To help encourage conversations and dialogue about collective learning and how individual contributions help groups improve, our topic/question of the week is: How can you help others improve as learners? Emerging From Within (Week of 1/13/19) (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.
Hope everyone is staying warm - we certainly have had a mild winter this far, so the cold temps certainly woke us up! After a full week of learning and engagement - attending a Race and Racism workshop in Westwood and our Signs of Suicide Presentation with Samaritans, hosting education students from Mary Immaculate College through a partnership with BC, and the everyday learning within the halls of Blake, the dance on Friday evening was a nice way to ground the learning with a focus on our students. Big thanks to the staff who chaperoned, helping to provide and a safe and fun night for our students: Elise Malone, Lisa Matthews, Kelly Ruminski, Jillian Shaw, Kelly Campbell, Brian Gavaghan, Matt Marenghi, Deb Manning, and Amy Cuomo. Katie was away for the weekend with some friends and the kids and I had a relatively quiet weekend - some basketball games, walks outside, playing some ping pong (a family Christmas gift), and watching some playoff football!
Topic/Question (Week of 1/13/19): What are you hoping to learn about in 2019?
- Different forms of assessment and feedback to best assist student learning.
- Stronger open responses
- How to better deal with stress
- I want to learn how to draw people
- How to become a better writer and person
- I'm hoping to learn and practice balance. Finding that nice balance between work and home life.
- How to make food that’s not just good but good for you
- I want to learn about the Greeks.
- I want to learn more math, and more English, so I can get better at writing.
- I want to learn more about current events
- I am hoping to learn about the organization of Standards Based Tests.
Resolutions/Intentions for the 2019 calendar year (some carry-overs from 2018)...
- Defining ‘personal time’ and ‘professional time’ (an uphill climb for me)
- Embrace hope (#willfulhope)
- Explore musical interests (playing and listening)
- Listening to understand rather than listening to respond
- Embrace and model authenticity and vulnerability
- Explore ways to 'go deeper' and find more meaning
- Practice intentional time for self-reflection, mindfulness, and growth
- Think about ways to connect more directly with students (focus groups, check-ins, discussions)
- Broaden and redefine some methods of sharing and growing (networking, connecting, collaborating) within Blake, Medfield, and beyond
- Be open to the ideology of those who do not share my thinking and better understand those views (ask questions and be genuinely curious for feedback)
- Be a mirror for others and ask others to do the same for me
- Articulate and focus on the 'good problems'
- Foster leadership at all levels (students, staff, parents, and community), balancing ownership with healthy delegation and growth for others
- Stay the course and keep the 'big picture' in mind at all times
- 'Lean towards yes' and maintain the mission of our mantra, 'a willingness to adapt'
Willing to Be Disturbed
by Margaret Wheatley
This piece is an excerpt from Wheatley’s book, Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future, and the phrase ‘willing to be disturbed’ is one that helps to open up conversations. This mantra will help us to listen to one another and examine our own practices - a key component of a learning community. There is much about this excerpt that I love, but the creativity element really speaks to me today.
As we work together to restore hope to the future, we need to include a new and strange ally—our willingness to be disturbed. Our willingness to have our beliefs and ideas challenged by what others think. No one person or perspective can give us the answers we need to the problems of today. Paradoxically, we can only find those answers by admitting we don’t know. We have to be willing to let go of our certainty and expect ourselves to be confused for a time.
It is very difficult to give up our certainties—our positions, our beliefs, our explanations. These help define us; they lie at the heart of our personal identity. Yet I believe we will succeed in changing this world only if we can think and work together in new ways. Curiosity is what we need. We don’t have to let go of what we believe, but we do need to be curious about what someone else believes. We do need to acknowledge that their way of interpreting the world might be essential to our survival.
Sometimes we hesitate to listen for differences because we don’t want to change. We’re comfortable with our lives, and if we listened to anyone who raised questions, we’d have to get engaged in changing things. If we don’t listen, things can stay as they are and we won’t have to expend any energy. But most of us do see things in our life or in the world that we would like to be different. If that’s true, we have to listen more, not less. And we have to be willing to move into the very uncomfortable place of uncertainty.
We can’t be creative if we refuse to be confused. Change always starts with confusion; cherished interpretations must dissolve to make way for the new. Of course it’s scary to give up what we know, but the abyss is where newness lives. Great ideas and inventions miraculously appear in the space of not knowing. If we can move through the fear and enter the abyss, we are rewarded greatly. We rediscover we’re creative.
Modern Learners 2018 Provocation of the Year
by Bruce Dixon
(I shared this post last week - it’s worth re-sharing as the ‘willing to be disturbed’ mantra has a direct connection to the notion and mantra of ‘provocation’.)
Dixon, one of the co-founders of Modern Learners, is worth following and this post does an excellent job of framing the need for communication with all stakeholders. I particularly like the notion that we are becoming ‘comfortable at being comfortable’, the need to ‘stand for what you believe’, and the meaningful role provocation can play in our work.
2018 has indeed been a very different year, in so many ways. Economically volatile, politically unpredictable, while in education it’s also fair to say the conversation is changing quite dramatically. While we’d all like to think we are a small part of making that happen, there are now many more diverse voices calling for us to rethink what school could and should be. At long last we are starting to become comfortable at being uncomfortable.
