To help encourage conversations and dialogue about recognizing the importance of how we each contribute to our community, our topic/question for the dinner table is: How does your unique and genuine self contribute to the Blake community? Embracing Our Community of Learners (Week of 11/28/16) (This is an anonymous Google Form)
This Thanksgiving weekend was certainly enjoyed by the Vaughns and I hope that the time off provided everyone with a chance to connect with friends and family. We spent the holiday up in Newburyport with my side of the family and then had some nice down time over the weekend, amidst some yard work and the annual Holliston Holiday Stroll. Katie and I both enjoyed listening to the boys entertain my father in the backseat on the ride home from my sister's house on Thanksgiving!
This weekend allowed me some much needed time for reflection and rest, and I would like to share a few ideas and posts that I hope we can build upon as we look to the of Term 1 this week. Our Celebration of Voice assembly was a wonderful and tangible reminder for me as to how important it is to come together as a community to reflect, celebrate, observe, and listen. These gatherings directly align with 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. From student performances to our staff thanks to the utter (and I say this with sincere appreciation and affection) absurdity and insanity of the pig races, I felt a true sense of pride in our collective desire to foster and embrace our community of learners. So that we can hopefully carry them forward beyond the assembly, I am re-sharing the three points that were in my 'message of gratitude' for our entire community and woven throughout our time together...
- Every individual at Blake (students, staff, parents, and the greater community) matters, is cared for, and is an important piece of the Blake fabric.
- We are a community of learners who must 'practice what we preach'.
- We must always be present and continue to be here for one another.
Why Collaborative Inquiry? Professional Learning That Makes a Difference
by Peter DeWitt (@PeterMDeWitt) and Jenni Donohoo in Education Week
This post outlines the elements that constitute powerful learning and a model of collaborative inquiry. This is a model and culture worthy of our aspiration at Blake.
Professional learning is powerful when:
1) Learning is defined as a change in thinking and behaviour (Katz & Dack, 2013).
2) The power of the collective is drawn upon.
3) Teachers' influence and power to make decisions is increased.
4) Results are interpreted and cause/effect relationships are identified.
5) A staff's perception of their ability to affect change is positively influenced.
The premise is that when educators engage in continuous learning, student learning is improved...Given limited time and resources, it makes sense to concentrate professional learning efforts on designs that make a difference. Collaborative inquiry is one such design that not only makes a difference in regard to student outcomes, but also results in greater 'buy-in' from educators.
Can Creativity Be Learned - And Should Normal People Bother?
by Nigel Carrington in The Huffington Post
One of the oft-discussed characteristics noted in educational blogs is the pursuit of fostering and nurturing creativity in our learners. Carrington's post supports the belief that it is a skill that can be learned and must be supported. The progress we are making at Blake towards a skills-based system of feedback is one that reflects this work.
Teachers have a strong incentive to believe in nurture - that success is made as much as born. The strange exception is creativity, where education strategists fear to tread. As a new book identifies the seven creative behaviours behind success, we need to explore how creativity can be learnt.
In their new book, The Creative Stance, leading creative figures have identified the behaviours needed for success through a series of essays and debates. These are rigour, risk, resilience, ambiguity, agency, imagination and provocation.
Creativity can be nurtured for great effect. Indeed, the future of our economy and society may rely on it. There has never been a more important time to understand the creative process and why it should become a normal part of how we teach.
5 Ways to Help Your Child Survive the Social Turmoil of Middle School
by Phyllis Fagell (@PFagell) in The Washington Post
In order for a community of learners to be healthy and supportive, we need to make sure we continue to collaborate, support, work together, and share with one another. A licensed counselor and mother of children, Fagell outlines five strategies to help adolescents navigate this rocky roller coaster known as 'middle school'. They are not linear nor easy to do, but I do appreciate the healthy approach.
Turn down the volume on drama.
Assume positive intent.
Know when to let go.
Find the humor and stay optimistic.
Study interactions like an anthropologist.
As a school counselor and mother, I know middle school students are complicated. They can be simultaneously self-conscious and exhibitionist, walled off and confessional, risk-taking and cautious. They can be intensely concerned about social justice issues, but act mean toward each other. They will project entirely different personas depending on their audience. They want their parents and teachers to back off, except for when they don’t. No one is getting out unscathed, but parents can help kids minimize social drama as they navigate middle school.
When I talk to groups of parents or teachers, I sometimes take them on an imaginary trip back to middle school. I always apologize first. I ask them to picture walking the hallways, passing classmates, envisioning what they wore, who they avoided and how they felt. One parent told me she couldn’t participate, because she had blocked the entire awful phase from her memory. A father recalled the humiliation of being chosen last for every team in gym class. A mother remembered being the mean girl, passing notes with detailed critiques of classmates. Their memories may differ, but they share the same desire. They all hope their kids will have better luck traversing the middle school minefield than they did.
I think it is critical that we continue thinking about our roles in our community of learners, and by we I really mean all of us (students, staff, parents, and community). If we take the time to reflect and remember those three shared ideas (every individual matters; we are a community of learners who practice what we preach; be present for one another), I believe our culture of collaborative inquiry will grow and all learners will thrive. I am both thankful and hopeful that our community of learners will continue to challenge the status quo, collaborate with one another, and keep the proverbial foot on the accelerator for our students.
I look forward to the work that lies ahead for all of us.
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