Dear Blake Families:
With the final week of school now upon us, I hope everyone was able to enjoy a great weekend. We certainly took full advantage of the beautiful weather, amidst many activities - dinner out with the kids to celebrate their last day of school, Owen's sports-themed party for his 8th birthday party, and a summer cookout with friends. All of these 'tastes of summer' were quite welcome before our last few days of school.
Towards the end of this week or early next week, after the students have left and some 'fresh quiet' is discovered, I will be sending along some end-of-year thoughts to our staff as we enter the summer months. We will be gathering as a staff Wednesday for lunch where announcements will be made and goodbyes and well wishes conveyed. Once again I have copied the questions that I will have our staff reflect upon at our meeting...
- What was meaningful this year? What made teaching worthwhile? What mattered?
- Describe a positive interaction or experience you had with a student during this academic year.
- Describe or explain an accomplishment you attained or something you are proud of taking place during this academic year.
- Describe a particular student or situation during the school year who or that you feel you could have handled in a way that would have resulted in a more positive learning experience.
- What is an area that you would like to grow professionally?
As we bring this academic year together to a close, I am sharing four posts that I believe encourage and foster the reflective process for us as invested and caring adults in an academic setting. The end of year is abrupt in many ways as we accelerate to the end, but these posts all helped me to take a step back, reflect, and look forward as well. I hope they do the same for you.
How Do You Take the Measure of a School Year?
by Jessica Lahey (@jesslahey) in The New York Times
I enjoy reading Jessica Lahey's posts and enjoyed the perspective she offers, trying to 'capture' a school year. Interesting data points are shared, and I particularly appreciated the idea of unquantifiable learning by parents - a phenomenon I can identify with as both a parent and educator.
"As the school year draws to a close, teachers and parents are left wondering how to take its measure, to identify their successes, failures and lessons learned...In the final accounting, it seems we adults all learned a lot this year, despite the chaos and noise, snow and sleet, sickness and health. Parents, in particular, cited important lessons learned, although few pointed to research to support their conclusions. The lessons of parenting are not so easily quantified, it seems."
One Step at a Time
post by George Couros (@gcouros)
Couros puts forth many ideas and has been a great source of my professional development this year. We have encountered many changes this year and there are many to come, and it is important to keep this idea in mind. At the end of his post he references a story told by Will Smith about building a brick wall 'one brick at a time'. We can certainly take this to heart with our initiatives, students, one another, and ourselves. Some of our goals may not have been attained that we set out to accomplish, but some 'bricks have been laid' and it is critical to keep building the walls we want built.
"When we say “everything has to change”, we also tell educators that “everything you are doing is wrong”. We have to build upon our strengths, while also paying attention and developing on our weaknesses. This does not happen overnight...Personally, I understand that although teachers need to question the system, they also need to work with inside of it to make change."
"My suggestion for people wanting to change what they do? Focus on one thing at a time. Look at something you currently do, and ask how you could do that better, and improve learning opportunities for kids. Once you have seen success, move onto another thing."
The Value of Unstructured Play Time for Kids
post by Tom Jacobs (@TomJacobs_PSMag)
This post by Jacobs references and highlights the research of German psychologists who found that 'free play' for children has led to greater social success for adults. During summer I encourage you to find opportunities for 'unstructured play' for yourself. I certainly look forward to days at the beach, gardening, and simply being with my family. I also believe that we can take this approach and find more ways to foster 'unstructured learning' for our students at school as well. As ideas come to mind, jot them down so that we can explore them together.
"The researchers found a significant positive correlation between ample time for free play during childhood and adult social success. Free time as kids was also linked with high self-esteem and the flexibility to adjust one’s goals...Free play, they argue, allows children to develop the flexibility needed to adapt to changing circumstances and environments—an ability that comes in very handy when life becomes unpredictable as an adult."
The Rise of Any Time, Any Place, Any Path, Any Pace Learning: Afterschool and Summer as the New American Frontier for Innovative Learning
post by Milton Chen
I am sharing this post by Chen as both a reflective post for summer learning and a 'preview', if you will, of things to come in the fall. Over the last few years we have experienced a significant shift in the acquisition of information for students and adults alike. This shift has pushed us to think differently, examine practices, and to adjust appropriately. The structure, or rather lack of structure, during the summer months are ripe for authentic learning. Whether it be a new book, a course you are taking, or simply taking a walk on a warm July afternoon, opportunities for new learning abound. The ideas highlighted by Chen will certainly be part of our work next year, and I am very intrigued by Hennessy's framework of 'T-students' along with the principles of 'any path, any place, and any pace learning'.
"Regardless of your perspective, these changes are dramatically changing what our students and their families face in order to be equipped to live, learn, and succeed in the 21st century. New types of learning opportunities, partnerships, and time and space configurations are emerging. The wave of the future is evident in new and expanded options for learning after school, over the weekend, and during the summer through new school-family-community partnerships."
"President John Hennessy of Stanford University has described its model students as “T-students” (Auletta, 2012): students who not only have a tremendous breadth of interests, knowledge, and skills, but also an impressive depth of knowledge in a particular domain. A T-shaped education should start early, giving our youngest students the broadest possible exposure to many learning experiences and places, spanning the arts, history, literacy, sports, and the STEM disciplines, creating the long, horizontal part of their T. Social/emotional learning should be a vital platform for developing persistent, confident, and collaborative learners. Through these varied experiences, students are more likely to discover their true passion that can lead to deep expertise, the vertical part of that T."
"Taking project-based and place-based learning to its ultimate expression, students can now pursue personalized, passion-based learning. This should be the goal of a 21st century education: to find one’s passion and develop it...The afterschool and summer learning movement is a key driver of break-the-mold efforts to provide children with any time, any place, any path, any pace learning opportunities and is thus on the leading edge of the future of education."
I believe these posts, models, and ideas will help us to continue our journey together exploring study skills, homework, and progress reporting in the context of a mobile learning initiative towards a 'portfolio approach' for assessing learning and progress for our students. Our theme of 'acceptance' for the 14-15 school year will also push and support us in the learning, as we build upon the thematic frameworks of community, perseverance, and creativity.
Although I know it is not realistic, I wish I could personally connect with each of our students and families to wish them a wonderful summer and to thank them for their work this year. As you have heard me share many times, I truly feel blessed and quite fortunate to be a part of the Blake and greater Medfield community. Blake Middle School is a special community and the commitment, dedication, and care that is shown daily to help foster a nurturing, challenging, and supportive environment for our students is tangible and meaningful. Thank you to students, staff, and the greater community - I hope the summer months are all that you desire them to be.
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