...you can only get those vibrant, thoughtful, deep conversations when listening is preferred above speaking, when questions are prioritized above answers, and when provocation presents a platform for new ideas, for a different perspective that might otherwise never have been heard. In this context, provocation is therefore about deconstructing meanings and hidden agendas, challenging assumptions and seeking new ways of thinking not just about what we do, or how we do it, but most importantly, why we do what we do. It is in this context that the choice for our 2018 Provocation of the Year came down to a single word… assessment.
So that sets an agenda for all of us in 2019. I think we have to think about how we can take this provocation to the wider community: our parents, our students, and importantly to those in the public media. We can’t repeat the mistakes of previous iterations and assume the community understands why we think this is so important and what they can do about it.
It takes us back to where we started the year, to our beliefs around learning. If we can’t anchor our conversations around a topic as provocative as assessment in our beliefs around learning, then frankly, all is lost. So maybe that even sets up a possible resolution for 2019. Stand by what you believe. It’s surely the foundation for the most productive conversations you can have with peers and your school community, and it gives you a strong foundation to lead deeper conversations around a provocative topic like assessment.
Taking Beautiful Risks in Education
by Ronald A. Beghetto in Educational Leadership
This recent post is one that speaks to the importance of educators fostering creativity, challenging assumptions, and allowing students to grow from an open premise of possibility. Within, Beghetto introduces three ‘beautiful risks’: Rethink the Formula for School Success; Share "Favorite Failures"; Building an Unshakeable Sense of Possibility Thinking.
Creativity is risky. It takes courage. Revolutionary artists such as Henri Matisse recognized this about creativity. But you don't have to be a famous artist to understand that creative expression, while often beneficial to oneself and others, comes with its share of hazards. Creativity is risky because it requires doing things differently. And whenever we try to do something new or different, we make ourselves vulnerable to making mistakes, appearing foolish, and even being ridiculed. Put simply, creative endeavors don't always work out.
A beautiful risk is different from both good and bad risks. A beautiful risk involves taking actions that have the potential to make a positive and lasting contribution to the learning and lives of others (Beghetto, in press)...Establishing openings in our curriculum to foster creative expression is also a beautiful risk. Although doing so requires us to let go of some of the certainty of more defined and structured approaches, the potential benefits to our students include deepening their engagement, developing their creative confidence, and providing them with opportunities to contribute to their own and others' learning.
Although educators face many constraints when it comes to fostering student creativity in the classroom, the greatest barrier to creativity isn't the constraints. There will always be constraints. The greatest barrier is often ourselves and our timidity about exploring new territory. The key is to have the courage to take the beautiful risks necessary for supporting our students' (and our own) creativity.
The Paradox of Leading for Deeper Learning
by Jal Mehta (@jal_mehta) in Education Week
Mehta’s post addresses the paradox that leaders face as we look for ‘deeper learning’. Two strategies to help with this paradox are outlined - teaching and ‘emergence’. The shifts within speak to the importance of an active and open community of learners.
In the past few months, I have been talking with a number of district leaders who are trying to move their districts toward deeper learning for all. This, in itself, is a heartening development. The problem is that it is not easy to discern exactly what such a strategy might look like. At the heart of the problem is a paradox: Most of the people who would need to implement such a strategy—namely teachers, administrators, and students—have little experience with deeper learning. But, if the strategy is to work, those are precisely the people who would need to develop and own the strategy.
The first strategy is teaching, in the broadest possible sense of the term. If people cannot create what they haven't experienced, then it is on the leadership of districts to create the kinds of experiences that would help people see what they are trying to create, a principle that I and others have called symmetry.
A second strategy is what Margaret Wheatley and others have labeled "emergence." The core idea here is that there is already a lot of potential in any given system, and the role of the leader is to name, connect, nurture, and grow this promising work. Emergence offers a third way between top-down and bottom-up; it is a way of seeing where there is energy and interest in the system and then finding ways to grow that by connecting people with one another and creating opportunities for sharing and growth.
Twentieth-century management paradigms are not sufficient to tackle 21st-century challenges. What appears as a paradox when viewed at one point in time—how can people who haven't experienced deep learning own a system full of deep learning—looks more tractable when considered as a question of adult learning that unfolds over time. We can build 21st-century districts; it will just require a lot of learning on all of our parts.
Earlier this week I took a look back at my ‘2018 resolutions post’ (A Concerted Focus) one year ago, and I had written this...
With resolutions, goals, new beginnings, I am still working on realizing that this is always a process.
That statement is one that I probably will be writing each and every day as each new situation or encounter helps me to see ‘more shades of gray’. As I often say, I hope that in sharing I have opened the door to connections and accountability - I need all of the help I can get so please give me reminders and hold me accountable so that I can grow and learn with you. I hope we can collectively reflect and embrace the mantras and beliefs noted above - willing to be disturbed, provocation, beautiful risks, teaching, and emergence - so that we can individually and, in turn, collectively grow and learn.
I look forward to the work that lies ahead for all of us.
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