To help encourage conversations and dialogue about learning together as a community, our topic/question for the dinner table is: What are you hoping to learn this year? Creating Learning Processes (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.
Each year I share these sentiments/thoughts and this year will be no different - I think it is important to establish a foundation at the start and to keep coming back to it, adjusting as necessary. A continued goal that I have and hope you share, for both myself and the school, is to maintain a culture of sharing and transparency with one another and the community. It is important to take the time to highlight our work and progress, both the good and bad, in a reflective manner so that we are all held accountable to both our mission and our essential question...
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.
Essential Question: How can we cultivate and curate the progression of student learning and growth?
My hope is that we continue to come back to our mission and essential questions so that they become, as I said at our opening meeting together, 'broken records' and the mantra of a 'willingness to adapt' becomes second nature for all of us. The weekly 'Natworthy/blog' will remain as one of the vehicles for communication and transparency, sharing what we are talking about as a community, highlighting some readings, and simply offering some of my own thoughts and questions that are floating about in my head.
Our opening days together as a staff provided a forum for reflection, visioning, and centering. As Peter Senge articulates so well in the quote referenced above, the 'genuine' and sincere interest in helping others to define and develop new capacities for action will help to 'create learning processes'. And, truly, that is our ultimate goal. My intent for our learning community is to take the 40,000 foot view during the opening days to ask questions, plant seeds, frame the year, and foster dialogue in an effort to create learning processes. It is through the questions and ideas that we outline and discuss that the action will take place.
In an effort to keep these ideas (and others) on the forefront of our thinking, I am re-sharing some of the links and quotations from the opening days, along with some posts of interest. We will be coming back to them and I hope you will help me do that as well. Much awaits us - hopes for our students and community, ups/downs, successes/challenges, theme of diversity - and I am hoping we can continue to be learners together and reflect as a community, pushing and supporting our individual and collective growth...
Questions to Frame the Year...
- What hopes do you have for this year?
- What fears do you have for this year?
- What challenges do our students face?
- What do you hope our students will experience this year?
James Ryan's 5 Essential Questions in Life
The Future of Work: Will Our Children Be Prepared?
The Imperfect Pursuit of High Ideals - James Ryan
Dear Teacher Anti-Bullying PSA
Jaime Casap Discussing How Learning is Changing
Dave Grohl and His Mother - Raising a Rockstar
And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been. - Rainer Maria Rilke
In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted. - Bertrand Russell
Questioning what we do and why we do it is essential for innovation. - George Couros
Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. - Brene Brown
My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered the interruptions were my work. - Henri Nouwen
I would rather have questions that can't be answered than answers that can't be questioned. - Richard Feynman
The electric light did not come from the continuous improvement of candles. - Oren Harari
If the world is changing, the research and evidence become irrelevant if you don't consider a new context. - Katie Martin
Change almost never fails because it's too early. It almost always fails because it's too late. The time to get ready for that change is now. - Seth Godin
Hope will never be silent. - Harvey Milk
Each and every school day will bring tens of thousands of reasons to celebrate in schools across the country. - Bill Ivey
‘Teens get a bad rap’: The Neuroscientist Championing Moody Adolescents
by Decca Aitkenhead in The Guardian
This post highlights the work of Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and the work she has done studying the adolescent brain. As both a parent and an educator, I found this post affirming and enlightening - it is critical that we better understand our 'audience'. Blake addresses common 'characteristics of adolescents' - sleep patterns, peer pressure, hypersensitivity to social exclusion, propensity for embarrassment - and puts them in context. It is an excellent read.
“Until about 15 or 20 years ago,” she says, “we just didn’t know that the brain develops at all within the teenage years.” Until then, it was assumed that teenage behaviour was almost entirely down to hormonal changes in puberty, but brain scans and psychological experiments have now found that adolescence is a critical period of neurological change, much of which is responsible for the unique characteristics of adolescent behaviour. Far from being a defective or inferior version of an adult brain, the adolescent mind is both unique and – to Blakemore – beautiful. “Teenagers,” she says tenderly, “are brilliant.”
