To help encourage conversations and dialogue about improving and enhancing the 'learning organization' of Blake Middle School, our topic/question for the dinner table is: How do/can you contribute to the culture of learning at Blake?
Tangible Learning (12/18/16) (This is an anonymous Google Form)
The frigid temperatures, although seasonal, have certainly made it a challenge to want to get outside this weekend! We had a relatively low-key weekend thus far with Owen's basketball, a quick shopping outing, and a small holiday get-together with friends Saturday night. Our Sunday afternoon was festive with family and friends, as we saw our niece in The Nutcracker at The Norwood Theater and then attended a family holiday party in Sherborn I have been going to almost my entire life.
This time of year is full in many ways - with busy schedules, ever-growing to do lists, family commitments, holiday parties, etc., all on top of our 'normally busy' lives. I do feel as though I say it every week, but with only one week left of school before the holiday vacation, time sure seems to be moving at a quicker pace than typical. This past Friday I went with our 8th grade into the convention center to help setup for the Christmas in the City event that took place Sunday, 12/18. With all of the items on my 'to do lists' this past week, I would be lying if I did not have a part of me wondering whether or not I should continue with my plans to go on the trip. The worrying and overthinking began early in the week about 'missing a day at Blake' and thinking about 'how much I could get done' if I stayed back. After all, I thought I could get through the stack of e-mails, visit some classes, have a few meetings, and make phone calls and maybe feel a bit more rested and 'less stressed' going into the weekend. Well, as you know, I did not change my plans and I am so thankful that I went as it helped me to be present and be a part of something greater with our students and teachers. Do not get me wrong - I believe that every day at Blake we are all a part of something greater and our day-to-day work is important, valuable, and necessary. It is just that I, for whatever reason at this particular time, needed an experience with our students in our community that felt more 'tangible'. I was needing the sense of community in my own learning and experiences. It was so great to simply get out of the routine, interact and build more relationships with students and staff, and practice the values we hold and carry as a school.
As we enter the last week of school in 2016, this idea of 'tangible learning' is on my mind - what does it look like? How do we define learning? Are the learning experiences for the students and staff tangible? How about for parents - what does/would that look like? What needs to be in place for a healthy culture of learning to exist? These are questions worthy of exploration and I hope that the posts below help this collective process of reflection...
Making “The Olin Effect” Your Own
by Will Richardson (@willrich45)
Richardson is a 'must follow' and this post reflects his experience listening in on a panel presentation, 'Program Improvement Through Student Engagement', with students from both Olin College of Engineering and Hampshire College. He reflects on the principle of the 'Olin Effect': “The heightened state of engagement, creativity, and productivity that comes from taking control of your own education.”
For those not familiar with these two schools, they are outliers in the university narrative. Both give students almost total choice over the subjects they study and the ways the study them, to the point where kids create their own majors and most of their coursework. The kids at Hampshire then document their work in a digital portfolio, one of which you can see here. Dig around…it’s pretty interesting, and it will make you think about the possibilities. (This blog post is indicative of the work being done in the program.)
I made the point that everyone of us also encounters The Olin Effect when we’re like five and six years old and we’re in charge of our own explorations of the world. That time when the adults look at us and marvel at how intense and creative and persistent we are with our own learning. There’s not one among us who hasn’t lived it. And, importantly, there’s not a kid in our schools who hasn’t lived it at some point and who can’t live it again, given the freedom to do so. But that’s the problem, right? “The Olin Effect” is the exception that happens when the conditions for powerful learning truly exist: freedom, choice, relevance, audience, passion, etc. In schools, unfortunately, it’s not the rule.
The Secret to Schools that Keep Getting Better
by Justin Reich (@bjfr) in Education Week
Justin's post is part of a series of posts based on a new online course, Launching Innovation in Schools. The notion and principle of establishing a school as a 'learning organization' is meaningful, important, critical and salient for the Blake community.
The magic of our best schools is really simple. The places where people are year after year making schools better and improving teaching and learning, they are places where the faculty are having fun learning and improving their teaching. When people can find joy in their learning, they keep learning. When people can find joy in working with their colleagues, they keep collaborating. Our goal as leaders in schools--teachers, parents, principals, librarians, everyone--our goal is to create schools that are learning organizations, places where the explicit goal of the system is to sustain not just student learning, but learning for everyone involved in the organization.
The beauty of these places is that they are fabulous learning environments for students. Students learn more from who we are than from what we tell them. We know that for students to thrive in a fast changing and uncertain future, they just need to be constantly learning, not just for 12 or 16 years but for their entire lives. The best way for students to absorb that message is to live with a community of adults who are constantly trying to get better at their jobs, who are constantly trying to make curriculum more powerful and more meaningful, who are constantly finding way to help students become better versions of themselves.
This culture of continuous learning for our entire Blake community is something that truly feeds me, and I enjoy the sharing that takes place each day. Through readings, projects, discussions, presentations, and other experiences, our culture of learning becomes tangible. I believe that it is important that we take some time take stock and articulate those tangible moments. I am looking forward to the readings and posts over the next two weeks that will highlight and reflect the 2016 calendar year. Last year at this time, in the spirit of the 'end of year lists', I shared links to six posts that centered me in 2015 (Giving Gifts to Oneself), helping to both shape and influence my educational philosophy and beliefs. In the spirit of modeling and sharing to enhance our culture of learning at Blake, I am sharing some 'Key Posts' (note that they are not necessarily my top ones, but they certainly are resonating with me now) from 2016 that have sustained me, challenged me, helped me grow, and grounded me...
Collaboration: A Necessity, Not An Option
by Umair Qureshi in ASCD InService
How A Happy School Can Help Students Succeed
by Kat Lonsdorf in NPREd
The Five Questions That Most Define My Work
post by Will Richardson (@willrich45)
Are We Preparing Students to be Chefs or Cooks?
by AJ Juliani (@ajjuliani)
Sometimes I Feel Inadequate
by Mark French
Why Empathy Holds the Key to Transforming 21St Century Learning
by Thom Markham in PBL Global Blog
Schools Are Fragile
by Chris Lehmann (@chrislehmann)
Technology Addiction, It's Not Just For Kids
by Patrick Larkin (@patrickmlarkin) in Education Week
You Work Too Hard - Just Show Up
by Dan Rockwell (@leadershipfreak)
Your Child's Job Probably Doesn't Exist Yet
by Alison Kay
As you could imagine, it was quite hard to narrow it down to those 10, so I am taking the liberty to stretch the 10 to 12 by sharing two more posts that underscore the essence of our work for and with our students...
Teaching? A ministry of love, hope, fatigue, failure and success
by Katie Magongolwa in The News and Observer
#BringingJoyBack: Remember Your Why!
by Rachael George in ASCD In-Service
With the new year almost here, I will be taking some time to articulate and share resolutions for 2017, and I know that the posts above will help me to shape the learning I will commit to in the next 12 months. Our culture of learning is dependent on a shared commitment towards growth and progress, and I will be leaning on you as much as I hope you lean on me and one another. Enjoy these days as we bring closure to one year before opening the door to the one that is awaiting.
I look forward to the work that lies ahead for all of us.
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