To help encourage conversations and dialogue about school, learning, and one's 'fear of change', our topic/question(s) of the week are: The learning approach encourages guessing and divergent thinking as part of the creative process. In the learning approach, the teacher is a learner too, learning from students. How will it make you feel if you know that when you get to your job, that first and foremost, you will be looking for ways to learn from and about others? If we are faced with the thought that it is time to do things differently, what holds us back more, fear of change, or the feeling that we are not afforded the time to make quality, deep-memory changes?
I hope that the long weekend was good for all, providing some down time or simply time for yourselves. With Katie and Maggie away for a Girl Scouts excursion, the boys and I had a low-key couple of days, going to weekend sports and taking time to play. We welcomed their return Sunday afternoon in time for the Patriots game and then spent Monday at Blake helping out with the 'Day of Service'.
I want to thank and recognize the entire Blake staff for a great afternoon on Friday. And, thank you to Mark Nickerson for sharing his 'Why I Teach' reflection - I always look forward to them and appreciate the willingness to share and listen to one another. The commitment, dedication, and professionalism that was present during the discussions left me feeling energized as we ended the week. I recognize that Friday afternoon going into a long weekend could present to be a 'challenge' for professional development, and I commend the care and thoughtfulness that was exhibited. I look forward to future discussions, reading our compiled thoughts, and taking our work to the next level as we reflect upon these practices - authentic assessments, homework, productive and valuable feedback, and recognition. These are areas that we must continually come back to and talk about - with one another, our students, and parents. Tom Whitby's (@tomwhitby) post, Methods: Tradition vs Relevance, helped frame our work and I hope we can continue to think about these ideas of tradition and relevance with all of our endeavors.
As a teacher I recall sometimes feeling overwhelmed at the end, or even during, professional development days and workshops. For whatever the reason may be, I at various times found myself leaving with the feeling that I could or should be doing things better, and to be honest, feeling inadequate in my role as an educator. Now, some of that could have been the workshop, presenter, or topic - and, to hold myself accountable, perhaps the feelings were accurate in regards to areas I needed to learn and grow. But, upon reflections over the years I do believe the root of these feelings came from the mindset that I brought and how I was viewing change. I have shared many times that change, although important and the value of it is known and valued on an intellectual level, is hard for me, and I still experience these feelings from time to time. However, I have come to embrace this discomfort, allowing the questions, new ideas, and 'challenges' to settle in. My hope is that our meetings, professional development, and discussions will do just that - push our own thinking, challenge the status quo, and lead us to an improved learning environment for our students, bridging the gap between philosophy and practice. The key is that we do not allow the discomfort to turn into frustration, and that is one of the many balances we must keep in mind. The same is true for our students - true learning is messy and only takes place when challenges and 'discomfort' have been worked through with a 'growth mindset' in place, but we must always watch for that 'tipping point' of frustration when a negative or 'fixed mindset' can settle in.
This week I am sharing three posts that connect to these themes of learning, change, and culture that allow for productive conversations and growth...
School vs Learning
post by George Couros (@gcouros)
This brief post poses the notion of the perceptions, and perhaps reality, of the differences between the notion of 'school' and the practice of 'learning'. He offers a nice visual within the post of the comparative statements that could be presented, and then challenges us as readers, educators and parents, to reframe the delineation between he two - "School promotes starting by looking for answers. Learning promotes starting with questions.… and change it to this: School promotes developing your own questions and finding answers." As Couros does in his post, I think it is a good exercise to look at these statements and acknowledge and challenge our own thinking in an effort to reframe our work with this poignant question: "What would school look like if we really focused on developing our own statements that focus on the power of developing learners?"
Observations About Fear of Change
post by Starr Sackstein (@mssackstein) in Education Week Teacher
I particularly appreciate Sackstein's honest reflection in this post, as she shares her own feelings about change and the evolution of thinking that has taken place for herself. As she points out, the benefits of modeling the response to setbacks during a process of change is critical for our students.
"Changing tradition is hard; no one will argue that, but keeping things the same JUST BECAUSE it's how it has always been is not a good enough reason."
"As educators, we must be fearless in taking risks and comfortable in our humanness with a high probability of being wrong or making mistakes publicly. Then more importantly modeling how to cope with those set backs, how to turn them into positive learning expansions rather than debilitating frustrations that force us back into what we know."
Leadership Courage: Creating A Culture Where People Feel Safe To Take Risks
by Margie Warrell in Forbes
As I read this post by Warrell, I found myself thinking about my role and the topic of leadership - "The number one responsibility of any leader is to create an environment that not only engages their workforce, but draws out the best of what they have to offer. The best thinking. The best creativity and innovation.". It will be one that I come back to in an effort to hold myself accountable - 'Am I practicing what I preach?' and I do hope that you will hold me accountable as well. I also found implications and direct applications to the culture and mindsets we want to foster in each of our classrooms. She outlines three key elements for this culture to exist, and I believe they are important goals for our day-to-day work with students, staff, parents, and one another:
1) Engage - Connect Authentially
"It requires a willingness to lay vulnerability on the line, share authentically, and engage in open unstructured sessions of discussion, risking tough questions, direct criticism, open hostility and even unsuccessful outcomes."
2) Inspire -Enlarge the Context
"...it is imperative for leaders to enlarge the context and help employees understand the bigger “Why” so they can view what they are doing through a bigger lens. Doing so enables employees to reframe their role – not only in the context of how it contributes to the organization’s mission, but to the impact that mission serves in the world at large...When people know that there’s something bigger at stake as they go about the mundane or challenging aspects of their job, they will approach every challenge with greater tenacity, determination and initiative than they otherwise would."
3) Embolden- Cultivate a Culture of Courage
"It’s our innate aversion to risk that makes it so crucial for leaders at all levels to be proactive in cultivating a “Culture of Courage” in which people feel secure enough to exit their comfort zone and take risks. Such a culture is one where people are actively encouraged to challenge status quo thinking, provide candid upward feedback, experiment and push boundaries."
"My experience coaching and working with teams has shown me that when people feel that their contribution is truly valued and there is a safety net if things don’t work out, it generates greater ownership of their success and stronger commitment to the larger mission of their team and organization."
As shared at the beginning, I feel fortunate to once again be inspired and energized by our work together. We certainly have areas of growth and areas to work on, but the mindsets of growth and reflection, coupled with a willingness to examine our traditions in the context of relevance will help guide this work. At the end of her post, Starr Sackstein says it nicely: "As we begin to rethink traditional education systems, we must work together to create viable solutions that will improve the learning for all students." That is our ultimate goal - creating a culture and environment where our students will learn. As invested adults, educators and parents alike, will also learn in this process and I continue to look forward to doing just that with all of you.
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