What may look to us like jaw-dropping self-absorption is, she explains, in fact essential neurological development, because the biological function of adolescence is the creation of a sense of self. Teens achieve this through creating new allegiances, independent of their parents – which is why their friendships suddenly become so viscerally important. What is known on social media as Fomo – fear of missing out – may look like an irrational sense of priorities, if it means skipping revision to attend a bog-standard party. But when nothing matters more than the approval of their peers, “That brings with it a hypersensitivity to being excluded by friends”.
“I do often think about why it is that we find it hilarious to mock teenagers, and why there are whole comedy shows laughing at teenage behaviour. I wonder whether it’s because, as a society, we find it really hard that our little children stop wanting to be with us all the time, and wanting to hold our hand in public, and doing more or less what we say...“That’s not what teenagers do. And it’s really important that they don’t, because they have to become independent from us – so there has to be a lot of rebellion, and embarrassment in front of us, and it’s all part of what’s important for teenagers to do. But that’s really hard for parents to take. And I think that’s reflected in society this sneering we do about teenagers.”
Those Who Can Do, Can’t Teach
by Adam Grant (@AdamMGrant) in The New York Times
Grant's post is thought-provoking and was sent to me by colleagues and friends, as it challenges the oft-spoken phrase, 'Those who can't do, teach'. This op-ed highlights teaching as an art, commending the vulnerability and communication skills necessary to be a great teacher. He shares three factors to consider when choosing a teacher...
First, pay attention to how long it has been since a teacher studied the material.
Second, consider how difficult it was for the educator to master the material.
Third, focus as much on how well the teacher communicates the material as on how well the teacher knows the material.
Here’s another flaw in that “Those who can’t do, teach” canard: Teachers often turn into great doers. After all, the best way to learn something is not to do it but to teach it. You understand it better after you explain it — and you remember it better after retrieving and sharing it. As you gain experience studying and explaining a skill, you might actually improve your ability to execute that skill. A powerful example comes from a study of what happens when teachers become doers...Compared with closely matched industry competitors, the companies with ex-professors in their executive ranks generated significantly higher revenues per employee, especially if those former teachers were in vice president roles where they could leverage their academic expertise. Knowledge from researching and teaching didn’t prevent them from making good decisions; it actually seemed to help.
Before universities recruit high achievers, it would be a good idea to find out whether they can teach. Before you seek out an expert as your teacher or coach, remember that it’s not just about what they know; it’s about how recently and easily they learned it, and how clearly and enthusiastically they communicate it. Studies of world-class scientists, musicians, athletes and artists reveal that they didn’t have top teachers or coaches from a young age; they started with a teacher or coach who made it fun and enjoyable to learn.
As I shared last week with the staff, I do struggle with 'finding the balance' of initiatives, as it is my sincere belief that we can not talk about any of this work in isolation if we are going to really make progress and support the learning of our students. It is a 'balance' and I will continue to strive towards the appropriate 'collective balance' while recognizing that we each have our own 'personal balance' that varies from person to person. Two quotations that inspire and challenge me in this work are from George Couros and Ted Sizer...
More so than ever before, educational organizations need to focus more on depth than breadth. Quality should always override quantity. But that isn’t what happens in schools where teachers feel inundated by new initiatives and a myriad of organizational objectives. - George Couros
Things remain the same because it is impossible to change very much without changing everything. - Ted Sizer
As I share at the outset of every school year together (in fact, it would behoove me to say it at the outset of every day!), I look forward to the success, challenges, and opportunities for growth that await us. I hope we can continue to channel the words of Peter DeWitt and James Ryan so that students, staff, and parents all feel supported and beloved on our 'imperfect journey together'. I think - in fact, I know! - we can do that.
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