To help encourage conversations and dialogue about the need to step back and reflect to improve and grow, our topic/question for the dinner table is: What are you hoping to do and/or looking forward to do during the vacation? Making Room for Growth (Week of 12/16/18) (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.
After the lovely holiday get-together at Deeni’s house on Friday (thanks to Deeni and all of the Stevens!), Katie and I ventured into Cambridge to hear Chris Pureka at Club Passim. This was Katie’s birthday gift to me this past August and we had a wonderful time. Saturday and Sunday consisted of ‘holiday craze’ and basketball - the milder weather was lovely!
Although I have been enjoying re-reading our Site Council book, What School Could Be by Ted Dintersmith, I have not found as much time as I would like to read and reflect over the past couple of weeks. This past Thursday morning, however, I set an intention to ‘catch up’ on some bookmarked posts and articles. Through one of the e-mail lists I am on, I came across these words from writer and management consultant, Margaret Wheatley…
There is no power equal to a community discovering what it cares about.
I am somewhat familiar with Wheatley’s work as a writer who studies organizational behavior, but the words really spoke to me and I dug a bit deeper. These words came from her book, Turning To One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future, in the context of this larger ‘section’...
After sending along that quote to a few people, I ‘mentally bookmarked it’ and went on with the day. That night, after attending the Blake chorus concert, I put on one of my Spotify playlists and a favorite song came on - ‘Let’s Be Still’ by The Head and the Heart. Having felt pretty tired at this point as we were approaching Friday, the lyrics seemed to jump out at me...
The world's just spinning
A little too fast
If things don't slow down soon
we might not last
The world's not forgiving
Of everyone's fears
The days turn into months the months turn into years
So just for a moment, let's be still
Where is this going and why am I referencing Wheatley’s words and one of my favorite songs? As a caveat I am one who loves to ‘find meaning’ in experiences, but this felt real to me - encouraging conversations and stillness as a means for rejuvenation, growth, and improvement. Finding stillness may just be what is needed, amidst our daily work. This week will certainly be full of fun and energy and will require our presence and patience. With this in mind, I hope that we can take the words of Peter Drucker (often shared before summer and vacations) to help us to step back, listen, relax, and reflect - this practice will allow us and our students to improve and move forward...
Topic/Question (Week of 12/9/18): What are some areas of interest you would like to spend more time learning or exploring?
- Student-led conferences
- Book Club
- Incorporating mindfulness into classes
- Other countries
- Student-led IEP meetings
How to Plan and Implement Continuous Improvement In Schools
by Katrina Schwartz (@KSchwart) in MindShift
I may have shared this post in the past and came across it again this week - it speaks to the challenges school face in implementing change, and offers a framework from the Carnegie Foundation: Understanding the Problem; Define the Goals and Focus Collective Effort; Test and Build Evidence; Spread and Scale. As we look at the work we have in place and ahead of us, this model will serve our students and community well.
'You have to have a lot of humility to come to the realization that you don't have the answers, and that you're going to learn your way into this.' - Dr. Manuelito Biag, Carnegie Foundation
The basic tenets of the process involve understanding the problem, defining a manageable goal, identifying the drivers that could help reach that goal, and then testing small ideas to change those drivers. When done in a network, this cycle of improvement is expedited as various participants test different change ideas and share their findings with the group. Through a constant interplay of these elements a few change ideas will rise to the top and can be scaled across a system.
To see measurable progress on some of the most intransigent problems in education requires a systematic focus on improving in every aspect of the system. It’s not enough for one teacher to be amazing, or one school to outshine the others around it. All kids deserve an incredible education; and that can only happen by building on the strengths already found in the system.
In This Season, May I Receive
by Elena Aguilar (@brightmorningtm)
Aguilar’s post is one that resonated with me as I often feel ‘depleted’ at the end of a school day, week, or at certain times of the year (the holidays being one, for sure). As educators we are, by nature, ‘givers and providers’, and it is critical that we practice self-care so that we can open to ‘receiving’. This is a goal I have for this ‘stretch’ and for the coming year - hoping we can all work on this together, and in turn, help our students to acquire this practice.
In this season of giving, I encourage you to practice receiving. The majority of you are likely skilled at giving to students, children, family and friends, and most likely, not that good at receiving. I encourage you to challenge the notion that “It is better to give than to receive.” All dichotomies are false; there is simply no truth to a mental model that posits an either/or.
Sometimes I’ve felt empty because I give so much—I feel like I pour myself out into my writing, my teaching, my workshops, my team, my family—and that all that pouring leaves me empty. Now I stop when I notice these thoughts surfacing. I recognize that “pouring” is my choice and that I can give from a different place. When I do this, the energy I put out is transformed and returns to me as sustenance. I fuel myself through my offerings.
As I shift my intentions when I give, I’m also making a conscious daily intention to receive. In retrospect, I can see appreciations coming my way, but it’s like those offerings flew right past me—because for whatever reason, I wasn’t open to receiving them. All those expressions of gratitude whizzed right past me, unable to find a landing place in my being. I didn’t reject them, I just didn’t notice them at times.
I know I’m worthy of appreciation, but I think I’ve missed many opportunities. Perhaps because I was too busy or focused on giving, or had complex emotions connected to receiving. These days, as part of my meditation practice, I’m setting an intention: May I be open to receiving all the wonders and joy and love that’s available; May I receive. It’s simple and feels transformational.
Looking back at prior December posts from years post, I typically share a ‘summarizing’ or ‘end-of-the-year’ reflection, but for now I simply want to try and be present so that we can look forward. (Although I plan on setting aside the devices and ‘work’ during the time off, I do indeed look forward to ‘looking back’ and offering a reflection - stay tuned.) As we end one calendar year and transition into 2019, I hope that the words/images (our mission, vision, and hopes) below will help keep us grounded on our ‘imperfect journey’...