To help encourage conversations and dialogue about the ways we actively develop ourselves as learners, our topic/question for the dinner table is: How do you seek, foster, and develop your own learning? Developing Leaners (Week of 10/14/18) (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.
This past weekend felt like a blur as we went from one event to another, trying to mix in some much-needed yard work, exercise, and relaxation - I can’t necessarily say that we were successful, but we did our best! I’m looking forward to (hopefully) more typical fall weather this week to truly enjoy the pumpkins, apples, and colors of fall - one of my favorite times of the year.
So...are we on track? The practice of holding up a ‘proverbial mirror’ to ourselves and one another is one that has spoken to me through some reflective questions...Are we doing what we say we aim to do? Do our practices reflect our beliefs? Where are the gaps? Can we be honest with ourselves with one another (i.e. ‘If we had truth serum…’, as John D’Auria often says)? Are we actually holding up a mirror? Are we trying it out? On Monday night (10/15) and Wednesday morning (10/17) of this week we will be having an information session for the Blake community, highlighting our work with feedback, namely Standards Based Reporting and our systems of feedback. The preparation, dialogue, and discussions have served the purpose of this ‘reflective mirror’ - identifying progress, areas of strength, and areas of growth - where we have come and where we need to go. Our work is far from perfect and we have some serious work that lies ahead (and always will) - that said, our process is developing and we are growing. And, in so doing, we are indeed living our mission - with bumps, disagreements, progress, and setbacks along the way - and learning.
Looking to keep some of these ideas in mind as we work to develop lifelong learners for our students and one another, I am sharing a sampling of responses to last week’s question (fostering strengths in others is a key attribute of a learning community) and a post from a ‘must follow’ educator, Rick Wormeli (@rickwormeli2)...
Topic/Question (Week of 10/7/18): What can you do to help support and foster the strengths in others?
- Create a safe place and give people the chance to shine or experiment
- Get to know the person as best you can - focus on their strengths with them and find ways to encourage development of those strengths. Can also notice a strength that the person doesn't realize they possess then name and encourage it.
- You can shine a light on them. Sometimes people have a difficult time perceiving their own strengths, and pointing them out can help them focus on developing them further.
- By truly listening to others and respecting and accepting their opinions.
- Be positive when giving feedback and provide opportunities for success.
- Recognizing and reminding students of their strengths. Giving them opportunity to grow and show leadership in small and large ways.
- Share experiences built off of others in network circle. Share optimism. acknowledge and inspire!
The Problem with, "Show Me the Research" Thinking
by Rick Wormeli (@rickwormeli2) in AMLE Magazine
Wormeli’s thoughtfulness and understanding of the culture and dynamics of education shine in this post, as he reminds us to put research in appropriate context. He is not negating the importance of research and studies; rather, his recognition of the uniqueness of the nature of schools, learning, and students provides a framework for professional development and growth. His reminders and directions are important and timely: Avoid Physics Envy; Develop a Critical Eye for Education Research; and Accept a Little Professional Humility. With this framework in mind he encourages us to stay current, seek our own PD, and ‘dive in’ (my words, not his) - the learning is in the process.
To my knowledge, there has never been a full scale, amply sized, inclusive of all elements, random-selection, double-blind, causal relationship, official study of standards-based grading or differentiated instruction. And why is that? Because it's physically impossible to conduct either one, as there are too many confounding variables and intersecting elements for which we could control. It's prohibitively expensive, requires so much inference and extrapolation as to be functionally inconclusive, and in some cases, is unethical to control group students. To demand such studies and full proof of positive effects of either one before discussing their potential use in the classroom is toxic contrarianism for its own sake, and not helpful.
Let's read and respond to the research that is there–seriously, there's a lot out there that gets read only by other researchers, not classroom practitioners. Once we've read and discussed what's out there, let's get more invested in the research ourselves, conducting teacher action-research, forming Critical Friends Networks and Professional Learning Communities, and sharing what we find with each other and inviting its critique.
We are imperfect, and our field is imperfect. We'll shake apart, though, if we can't accept the ambiguities and messy evolutions that form our enterprise, or if we lose interest in keeping up with an ever-changing profession. Too much is at stake to remain aloof or instructionally impotent. It's unsettling to not have a clear view of the path ahead, but that's an enticing challenge—to boldly go. The successful among us see the merits of informed discussion and the limits of argument from myth. Though we might lack the tools to get it right every time, we are attentive to others' research while contributing research of our own. We make the most conscientious decision we can, given our growing expertise and the context of any given moment. For most of us, that'll do.
I continue to find myself coming back to the learning I gained from our Challenge Success training and the insight from Denise Pope, Madeline Levine, and Marc Brackett. Wormeli’s post and the emphasis on shared adult learning connects directly with Brackett’s insight and his ‘# 1s’:
- The # 1 predictor of engagement is relevance
- The # 1 priority is adult development (‘adult development over child development’) - ‘we can’t ask people to do things we don’t do ourselves’
- The # 1 challenge we face is getting adults to see it as their inherent responsibility to do their own professional development
Circling back to some thoughts I shared last week (Fostering Strengths) from Madeline Levine help to provide some context for our need to ‘try things out’ and look forward, even when things are uncertain and unclear...
- We need flexibility, agility, take risks, try and try again
- VUCA - Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous - that is the world
- In times of uncertainty, we go back to status quo - that’s not good
- No consensus on what students are going to need (scary, worrisome)
- Used to be coding - there might be automated coding
- In times of uncertainty, we tend to go back to status quo - that’s not a good thing
- Need to encourage ‘safe risks’
- Could be framed as ‘an apocalypse’ or as ‘an opportunity’
- ‘Man, are we living in interesting times’
- ‘We must educate and develop young people for the world they will be entering, rather than the one we have known.’
It’s important to keep sharing the ways we find inspiration and, to continue this spirit of sharing learning this week, I am highlighting some images/quotes that help me - maybe they will do the same for you?
Enjoy the week and take care.