and growth this year?
- What is an area that you would like to grow professionally?
- What have you learned this year from a student?
- What messages do you want to leave for our students? What do you want them to remember? (A humbling but important and centering question)
The responses are insightful, honest, professional, personal, and meaningful. They provide a lens into our day-to-day work and food for thought and a directional path for the upcoming school year. Along with this time for reflection, we have had some lovely times together - boat trips in the waters off of Falmouth, 4th of July with family in Chatham, swims at Farm Pond, summer baseball and softball with the kids, reading, and intentional time to 'simply be and do nothing'.
With tomorrow marking our 19th anniversary together, I find myself with opposing views of thought about time - thinking that these years went by so quickly, while also recognizing how much has transpired since the day we 'tied the knot'. The same can be true about these days of summer and I am working on living my mantra/goal to #slowitdown by resisting the feelings that can creep in to count the days left of summer. One way that helps me stay true to these mantras/mindsets/goals (choose the words that seem to fit or resonate for you) is by reading, reflecting, and sharing - I have always found inspiration in the words of others and the process of collective and shared reflection grounds me. In many ways the #happyblakers #medfieldhappinessproject (kudos and thanks to Kerrie Krah - @kerrie_krah and Diane Horvath - @techmonstah for their work/leadership) has manifested the value of collective sharing and connections. It has been truly fun to watch the challenge grow and get a window into the summers of our Blake and extended communities.
One way I hope to continue (during on- and off-time from the days of school) to foster connections, questions, thoughts, and discussion is by openly sharing posts, readings, and personal 'learnings' that reflect our work and growth. Below I am highlighting several posts that directly and indirectly relate to our mission - innovation, the process of change, needs of our students, and reflection...
10 Characteristics of an Innovative Classroom
by Matthew Lynch (@Lynch39083) in Education Week
As we discuss and examine ways to improve and enhance the learning environment and experience for our students, the principles of innovation are important to define. Within this brief post, Lynch shares 10 characteristics/traits he believes should be in place in the 'innovative classroom': Reflection, Constant Learning, Creativity, Connection, Principles and routines, Problem-finding, Collaboration, Variation, Goal Setting, and Opportunities for revision.
These ten characteristics are important in establishing an innovative classroom. Although they don't necessarily always come naturally, it is important for teachers to be aware of them and to incorporate an action to help develop each characteristic on a daily basis.
The Grief of Accepting New Ideas
by Rick Wormeli (@rickwormeli2) in AMLE
The educational landscape is changing (side note - I hope it always will change, as change reflects growth), and Wormeli addresses the emotional components of the change process. As the heart of our mission embraces 'the willingness to adapt', this post and the citations within will certainly help guide and further our work.
To quote Bob Dylan, the times, they are a-changin'. We wonder, though, if teachers have the dispositions needed to make fundamental changes to their teaching practices in order to respond constructively to our changing times, especially when those changes reveal that what they were doing was less effective than their egos thought they were. The way we teach is often a statement of who we are. If someone questions our practices, it's like they're questioning our value as teachers. Our classroom instruction, including assessment and grading, technology integration, student-teacher interactions, and more, are expressions of how we see ourselves; they are our identity. Can we navigate these frequently troubled waters without invoking self-preserving egos and drowning in resentment?
It is not too far flung to remember Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' five stages of grief (On Death and Dying, 1969): Denial/Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. One or more of these stages is experienced by each of us when we are asked to discard something we hold dearly and accept something new in its place. Yes, we fake-rationalize ourselves into, "This will not actually happen," and, "It'll just pass like another education fad, and I can wait until everyone comes to their senses."
We are all fellow travelers, and we are all inconsistent with ourselves and one another. No one likes to have protective layers pulled bare, revealing old scars or sensitive places still raw. To survive the day, we tell ourselves that our truths are THE truths, and they form our version of reality. When we're confronted with their illusory nature, we're no longer on solid ground. We grieve for former students we may have wronged, the real or not perceived loss in status among respected colleagues, the time and energy that will be spent in changing who we are, and for the loss of self that was once so sure.
Let's help each other: Let's interact in ways that invite thoughtfulness, not invocation of self-protecting egos. Let's give colleagues time and encouragement to pushback and resist new ideas, and rather than be so self-assured ourselves, let's look for new insights we need to hear in our colleagues' arguments. And finally, let's extend the compassion to others we seek for ourselves, and honor the grief process that happens when asked to give up something we've held so tightly all these years—a truth, reality, perception, or practice—as they struggle to accept something new. Instead of leaving them to struggle alone, we can walk that path together.
Smoothing the Way for Change
by Beth Holland (@brholland) in Edutopia
In a similar vein as Wormeli's post, Beth addresses the change process as she references the framework of 'polarity mapping'. It is framework I look forward to exploring more, as we try to work within the 'shades of gray' and find balance, rather than extremes.
In Unleashing the Positive Power of Differences, Jane Kise presents a different strategy for teachers and leaders. Instead of viewing change as either/or, she suggests looking at it as a both/and polarity. The goal is to find a way to balance the positives of both options. Kise points to breathing as the ultimate polarity—it requires both inhaling and exhaling. To visualize the process, Kise recommends a strategy known as polarity mapping. A polarity map helps to accomplish three goals. First, it allows us to see the positives and negatives of both sides of an argument—the two poles—so that we can gain a better understanding of the system. Next, it encourages the creation of concrete action steps. Finally, and most importantly, it identifies and codifies the greater purpose behind the intended change.
