To help encourage conversations and dialogue about protective factors and the ways that we can make Blake an inclusive and improved learning environment, our topic/question of the week is: What can you do to make Blake Middle School a safe and productive learning environment for everyone? Protective Factors (Week of 12/17/17) (This is an anonymous Google Form)
Blake's Guiding Lights
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.
Hopefully everyone enjoyed a nice weekend and stayed warm as the frigid New England air certainly arrived this past week! It was a festive and full one for us with get-togethers with friends, a cookie party, and kids' sports, and we on Sunday evening as we went to a holiday party in Sherborn that I have been going to as long as I can remember. It was a nice way to center and connect with friends and family - a lovely way to enter the last week of school of 2017!
'A busy time of year, busy days, and busy lives' - that seems to be the sentiment that comes to mind when friends, families, and colleagues check in with me as of late. There is a sense of exhaustion that comes through and that is not always my intent, but things are busy. And it is important to note that 'busy' is not a bad thing, as evidenced by looking at what busy entailed over the last week: Blake's chorus and orchestra concerts, professional development with a focus on suicide prevention, PTO and MCPE meetings, rollout of the PISA and OECD's Global Competence Framework (Preparing Our Youth for a Better World: OECD PISA Global Competence Framework Launch), Christmas in the City community service with 8th graders, and the list could expand. Each one of us could provide and equivalent 'busy' list each week of the year, for sure; however, the timing of the holidays and upcoming vacation certainly adds to the busyness.
With the close of 2017 only days away I am aiming to carve out some time for focused reflection on closure and resolutions - but, the inherent and systemic challenge is in finding the time for this amidst the busyness! At our professional development the phrase of 'protective factors' was a key mantra and it is one that really hit home for me. Coupling these two goals - reflecting on closure/resolutions and embracing the mindset of protective factors, I came to an 'aha! moment' that we must aim to actively incorporate some structures to become 'protective factors to foster learning' and the busyness that we establish and schedule becomes the vehicle itself. In an attempt to summarize ('flush out' may be more appropriate/accurate, given the length of this post!) this thinking, I am sharing a potential framework to discuss, reflect upon, share, and explore...
Five structures - Protective Factors to Foster Learning
- Learning via formal means (PD)
- Learning via currency/relevancy (literature/research)
- Learning via reflection/collaboration/sharing
- Learning via environment
- Learning via inspiration
Learning via Formal Means (Professional Development)
For our community of educators to grow as protective factors, we must be sure to actively seek out and receive formal professional development. I shared these 'mindsets/take-aways' from our work last Tuesday, but I believe they are worth sharing again in this context. Below are my notes from our Suicide Prevention training (Joanna Bridger, Riverside Trauma Center - 'Suicide Prevention: A Gatekeeper Training for School Personnel') - there are many implications for our work and relationships that carry over to other facets and domains as well...
- Concept of 'gatekeepers' - we can all serve as pieces of the gate
- Resilience as a theme - 'Some day it could be better...'
- 85% of any type of therapy's efficacy is dependent on the relationship - lots of implications here for all of our work
- Concept of 'environmental impact of care' (a nice mantra for a school environment)
- Definition of suicide: an attempt to solve the problem of intense psychological pain
- For every risk factor there are Protective Factors - We can all be protective factors
- We need to think about 'turning' the stories/narratives
- 'If you think something's wrong, it doesn't hurt to ask'
- Encourage direct vs indirect questions
- Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - always keep these in mind
- 'Treat every student like they are vulnerable'
- Concept of Upstream Prevention
- Resilience: Increase Prosociality, Psychological Flexibililty; Decrease Toxic Influences
- Learning to teach/educate in a trauma-informed way
- Good postvention is prevention
- Compassionate Presence - another great mantra to embrace
- We can build a 'competent community'
Learning via Currency/Relevancy (literature/research)
For our community of educators to be relevant as protective factors, we should intentionally and deliberately read. The posts below are ones I've read over the last week and they all held meaning...
Moving From Obstacle to Advantage
by George Couros (@gcouros)
It is hard not to end the year with a post from Couros - the obstacle/advantage framework is one to carry forth into the season of closure and resolutions.
You can wish you had something else, or you can take advantage of where you are. This is not about moving from a pessimist to an optimist, but finding strengths where you may have seen weakness. Instead of thinking about whether you are a “glass-half-full” or “glass-half-empty” person, why not ask, “what’s in the glass?” Figure that out, work from there, and use it to your advantage.
