Dear Blake Community,
For the next few weeks, we will have two 'topics/questions' for the week...
1) To align with our work with students this month about 'digital footprints' and 'digital citizenry', our first topic/question of the week is: If parents had digital footprints in middle school, what might they have looked like? And, what does your digital footprint look like?
2) To help encourage conversations about 'telling one's story', our second topic/question of the week is: Whoever you are, believe in your story; aim to tell it well.
After a busy first week after vacation (are any of our weeks not busy?), I hope that this past weekend was one that allowed you to regroup and relax. We enjoyed family movie night Friday evening and then watched Maggie at her swim meet on Saturday before celebrating a friend's 45th birthday.
Sunday afternoon we enjoyed some down time and sledding, hoping that the snow did not come!
It is hard to believe that March has arrived and we are approaching the end of Term 2. Although the recent snowfall told us otherwise, March 1 is a sign that spring will be here eventually (I am an optimist). With incoming parent nights and course selection for 2015-2016 taking place, it is always a funny feeling to begin planning for the next year when we still have so much time left in 2014-2015. The incoming parent nights are ones I have always enjoyed as they give us opportunities to share our programming and initiatives with parents. As I often share I am a very biased individual about Blake and love sharing what it is that we do well. That said, it is equally important that we recognize our own areas of growth/weakness. I much prefer talking about our strengths, but it is critical that we ask difficult questions of ourselves and be honest about mistakes and areas to improve. We do indeed have areas that need improvement and acknowledgement is important. It is what we desire and expect of our students, so we must do the same for ourselves. And, I must be willing to put myself right there at the front of the line.
I believe that it is important to continually share our stories (both successes and the challenges we face) with one another. We need to keep asking questions, listening, asking more questions, and listening more and more. This can happen both formally and informally so that we can learn. Parent information nights are opportunities for us to tell our stories and then be open to the questions that arise. Our faculty meetings, content partner meetings, and department meetings afford us similar opportunities to share and listen. Day-to-day interactions with parents, again both formal and informal, provide more forums to do the same. We certainly do not have a shortage of opportunities. It is critical, though, to keep asking questions of one another so that we can learn. Again, this is not intended to be 'preaching from the pulpit' - it is a message I need to tell myself often and, more important at that point, listen. This past Friday I attended a conference co-run by Google and EdTech Teacher at Google's satellite office in Cambridge. It was definitely cool to see Google's offices and workspace/playspace (definitely lived up to the hype), but it was a great opportunity for reflection about our practices, beliefs, and progress with forward-thinking education and systems for growth. I will be sharing some thoughts at Monday's faculty meeting, but as I have done in the past I am sharing below a few 'mindsets'/resonating thoughts that stayed with me from the opening talks by Marta Da Silva (@mtdasilv), Justin Reich (@bjfr), Tom Daccord (@thomasdaccord), Jennie Magiera (@MsMagiera), and Rick Borovoy (@rick_borovoy)...
- If we are just asking questions they can Google the answers to, we are not asking the right questions
- We want to create a culture of 'questions waiting to be answered', rather than 'teaching answers to questions'
- Let's create 'discovery moments' for our students and one another
- We should meet the challenges we face with humility
- Our hope/desire is to turn pockets of excellence into systems/cultures of excellence
- What does awesome look like?
- Can we both empower our students while meeting their needs?
- Goal (for students and adults alike): To become a better version of myself
- Engagement should be the expectation
- Are we providing students with a 'generosity of interpretation'?
- Believe in the truth of the future
Many of these mindsets are idyllic and that is important for me - we should be coming back to ideals and keep them as focal points and compass points for progress. With these thoughts in mind here are two posts for the week to reflect upon...
I Teach for the Money...
by Starr Sackstein (@mssackstein) in Education Week Teacher
As you will see, the first line in Starr's post is 'Said no teacher ever'. This post is a compilation of responses from teachers answering 'why they teach'. I found these affirming and uplifting and is in line with the notion of 'telling one's story'. At our professional development day this past January, I shared that I have yet to hear a teacher say, 'I teach so that I can grade students', when sharing his/her 'Why I Teach' reflection. The reasons are deeper, have history/meaning, are different, and all impact and influence our work with students and one another.
"Being a teacher is a calling, one that most great teachers nurture. Starting with a not so subtle love of our content and progressing to a deepening need to make change in the world, one child at a time. Each day is an opportunity to inspire, enrich relationships and learn collaboratively through a mixture of planning and unplanning and openness to whatever opportunities present themselves."
"I teach because learning is the most essential thing we do as human beings and to be a part of that process is a gift than enriches my life in so many ways."
"If we are going to change the perception of education in America, it starts with telling our own stories of passion and perseverance."
Education Based on a Snapshot
post by Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby)
I try and read everything that Tom Whitby writes and highly recommend his blog, My Island View, for his progressive approach and highly reflective nature. This post encourages us to be honest about our progress and where we fall short in our mission.
"We need to remind ourselves that any story about what is going on in education is just a snapshot that is representing a very tiny portion of the big picture."
"We do need to tell stories and model where we should be going, but we can’t give the impression that we have already achieved that goal. We need schools to do an honest assessment of what they are doing in order to determine where they need to change and improve. We can’t improve without recognizing where we need to improve. Change will best be served with both top down and bottom up improvements working for the same goal. For that to happen we need better transparency, honesty, and accuracy. If we better understand what we are actually doing, we will better understand what we need to do in order to improve."
I will do my best to listen to these posts - sharing stories of inspiration while also acknowledging mistakes and areas of growth (both those that I have made/have and those of the school). They are both equally important and I will do my best to listen. I noted last week that I would be looking at the resolutions I set forth for myself at the outset of this calendar year...
- Expand my learning network both within the Blake/Medfield community and beyond 02052
- Push myself to stretch, take risks, and learn (among others, Instagram is on the list for 2015)
- Be open to the ideology of those who do not share my thinking and better understand those views (ask questions and be genuinely curious for feedback)
- Be a mirror for others and ask others to do the same for me
- Stay the course and keep the 'big picture' in mind at all times
- And, as always, 'lean towards yes'
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