Too often, change in education is viewed as an exhausting either/or debate. Polarity mapping offers a strategy to see the positives in both sides of the conversation and a means to find balance in new initiatives.
You’re Never Going to Be “Caught Up” at Work. Stop Feeling Guilty About It.
by Art Markman in Harvard Business Review
As one who can easily be labeled as a 'workaholic', the title of this post 'grabbed me' right away! Markman addresses the feelings of both guilt and shame (and their oft-times interconnected relationship) and their 'roles or impact' with work completion. Suggestions are outlined for addressing and 'interrupting' the negative thoughts that can creep into our thinking: Exercise self-compassion; Focus on your accomplishments; Practice acceptance.
Guilt can sometimes be motivating. For example, feelings of guilt can increase people’s propensity to cooperate. And, in some cases, guilt can also motivate people to make progress on projects that have stalled. At a minimum, guilt does not seem to make people worse at completing tasks. However, feeling guilty when you’re away from work, when you aren’t in a position to do anything about it, is not helpful, and can be painful. It will make you feel worse about your job in general and spoil time that you could be spending with friends, family, or engaging in an enjoyable activity. Shame, though, is a different story. There is evidence that people will explicitly procrastinate to avoid shame. Feeling shame about work you have not completed is likely to make the problem worse, not better, making it an emotion that is almost never helpful.
You want to use guilt as a motivational tool when you are in a position to get work done. When you’re not, develop strategies to leave it behind. And find ways to reduce feelings of shame. Recognize that failing to get some work completed does not make you a bad person. It just makes you a person.
Kids Need a Break
This edcast features Denise Pope, co-founder of Challenge Success, sharing her thoughts regarding the need for children to have a 'true break' during the summer months. As a district we have formally committed to Challenge Success, and I look forward to this endeavor as a community.
Why Stepping Back Can Empower Kids In An Anxious World
by Cory Turner (@NPRCoryTurner) in MindShift
Turner's post encourages parents to 'step back' and highlights two books, The Good News About Bad Behavior and The Self-Driven Child, that aim to empower children through this 'letting go'.
These days, though, free play is on the decline, Lewis says, and so are the social and emotional skills that come with it. Part of the problem, according to Lewis, is parents who worry that unsupervised play is just too risky. But the risk is part of the point — for kids "to have falls and scrapes and tumbles and discover that they're okay. They can survive being hurt."
...academics are important, but that, in most cases, kids should be in the driver's seat, learning to manage their work, their time and, ideally, being able to pursue their own interests. That freedom, Stixrud says, helps them develop internal motivation in a way that rewards and grades just can't.
Eight Tips To Slow Down Summer
by Kris Felicello (@kfelicello)
Felicello offers 8 tips for how we, educators and families alike, can slow down the pace and our heads in an effort to enjoy, relax, regroup, and refresh for the coming school year: Create a Summer Bucket List; Create a New Habit; Read; Reconnect; Day Trip; Play the Notice Game; Learn Something; Do Something New.If you are not in the education field, you may begrudge teachers for what you see as a two month glimpse into retired life, but, for us in the field, we know when you do it right, you often leave it all on the field so to speak and need time to reinvent yourself for the challenge that the next school year and next group of students will bring. No matter how much you love teaching or being an administrator, no matter how much you love kids, the challenge of changing lives, and/or of inspiring the next generation of leaders, you would be hard pressed to find an educator who doesn’t wish they could slow down the clock to make summer last just a little bit longer.
We have settled into the summer mode, the relaxation and good vibes of summer and its inevitable end is far enough away that the negative nellies are not yet signaling its impending doom. It is not too late, you have the opportunity to slow down your summer, to make the most of it. From one educator to another–I know how hard you work; I know how you lay yourself on the line each and every day. You deserve a long summer that will get you ready to do battle and fight the good fight for our kids come September.
As I carry forth my practice of reflection and growth from the school year into the days of summer, I also aim to carry forth my practice from the days of summer back into the school year. There is plenty of summer 'to be had' and I am looking forward to what lies ahead for the Vaughns - time with family and friends at Blueberry Hill Farm in the Berkshires, Maggie and Katie attending the Taylor Swift concert, a Paw Sox game with the boys, the Falmouth Road Race, gardening, cooking, yoga and runs, and 'making time for nothing'. I am sharing some quotes that I share each summer that help me to #slowitdown and #leantowardsyes - I hope they can do the same for others...
Summer is the annual permission slip to be lazy. To do nothing and have it count for something. To lie in the grass and count the stars. To sit on a branch and study the clouds. -- Regina Brett
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
Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. -- John Lubbock
Aaah, summer - that long anticipated stretch of lazy, lingering days, free of responsibility and rife with possibility. It's a time to hunt for insects, master handstands, practice swimming strokes, conquer trees, explore nooks and crannies, and make new friends. -- Darell Hammond
As I share each year at this 'midpoint of summer', I hope everyone enjoys a relaxed, restful, reflective, and fun second half of summer, full of both 'everything and nothing' at the same time. Stay tuned for the 'Opening Letter' to all Blake families in mid-August. And, as Kris Felicello shared at the end of the post referenced above...
There is no reason a late August day can’t be just as much summer as a late June one. Don’t start the countdown; just enjoy each day for what it is.
I look forward to the work that lies ahead for all of us.
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