Apple’s Tim Cook: Internet Must Have Security, Humanity
by David Ramli in The Boston Globe
This post summarizes Tim Cook's comments made at the World Internet Conference in China, calling for technology of the future to have, "...openness, creativity and safeguards to protect users while providing privacy and decency." I appreciate the forward-thinking perspective, recognizing the balance of needs we must consider in the future.
“Much has been said of the potential downsides of AI, but I don’t worry about machines thinking like humans. I worry about people thinking like machines,” he said. “We all have to work to infuse technology with humanity, with our values.”
I Wonder If What We Think Is Best
by Craig Badura (@mrbadura)
Badura's simple post is one that models reflection and transparency, offering a 'wonder' that would behoove us all to embrace as educators, parents, and communities.
We are having conversations about what keyboarding programs we should be spending money on in our schools. We hear from business leaders in our communities that keyboarding is an essential skill that will be needed. Yet I have a first grader hammering out an assignment using the voice dictation tool. Do I tell them to stop and show them how to place their hands on home row? Or do I let them use a tool that allows them to easily express themselves? I'm trying to imagine what their world will look like 10-15 years from now knowing how efficient voice dictation has become just in the last three years.
I wonder if our pre-established norms as adults sometimes get in the way in the world of education.
Learning via Reflection/Collaboration/Sharing
For our community of educators to be together as 'coherent' protective factors, we need to continually reflect, collaborate, and share. For the past two years I have taken some time at the end of the school year to highlight '10 influential posts' from the past year (Giving Gifts to Oneself, Tangible Learning). Please know these are not necessarily the 'top 10' posts; rather, when going back they are ones that held meaning at a certain time and still hold meaning for me, our work and our community. I have definitely stretched the 'definition of 10' as I had the hardest time narrowing them down (no surprise here!) - here are 'a bunch of key influential posts' that have sustained me, challenged me, helped me grow, and grounded me..
Every School Should Tell Its Story
by Heather Wolpert-Gawron in Edutopia
We Need to Teach Our Children How to Dream
by Tom Goodwin in GQ
Resilience: The Common Underlying Factor
by Robert Brooks
Ten Resolutions for Becoming a More Grateful Parent
by Madeline Levine in NAIS Independent School Magazine
'Mom, You Don't Get It. They Only Do Stuff for the Grade.'
by Peter DeWitt (@PeterMDeWitt) in Education Week
Why We Should Stop Asking Kids What They Want To Be When They Grow Up
by Katie Martin (@KatieMTLC)
Remembering Richard DuFour, Leading Voice on Professional Learning Communities
by Naomi Thiers in ASCD In-Service
Getting Curious (Not Furious) With Students
by Rebecca Alber in Edutopia
The Real Reason Teachers and Leaders are Overwhelmed
by AJ Juliani (@ajjuliani)
Coherence is Signature Quality of our Most Effective Schools
by Justin Reich
9 Elephants in the (Class)Room That Should “Unsettle” Us
by Will Richardson (@willrich45)
Teachers Going Gradeless - Toward a Future of Growth Not Grades
by Arthur Chiaravalli @hhschiaravall
Why You Should Make Time for Self-Reflection (Even If You Hate Doing It)
by Jennifer Porter in Harvard Business Review
Are Fidget Spinners The Problem Or Is It Our Mindset?
by Patrick Larkin (@patrickmlarkin)
The Child Behind the Grade
by Mark Sonnemann (@MarkSonnemann)
Think Inside the Box
by John Spencer (@spencerideas) in Educational Leadership
Note Taking Editorials – Groundhog Day All Over Again
by Beth Holland (@brholland)
Learning via Environment
For our community of educators to foster an environment of protective factors, we must create conditions and mindsets that allow for growth, innovation, and learning...
Preparing Students to Lose Their Jobs
by Heather McGowan & Chris Shipley based upon a prior article with Alan Ritacco in LinkedIn
What Qualities Will Future Teachers Need?
by Andy Hargreaves (@AndyHargreavesBC)
Being OK With Discomfort
by Leigh A. Hall (@leighahall)
Learning via Inspiration
For our community of educators to sustain ourselves as protective factors, we must look inward and outward for inspiration. Below are a few phrases and quotes from this past year that inspire me and 'keep me going'...
Two phrases that Colby Swettberg shared as we learned how to better foster a supportive and inclusive learning environment for our LGBTQ community and all of our students...
'That which is unspeakable is unmanageable'
'We are going to make the path by walking it'
Two quotes shared by Joanna Bridger...
We can't teach what we don't know. We can't lead where we won't go. - Malcolm X
If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn. - Charlie Parker
Finally, my favorite quote from a significant source of inspiration, Peter DeWitt (@PeterMDewitt)...
I look forward to the work that lies ahead for all of us.
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