To help encourage conversations and dialogue about the role that courage and accepting challenges play in making growth towards goals, our topic/question for the dinner table is: What is a goal you have for yourself this year that you are willing to embrace ‘the struggle’ to try and meet? Embracing the Struggle (Week of 12/8/19) (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.
The most important attitude that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning. - John Dewey
You cannot teach today the same way you did yesterday to prepare students for tomorrow. - John Dewey
This past week went by particularly quickly, and it is hard for me to believe that we only have two weeks of school before our next vacation - as much as we try to slow things down, it feels like we are in a race against time! Amongst errands, ‘decking the house’, and getting the kids to their activities, Katie and I felt lucky to get into the city for a concert to see the band Caamp on Saturday night. I enjoyed running in the Angel Run on Sunday, an event I always look forward to as it such a nice tradition in our community - having not run in a while, it was a slow and steady pace!
So, why am I sharing these words this week? On Friday morning began the day attempting to clean my table (cleaning being very loosely defined) in my office, prior to a meeting with some parents and came across a print-out of this quote. After a very busy couple of days (yes - they are all busy!), I found myself with lots of thoughts running through my head as I was coming into school - reflecting on the prior night’s School Committee meeting, Term 1 ending this week, some follow-up check-ins with both students and staff, a desire to get in more classrooms, upcoming concerts, the ‘holiday craze’, and the schedule that lay ahead for the day. I thought that cleaning would give me a sense of accomplishment and settle my head a bit (the irony is that if you stop by my office, you will see I didn’t get that far with the cleaning!).
As I was sorting through some of the papers and piles in my office, I was experiencing a ‘dual feeling’, for lack of a better phrase’, of pride/excitement and struggle. Each pile/folder/paper held ‘evidence’ of endeavors at Blake, from the micro to macro level, and I immediately thought of Robert Kegan’s words about change -- ‘If we are successful, we are all going to get a little uncomfortable.’ The pride and excitement from our work surely comes with struggles and discomfort - and, although it is hard and I need reminders, I have come to accept this as a norm and reality of a healthy, growing culture. Without a struggle, a sense of wonderment, discomfort (‘a willingness to adapt’), and the courage to welcome ‘all of this’, we can not look forward and the learning will only be on the surface.
Below please find a sampling of responses from last week’s question of the week, along with two posts that reflect some of my current thinking and speak to the essence of our mission and work with our students….
Topic/Question (Week of 12/1/19): How does being a part of a community help you learn and grow?
- Being exposed to different ideas and perspectives challenges your own personal views. The more free thinking and independent the community, the more likely diverse thought can flourish.
- Being part of a community helps me to learn from others, challenge myself, and it provides support when I'm working through challenges.
- It helps your social life and having people around you to help you when you need it.
- It helps me learn one by teachers teaching us but also if you don’t understand something most people will help you out.
- Being a community helps you learn and grow because you can learn from others’ mistakes.
- You can learn from others in that community
- People can leave a good impact on you.
- Being part of a community is very crucial for growth, because you have everybody’s help in learning new things, and you don’t have to do it yourself and learn things the hard way.
- It definitely allows for collaboration and feedback from peers. You are able to share the positives and challenges of our daily work
- Allows for collaboration and feedback with peers. Sharing of the positives and challenges of our daily work.
- I think of the west end in Boston that lost community because of development...causing gentrification. A community needs young, old, affluent, and poor, in order to work together. My thinking of community is related to this thought of belonging to it all..not part
Living On The Edge
By Mandy Froehlich (@froehlichm)
Froehlich’s reflection resonated with me, as one who does not always welcome change but knows and believes in the merits of change. The analogy to ‘the edge’ and ‘beauty’ at the edge is one that I hope to hold on to in my thinking.
I feel like struggle is necessary for amazing things to happen. Along the edge we are toeing the line between the danger of falling and the beauty of what we can see in front of us.
There hasn’t been a single time where the edge has been comfortable. It’s not supposed to be. If you’re too far back to see the edge, you’re missing most of the beauty. You’re never expanding where you can possibly go.
Grit and the Greater Good: A Conversation with Angela Duckworth
By Sarah McKibben in Educational Leadership
This post is an interview with Angela Duckworth, who has done extensive research on ‘grit’ and emphasizes the importance of ‘character’ (Social Emotional Learning). Duckworth shares three ‘families of character strengths’ - Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, and Intellectual - and, in so doing makes connections to Carol Dweck’s work on ‘growth mindset’ and the need to provide an environment of unconditional support for students.
I think Carol Dweck and I might both worry that our message is not being heard as we intend. Grit is not about blaming the student. I think it's an easy misinterpretation. To say that grit is important doesn't mean that when kids are not performing well, it's their fault, instead of needing more support, better instruction, and more opportunities.
When I talk to my own kids, I talk to them about taking responsibility. I want kids to feel like they have agency, which they do. So I'm not saying it's only the responsibility of the schools, the teachers, and society. I'm certainly not saying it's only the responsibility of the kids. I really think of it as joint work, but we have to set kids up for growth and success.
Grit really starts with passion. People always focus on the work ethic part of it, but I actually think that the passion comes first developmentally. Usually it starts as interest, curiosity. In a fully grown mature adult, you usually find that there's also purpose and meaning and the feeling that you're in service of something greater than yourself.
We're now in kind of a renaissance of understanding what we probably just forgot for a while, which is that kids are people; they're not just test scores, and they have responsibilities to themselves and to others. They need our help in developing. I would say that what we're on the cusp of is doing what schools have long been understood to do, which is to educate the whole child. What I'm really excited about is the possibility that science—which has advanced a lot since Martin Luther King Jr. and since Aristotle and Benjamin Franklin and John Dewey—will help us go farther than we have before.
These posts really connect with me right now as they speak to the importance of keeping everything in context - focusing on character, challenging ourselves and our students, and being sure that the environment is one that is conducive for growth and learning. This is hard work and certainly not work that can be done overnight - it is also work that is never done. As one who ‘overthinks’ and can worry about all that we have on our individual and collective plates, I often come back to Christi Barney’s words about change, struggle, and the role that struggle plays in learning (see blurb below from a blog post back in May of 2017)...
Considering and Reconsidering - May 23, 2017 (excerpt below)
Christi Barney's words from both professional development and conversations have helped to frame this thinking - 'The struggle IS the treatment' - and, the treatment is the learning. She shared that the phrase helps to remember 'that it is actually in the service of mastery for kids to struggle and make baby steps forward.' Wise words, indeed - and ones that we should remember for ourselves and one another. Please remind me of this often so I can consider, and reconsider, my actions, thinking, and beliefs - and, I will continue to try and do the same for all of you.
December is a reflective time of year and I am looking forward to bringing these ideas into conversations, day-to-day work, and long-term planning for our community. In an effort to carry forth some of the energy and ‘magic’ from our family’s trip to Disney, Walt’s words below are ones that certainly provide a positive, guiding light...