Dear Blake Families:
I hope that this note finds everyone safe and sound, and that you had a chance to get outside at some point during the weekend, as we all prepared for Frankenstorm to arrive! This past weekend was a full one for the Vaughns - Friday night dance, Holliston's youth soccer 'Spookerfest' on Saturday, Maggie's performance in Alice in Wonderland Saturday evening, and on Sunday afternoon we headed into Boston to celebrate Katie's father's birthday - wow! The first 7th/8th grade dance this past Friday was a great success and I would like to thank all of the staff who chaperoned the event to help provide a safe and positive experience for the students: Sarah Pratt, Kelly Dengos, Eileen Hurley, Elise Malone, Jeff Cincotta, Sandy Spierdowis, Deb Manning, Kelly Campbell, Travis Taliaferro, and Rebeka Hoffman.
I spent the second half of the week reflecting upon the productive work that took place during our professional afternoon last Tuesday. Our afternoon was spent focusing on the topic of Mental Health, and we were fortunate to have Christi Clark Barney as our guest presenter and facilitator. The feedback I have received from staff in both written and verbal form was that Christi's presentation was very helpful, centering, and enlightening. I truly appreciate the care and attention our staff gave to the afternoon and continue to be inspired and hopeful about the work that we will continue to address throughout the year. Our student's mental health and well-being is one of the most important aspects of our work, and we will be sure to continue our professional development in this area. At the end of Christi's presentation, I highlighted three 'take-aways' that I believe are worth sharing with the community. First, she shared the view that as educators we 'already have diagnostic skills' and that our 'guts' and 'intuition' as teachers should not be ignored. We may not have all of the answers, but if a concern is present in your mind, please share it and make it known so that we can care for the students. Second, the importance of mindfulness and 'staying present-minded' was emphasized, as a strategy for both students and adults. The analogy of driving in a blizzard and keeping the mantra 'Drive the stretch of the road you're on' was particularly poignant and is one that I have already employed when worries have begun to occupy my thoughts. I encourage you to share that strategy with your children, family members, yourself, and one another. Third, in line with Blake's theme of perseverance, it was encouraging and inspiring to learn more about the factors that contribute to resilience and also the ensuing growth that takes place through difficult times. She shared it as an 'opportunity for growth' and I believe that forward-thinking lens is critical for us to keep in mind, encouraging the process of support for students and one another.
As you know it is hard for me to go a week without sharing some readings or articles, and I have posted two articles that connect to this topic that you may find of interest. The first article was given to me by Christi from The New England Journal of Medicine, entitled 'Chocolate Consumption, Cognitive Function, and Nobel Laureates' (located on the Articles tab of this blog). The article highlights work that has been done to correlate the consumption of chocolate with cognitive function, and with the work that we engaged in last week, seeing the 'scientific process' in action on a seasonal topic with Halloween this week is timely. The second article, 'Building Resilience by Wasting Time' comes from the Harvard Business Review (located on the Articles tab of this blog). The author, Jane McGonigal, highlights research showing that, "...engaging in some activities we assume are nonproductive - as tiny exercises - may actually be a smart way to spend time, especially at work. These practices can make people more resourceful problem solvers, more collaborative, and less likely to give up when the going gets tough. In other words, they can make people more resilient. That's why I've made it a personal goal to waste at least four minutes every hour." I found this brief article to be worth the 'quick read', as the 'take-aways' are direct and relatively 'simple in nature'. I hope that you will as well.
As one more follow up to the professional afternoon last Tuesday, I want to extend a special thank you to Susie Boulos and Mike Gow for sharing their stories and paths with our staff. Last year I began asking different staff members to share 'reflections' at faculty meetings and professional days in an effort to make closer connections as a community. For each reflection, I ask the same three questions: 'Why did you get into teaching? Why do you work with middle school students? What fulfills you in your work?' As one could imagine, each staff member lends his/her different interpretation to the questions in their answers. I have thoroughly enjoyed this tradition at our professional days and faculty meetings, and one hope I have is to continue to find avenues for all of us to build more relationships and establish connections as a staff in a similar vein. The willingness and sincere interest in taking on conversations, issues, and challenges as a collective group is indeed important and will certainly benefit our students. It is my hope that we can continue to be honest, open, and respectful with each other in our work. The feedback and honest dialogue, both in relation to our professional days and our day-to-day endeavors from staff, students, and community members alike, is of great help to me. My door continues to always be open.
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