Dear Blake Community,
To help encourage conversations about the role relationships play in the process of learning, our topic/question of the week is: Because we care about the child's academic and personal well being, and want to get them to a comfort level where they are ready to try, yet at the same time push them and make them uncomfortable, to challenge them to try a little harder, what will we do when it does not seem to be getting through to the child?
I hope that the weekend was a good one, and that everyone was able to unplug a bit - possibly playing in the snow on Saturday in between rounds of shoveling. I had a nice, low-key weekend with the kids with Katie away for the night with some friends. Sunday afternoon was spent chipping away at the 'to do' list before enjoying a family dinner to start the week.
Although this past week was an abbreviated one, it certainly was full. I was fortunate to have multiple opportunities to interact with colleagues, both at Blake/Medfield and outside of our nuclear community. At the end of this week, a team of educators from the Newton public schools came to visit and learn about technology integration and how we have employed iPads in the classroom. And, on Friday I was fortunate to attend LearnLaunch, a conference that brings educators, technology integration companies, and industry experts together. Both of these experiences were initiated or prompted by the topic of 'technology', but I was once again encouraged to find that the conversations were more about the process of learning than the devices or software. After having sat on the 'Principal's Hot Seat' panel Friday afternoon, as I drove home Friday evening I found myself thinking through the various thoughts I had heard and shared with others. What really stuck with me most was one of the thoughts I felt compelled to share towards the end of the panel discussion - 'Teaching is incredibly hard and important work.' Believe me, this is not an earth-shattering or profound statement, but it is a sentiment that needs to be recognized, and often repeated. When we are looking for new ways and tools to be 'innovative' for schools, the complexities of the art of teaching, and the process of learning, need to be highlighted.
At times, it sure feels as though 'quick fixes' are sought out as solutions to layered and multifaceted questions and challenges. At the core of my beliefs, I know that there is no replacement (device, app, software, program, packaged curricula, etc.) for quality teaching. It then begs the question of what is at the core of quality teaching for students to learn, and for me it is relationships. Listening to our students and establishing a caring and nurturing environment is critical as it allows a comfort level to be in place to be open to learning. It also directly ties to our theme of acceptance - accepting our own learning style, accepting our strengths and weaknesses, accepting that mistakes are part of learning, accepting ourselves and accepting others, etc. Knowing that caring people will help opens us up to acceptance so that we can learn.
So, with these thoughts certainly on the forefront of my thinking this snowy weekend, I am sharing a few posts that I believe outline a few elements that outline what it takes - a belief in the possibilities of learning, the value of mistakes, and the importance of modeling...
What Believing in the Possibilities Can Do For Teaching and Learning
by Thom Markham in MindShift
Markham's post emphasizes the power of beliefs, referencing the growth mindset, and how meaningful relationships foster growth and an understanding of how we learn. These components help to build resiliency, an important character trait for learners.
"Results from research into the growth mindset tell us that placebos have finally hit the classroom. When students are informed that it’s possible to improve their IQ, they respond by improving their IQ. A simple message of possibility opens the door to an improvement in brain function."
"Studies on resiliency point the way. Resiliency is commonly viewed as an antidote to stress or an intervention for at-risk students. But in a chaotic, 21st century world, resiliency becomes a broader term that encompasses balance, persistence and awareness. And the research is clear: These aspects of character are evoked in students through a strong mentor relationship with an adult who cares, listens and offers nonjudgmental coaching and feedback."
It’s a Mistake Not to Use Mistakes as Part of the Learning Process
by Richard Curwin in Edutopia
As is often the case, Curwin's self-awareness and openness to his own mistakes and how he could categorize them into four types: 'Those I hid, Those I learned nothing from, Those I learned from, and Those I learned from and shared my new knowledge with others'. By focusing on the last two categories, he shares suggestions for how we can teach with mistakes. This post certainly struck a chord with me and pushed me to look in the proverbial mirror as an educator, parent, and friend, reflecting upon the importance of listening and responding to the mistakes that we confront.
"I believe that it's a mistake to think of mistakes as something bad. When mistakes become learning opportunities, everything changes. Students take more risks, think in new ways, cheat less, and solve mysteries that had previously eluded them."
"Learning means not being afraid to examine mistakes that teachers make and encouraging students to think in ways that might produce mistakes."
Personal and Professional vs. Public and Private
post by George Couros (@gcouros)
As social media and our digital presence increases, I have found myself wrestling with these notions - do we separate our personal and professional lives? Although I love Twitter (spoiler alert!), I am cautious and wary of social media and the impact it can have. Couros does not provide an answer in his post, but he poses some good questions and pushes the reader to shift the conversation to focus on 'public' vs 'private'. He also offers a nice perspective and opportunity that we have to model a healthy, positive presence in the digital realm.
"I really think we should be talking to our kids about what stays offline (private) and what should be public, no matter who they are talking to online. Also, is it really bad if we mix some of our personality into a “professional” account? If we are thoughtful about it, could this not help our students and school community as see as more than simply “teachers” but as people? The best teachers that I know always connect with students on some personal level, but they always keep it appropriate."
"The “blur” in our world is ironically becoming clearer to me. Personal or professional is not necessarily the conversation we should be having as much anymore with our students and each other. What we make “public” is something we need to be taking more into consideration."
We are hitting the midpoint of the year this week and I hope we can continue to talk about the key ingredients to the recipe for learning. Our primary goal at all times is for students to learn. At the end of his post, Richard Curwin shares a wonderful suggestion - "I would love to see a sign on every entrance to every school that says, 'Everyone who enters here will learn.'" Let's carry this belief forward at Blake, for students and adults alike.
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